As the name suggests, driving shoes are designing to improve the overall experience when behind the wheel. They’re often referred to as driving loafers or drivers and traditionally have dot-like rubber pebbles on the sole and heel counter.
Meanwhile, the upper can have tassels or leather laces. However, plain uppers or penny loafer style throats are possible too. In most cases, they will have a mocassin toe stitch.
Available in leather, suede, nubuck, and exotic skins, driving shoes are often slipper-like in their lightness and comfort. They’re also made in a wide variety of colours from quite a few different shoemakers around the world.
Aurélien is an independent brand that specialises in artisanally-crafted driving shoes. Working in partnership with an Italian factory, the calfskin suede is sourced in France and tanned locally before being undergoing a proprietary oil treatment, which results in a luxurious sheen.
Thanks to various details like the true pebble sole, Aurélien offers the most authentic driving shoes that embrace the rustically traditional style. Meanwhile, the shoe is very flexible and reminiscent of a comfortable slipper, which can make it very tempting to wear them around the house as much as when on errands!
"Timeless design and heritage craftsmanship work in harmony to produce these authentic Italian driving shoes."
Like Aurélien, Oliver Cabell has produced a range of beautifully-made and authentic driving shoes. In this case, the driving shoes are crafted in Portugal but use suede leather and calfskin sourced from the brand’s favourite tannery in La Marche, Italy.
While the overall design is somewhat similar there are a few key differences. For instance, the aesthetic is a little less rustic with a greater emphasis on contemporary rather than traditional style. As you can see, Oliver Cabell has opted for a penny loafer design instead of leather boat shoe style laces.
Similarly, the shoes aren’t as flexible but instead provide a greater level of support and stability with an Amelfex microfoam footbed, which is a touch stiffer. Some people may prefer this feeling whereas others will be drawn to Aurélien instead.
If it’s comfort you’re after then the Gunner Driver by Wolf & Shepherd is the shoe for you. These suede driving loafers are a bit more casual than some of the other recommendations on this list and they have the laid-back comfort to match.
Featuring lightweight PhoenixTECH soles and a memory foam footbed, Wolf & Shepherd certainly deliver on their promise of true comfort.
Salvatore Ferragamo releases a new variant of its Parigi driver line and we’re particularly fond of the 2021. Combining oxblood with a deep blue hue, the shoe’s design is brought together by a stunning gold-coloured bit in the throat. As a distinctively premium option, it has an unavoidable Italian elegance.
Allen Edmonds is a celebrated American brand known for the quality of its shoes. The Daytona is a classic driving loafer with a penny-style throat that’s crafted using the Handsewn 555 Last. Consequently, it features a shorter forepart and a round toe as well as a tighter instep for a secure fit.
At just $64, Massimo Matteo’s drivers are exceedingly cheap. The brand also have a wide variety of styles available if you prefer a different design. However, we’re big fans of the Suede Tie Driver, which is available in either green, black, or navy blue.
Although we generally prefer the Daytona, the Interstate is also an excellent option from Allen Edmonds. On this occasion, it’s made using the Handsewn 2592 Last with a premium leather upper and a hand-sewn construction.
Made from full-grain leather with a handsewn moccasin toe, the Harpswell from Sperry’s Gold Cup line is certainly worth considering. There’s a lambskin lining for extra comfort as well as an anti-shock system in the sole. Finally, it also features 18K gold eyelets for a touch of panache!
The Lacoste Concours are a great budget-friendly option when it comes to driving shoes. They feature a decidedly the classic driving shoe style with cemented pebble soles. At less than $100 these drivers provide exceptional value.
How To Wear Drivers
Though drivers are a casual shoe you shouldn’t wear with dress trousers or suits, they cover quite a bit of ground. They can be worn with or without socks (more on that below) and can smartly dress up shorts and a t-shirt as much as they can lend some Continental flair to chinos and a blazer.
