Suit jackets and sport coats aren’t the only things that come unstructured. For the miserably hot days we’ve been having lately, I’ve been enjoying my unlined shoes. Soft and slipper-like, they feel a little more comfortable and carefree when temperatures climb past the mid-eighties – even if you’re still sweating like a pig.
To explain, most leather shoes come with a full leather sock liner built-in. That means two pieces of leather are joined to form the uppers – there’s the leather that faces the outside world, and the leather that touches your feet. By joining these two pieces together, you get something that’s a bit more structured and will hold its shape better. Without the lining, however, you get a softer, more comfortable shoe. Whereas most leather footwear needs a break-in period, unlined shoes feel like slippers on first wear.
My favorite unlined shoes come from Alden. They have three main models: a chukka, a loafer, and a blucher. Like with neckties, when a company describes their footwear as unlined, they usually mean they’re lightly- or partially-lined. Alden’s loafers are lined at the back half of the shoe and at the toe – leaving only the vamp and front sides unlined. This gives their loafers an appreciable softness when worn, but they’re not nearly as soft as the company’s chukkas, which are almost completely unstructured.
You can find the chukkas and loafers at ShoeMart. Leffot and Unionmade carry the blucher, while Brooks Brothers offers an unlined version of Alden’s shell cordovan leisure handsewn. Personally, my favorite of the three are the chukkas, if only because of the extra softness and ability to easily wear these into fall.
For something more refined, try Edward Green. They have a ready-to-wear version of the famous Wildsmith loafer, which they call the Harrow. Unlined and skin-stitched, it was originally designed as a house shoe for King George VI before becoming one of Wildsmith’s most iconic models (back when they were making bespoke footwear). Wildsmith has been recently revived as a ready-to-wear brand. They also offer an unlined loafer, although theirs don’t have that iconic pie-crust apron (it is, however, much more affordable). For Edward Green’s Harrow, or the model’s close cousin the Buxton, you can contact Skoaktiebolaget and Gentlemen’s Footwear to place a special order. Leffot also carries Edward Green’s unlined Shanklin chukka on stock.
Lastly, Rancourt will make unlined shoes on request. I ordered a pair of their unlined penny loafers last year, and while they’re not as floppy as I originally hoped, they’ve still become some of my favorite shoes. Superdenim also has an unlined chukka from Trickers. The brown suede version is unfortunately sold out, although it may be re-introduced again in the future.