I like clothes in the summer that make you feel like you’re at home. Loosely-cut linen shirts that feel like pajamas, softly-tailored sport coats that disappear from your mind, and unlined loafers that wear like bedroom slippers. With the right clothes, every cafe and office can vaguely feel like you’re still bumming around your living room.
I recently picked up a new pair of unlined pennies – Edward Green’s Harrow, which I’ve been pining over for years. On the surface, they’re just an unlined loafer with a pie-crust apron, much like you’d find on the company’s Dovers. The design, however, is actually by Wildsmith, a famed bespoke shoemaking firm that lasted for seven generations before shutting down. The company used to travel with some of London’s best tailoring companies, offering what they called their “three s’s”: shoes, shirts, and suits.
The style was originally a bespoke country-house shoe made for King George VI, younger brother to the Duke of Windsor, Edward VIII. As the story goes, they were made slightly big so that he could wear them indoors with shooting hose. At some point, Wildsmith shut down the bespoke side of their operation and sold ready-made shoes produced by Edward Green (and, at times, Crockett & Jones). That’s how the Wildsmith loafer became the Edward Green Harrow.
More than the lineage, however, I like the Harrow for its comfort. My go-to unlined loafers for years was Alden’s leisure handsewn. It’s an exceptionally nice model, but only really unstructured around the front half of the shoe, right behind the toe puff. That gives them a bit of softness where it counts most (around the vamp, where you’d bend your foot), but there’s still a bit of lining in the back to give the loafers some structure.
The Harrows go a step further. They have a little bit of lining under the apron, and then the requisite toe and heel stiffeners, but are otherwise completely unstructured. The single-leather sole and Goodyear welted construction give these a bit of stiffness at first, but once they break-in, I imagine these will be some of the softest office-appropriate shoes anyone can own.
I like them with the sort of things you see above: slub weave shirts, tropical wool trousers, and soft-shouldered sport coats. They’re the best you can look while still feeling like you just woke up from a nap.
Some other unlined shoes you can consider: Chay Cooper and Cad & The Dandy revived Wildsmith three years ago. They brought back the company’s signature loafer, but in order to meet a certain price point, they’ve machine-sewn the aprons. I think the design still looks handsome, but they do miss the hand-sewn, pie-crust apron that I think give Edward Green’s Harrow an advantage.
Skoaktiebolaget, an advertiser on this site, once did a group order for unlined Enzo Bonafe chukkas. Enzo Bonafe is an Italian company that offers custom shoes at relatively affordable prices, at least when compared to full bespoke, so I imagine an unlined penny is possible. You can find more about their MTO program here.
Billy Reid and La Portegna also have unlined slip-ons, styled much like espadrilles (although the roping on the La Portegna is just decorative). These won’t have any stiffeners, so the toes are a little more shapeless, but I think the construction suits the casual style. Simon over at Permanent Style recently wrote about the La Portegnas, which he wore on a holiday trip.
Lastly, Barbanera has an unlined Venetian loafer called the Rimbaud (on sale at the moment at Barney’s). Eidos designer Antonio Ciongoli apparently wears a pair. Sergio Guardi, one of the designers behind Barbanera, tells me they’ll have a braided leather version next spring. Those will be a little more structured than the current suede design, but Sergio promises that the comfort will be the same.