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Will we all wear loafers in the post-sneaker world?

For months I came across a version of this prophetic phrase. This problem often occurs when interviewing very smart consumers in their 20s or 30s. Sneakers, like Swami’s kind of streetwear, are outdated. These spicy shoppers are fed up with losing the weekly raffle of Jordan and Dunk’s latest “Gotta Heavy”. They are financially and mentally exhausted by paying high prices for sneakers in the secondary market. At any given time, they claim they intend to deny Nike forever.

This post-sneaker turmoil is fueled by Lawrence Schlossman and James Harris, co-hosts of the men’s fashion podcast “Throwing Fits” in their thirties. The next natural question is, “If sneakers are going out, what’s the alternative?” When asked by millennial shoppers and savvy fashion entrepreneurs, the answer is loafers.

Brands such as Blackstock & Weber also offer loafers in bright shades like the light greenish blue here.


Photo:

Blackstock & Weber

However, Throwing Fit listeners and their peers aren’t interested in the classy yet general Allen Edmonds or the safe and soothing Salvatore Ferragamo dress loafers that have been worn for decades. They are more intrigued by the design of emerging brands, primarily online only.

Horatio, which has been in business for two years, sells loafers (olive green, ink blue, cowhide, etc.) for about $ 300. It is sold out very often and only pre-orders are available until August. Founded in Copenhagen for two years, Vinny’s sells $ 288 pony-haired slip-ons and black loafers. Brooklyn’s Blackstock & Weber also sells preppy two-tone $ 325 penny loafers and streetwear-like vibrant crocodile embossed $ 345 models. (These brands offer solid black and brown shoes, but report that larger loafers are what draw customers into digital doors.)

These labels also offer more sophisticated models, such as the simple brown penny loafers by Vinny’s in Copenhagen.


Photo:

Vinnies

When Blackstock founder Chris Echevarria launched the brand in 2017, he said he wanted to offer an alternative to all the mundane brown loafers on the market. He wanted shoes that could be worn practically at weddings and conference rooms. He turned to dress loafers. Loafers are undoubtedly more sophisticated in shape, but his own version adds a unique spin with bold colorways and textured materials.

The marketing of these brands is clearly youthful and doesn’t wear anything reminiscent of a “country club”, such as safe suits or slender dress socks. Vinny’s website features pack-like style loafers with white socks and check pants. Horatio’s Instagram feed shows a customer relaxing in cream and tan loafers, wide pants and a sloppy sweatshirt.

Blackstock is in harmony with a kind of hype related to sneakers. Recently, the Green Alligator Embossed Loafer Pair made its ultra-limited debut through Kiss, a New York sneaker specialty store well known for its Air Force 1 and ASICS debuts. And last year, Blackstock collaborated with Throwing Fits to create olive, brown and tongue loafers. Prior to its release, the podcast advertised the shoes available on pre-sale.

Such cheerful loafers seem to be changing shoppers. Emmanuel Luglare, 37, has a marketing job in Nashville and bought Horatio’s cow print loafers in March of this year. “When I met them, they felt different to me. “LeGrair said. He wears moo shoes that you can’t miss anywhere. In modern grocery store management, he simply styled in jeans and a white shirt.

This year, Nathan Hong, 22, a production engineer at a mechanical engineering company in Vancouver, purchased “the first pair of authentic dress shoes” from Blackstock & Weber. For about $ 500, these loafers, adorned with glittering gold, were an investment and are worn as often as possible to maximize their value.

Tyler Sandval, 30, an e-commerce strategist in Burlington, Vermont, owns a pair of Blackstock & Weber loafers. Self-proclaimed throwing fit “Stan” or super fan Sandval believes we may soon live in the world of post-sneakers, but for now, we’re still wearing ASICS and New Balance for days. I will. He wears loafers about twice a week and feels that one pair is enough to be complimented.

Horatio cowhide loafers are in high demand and can only be pre-ordered until August.


Photo:

Horatio

Mike Strout knows directly that the loafers market has a ceiling. In 2015, he and his partner founded Founders, a consumer footwear brand that offers three styles of dress shoes, including $ 300 Italian penny loafers. The brand’s shoes were handsome and affordable, but the founder went bankrupt in less than three years. According to Strout, the problem is that 90% of customers are one-time buyers. Founders’ pair of dress shoes met their needs, which hindered the label’s growth. Loafers are less collectible than sneakers, and sneakers are generally cheaper and more distinctive. The Nike Dunks don’t look the same as the two, but most loafers are very similar unless you really look closely.

Emerging footwear brands seem to recognize that they need to evolve and diversify to survive. Blackstock & Weber already offers baseball caps in collaboration with B & W and New Era, which will sell out within days of their online release. Based on this success, Echevarria plans to develop and sell small accessories such as ashtrays. Horatio diverges into a more conservative derby lace-up and will soon be rolling out refreshing leather Fisherman sandals for the summer. And Vinny’s owner Virgil Nicholas is working on other types of shoes, such as the bold crocodile rug sole boat shoes that give off the “irony atmosphere” that customers are accustomed to.

Write to Jacob Gallagher (Jacob.Gallagher@wsj.com)

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Will we all wear loafers in the post-sneaker world?

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