What Is A Driving Shoe?
Driving loafers (also referred to as “driving shoes” or “drivers”) are slip-on shoes that have dot-like rubber nubs on the sole and heel counter. The upper can have tassels, a lace, or any kind of adornment. Or none, for that matter.
Pictured at left is what we call a Venetian driving loafer, which has a totally unadorned upper.
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 rainbow of colors from quite a few different makers worldwide.
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 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 color 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 color 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”
- Autumn: Brown, black pebbled leather or suede
- Winter: N/A. Avoid drivers in the winter
The Importance Of No-Show Socks
It is extremely common 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 discoloration unseemly.
No-show socks, on the other hand, offer the best of both worlds: a sockless presentation and a funkless shoe.
Why The Rubber Nubs?
Drivers are so named for a reason: they’re shoes meant for driving. The rubber nubs exist to help the wearer grip the pedals of a car more effectively, and it also affords the driver the opportunity 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 specifically 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 As Walking Shoes: A Note On Lifespan
Now that driving loafers are not 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 extremely comfortable. Why wouldn’t you want to hoof it 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.
Who Makes The Best Driving Loafer?
Tons of brands make driving loafers, the most iconic of which is Tod’s. Here are some of our favorites:
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.