Again, drivers are quite casual. Try to wear them during the day, especially if they’re a light or non-standard colour like red or light blue. They are best paired with:
Shorts and fitted tees or polos
Jeans and tees, polos, or button-downs
Chinos with tees, polos, and button-downs
Driving loafers shouldn’t be worn with dress trousers and certainly not with suits or evening wear. They’re just too casual for these scenarios. With that said, rules were meant to be broken, and we’re sure that someone who has a lot of style could find a way to make the pairing work.
If you happen to be that guy, do let us know.
Drivers are a fantastic shoe for warm weather because they’re lightweight and low cut. Here are some colour suggestions by season:
Spring: Beige, blue, or light brown leather or suede
Summer: Yellow, green, red, sky blue, whatever. As Pink Floyd said, “Any Colour You Like.”
It is widespread to wear summer shoes without socks. Like boat shoes, drivers can be worn with or without socks, but a brief discussion on no-show socks (“man-peds,” as we pejoratively call them) is warranted.
When you wear summer shoes without socks, great things happen visually. The sockless look is clean, and it pairs beautifully with a casual summer shoe whether the look pairs well with a dress shoe is a debate to be had at another time.
The problem is that the insides of your shoes get wrecked when you wear them repeatedly without socks. Our feet sweat, on average, about one cup per day. That all gets absorbed into the leather sock liners and insole, which will likely separate from the sole inside the shoe.
The smell is gross, the discolouration unseemly. No-show socks, on the other hand, offer the best of both worlds: a sockless presentation and a funkless shoe.
We’re particularly fond of the Boardroom’s no-show socks, which are made in the brand’s family-owned mill in the USA. Crafted from merino wool, they breathe nicely, even in the summer heat. Meanwhile, the wool is blended with nylon and spandex to ensure that they fit properly.
We’ve found that lower-quality no-show socks have a tendency to fall off and slide down your shoe. Fortunately, Boardroom’s no-show socks fit perfectly and also feature a silicone patch at the back for additional grip.
Why The Rubber Nubs?
Drivers are so named for a reason: they’re shoes meant for driving. The rubber nubs or “pebble sole” exist to help the wearer grip the pedals of a car more effectively, and it also allows the driver to minimize wear on his “regular” shoes.
In 1963, an Italian company was created: Car Shoe. Despite having the least creative name in the history of the universe, they invented the driving shoe as a shoe for the wealthy, who at the time were the only folks who’d be able to afford a shoe just for driving.
If you think about it, such a concept is still a luxury, as it’s safe to say that most of us don’t wear special shoes for operating our cars.
Drivers Are Not Walking Shoes
The downside of wearing driving shoes for regular walking
As driving loafers are no longer considered luxury items that are inaccessible to the masses, many people like to wear them as walking shoes. This is understandable, as a well-fitting pair of drivers is exceptionally comfortable. Why wouldn’t you want to walk around all day in the comfiest shoes you can find?
Well, if you walk on concrete or brick a whole lot (read: if you’re a city dweller, especially in the eastern U.S., Europe, or Asia), the toes will get chewed up to all hell. There’s no way to get around this, unfortunately.
Every time you take a step, the lack of a sole lets the toe scrape the ground. Over time, leather wears away, and you get the holes that you see in the picture above.
If you wear the same pair of drivers even as little as three times a week, this could happen in a matter of months, so if you plan to walk in them, make them part of a rotation in which they’ll only be worn once a week at a maximum.
Another option, one that we would typically not advise with a more “structured” shoe, is to purchase cheap ones and just blow through them. Tread carefully if you take that bit of advice, as cheap shoes’ only benefit is often their price, while comfort and quality fall by the wayside.
Do we suggest that you buy a driving loafer? Absolutely, we do. This is one of the best casual shoes a man can own, so if you find yourself dressing down more than up, you should own a pair or two.
Do we suggest that you spend a lot of money on a driver? Well, that depends on how much money you have and how much you plan to walk in these shoes. We appreciate quality just as much as the next guy, but driving shoes are a case in which we’re comfortable advising paying a bit less given how the shoe wears over time.
This is particularly true for suede, which will likely be comfortable at any price point.
No matter what, treat yourself to a pair.
More Shoe Resources
Interested in learning more about other shoe styles? Visit one of our detailed resources below: