The driving shoe is a must-have summertime accessory. It combines the sophistication of the penny loafer with the ease of a classic moccasin. It's the only pair of shoes you'll need on a laid-back trip to warmer climes because it's more urban than a boat shoe but not as expensive as a Belgian loafer.
The driving shoe was originally conceived as a practical aid for the automobile, but its timeless style guarantees that it is so much more than that and can be worn in a wide range of situations. Perhaps a pair of driving shoes is what you've been missing in your shoe collection, whether you're going on a beach vacation or just want a dapper yet relaxed pair of slip-ons for the weekend.
In what ways are shoes for driving different from other footwear?
In essence, a driving loafer is a slip-on shoe of moccasin construction that is both snug and comfortable. Small rubber pebbles cover the sole and extend to the back of the heel; these are very pliable and add grip to the pedals, making them the defining feature. The lack of laces made them convenient to slip on before getting behind the wheel, and they were made to give the wearer more control while driving and protect the wearer's regular shoes from being damaged by the driver's constant pressure on the heels.
Even though modern professional driving shoes resemble sneakers more than ever with their combination of laces and Velcro, the timeless appeal of the classic design (much like that of classic cars) means that it will never go out of style. Originally made from suede or reverse calf, modern versions can be crafted from a wide variety of leathers and materials.
Driving Shoe Etiquette
It's Time for the Road Trip
As with the biker jacket and the morning coat, this is the original purpose for which they were created. However, a pair of quality driving loafers is an essential accessory for the gentleman driver who appreciates classic automobiles and wants to look their best while doing so. Pair with your favorite pair of jeans, a simple top, and a laid-back jacket. Just throw on some pilot's goggles and a classic wristwatch, and you'll be set for the Mille Miglia. Another option is to go grocery shopping.
It's no surprise that the driving loafer, with its snazzy European branding and connotations of sophistication and privilege, has comfortably established itself within the contemporary preppy wardrobe, becoming the de facto successor to the original Ivy League look. The fact that they are meant to be worn barefoot has contributed to their cult status in today's collection of resort wear.
You can't go wrong with the classic Oxford cotton button-down shirt and some shorts in a warm color, like seersucker, madras, or linen. Put a NATO band around that vintage wristwatch of yours, and grab a pair of those Clubmasters; you're set for the Hamptons this summer.
It's a Massimo Dutti.
When flying for business, driving shoes are the best footwear to wear because they are lightweight and comfortable. Wear socks with them only when necessary (such as during security checks or naptime) so that your fellow passengers aren't exposed to your bare feet or any chemicals that may be seeping out of them.
Socks made of a cotton-polyester blend in a neutral color should be worn with dark loafers that are conservative in style. Suede in a rich chocolate brown is perfect for the office, and it pairs well with navy or black suits. An unstructured suit of high-twist worsted wool works well, especially when paired with a simple light blue shirt and a dark, textured tie. Since most drivers wear flats, have the pants hemmed with little to no break.
The New Chic at the Pool
Having a driver while on vacation is like having a personal tour guide who can help you find your way around airports and fancy restaurants. When paired with tailored swim shorts, a knitted polo shirt, and an aqua appropriate diving watch, they are also sporty enough to wear around the pool or beach bar.
Wear a few bright bracelets and a pair of timeless sunglasses, and you'll exude Riviera cool while you sip your Negroni.
Wedding on the Sand
You receive an invitation to a beachside wedding in the tropics, but upon arrival, you discover that the venue is actually a resort. You know that your wool, silk, and linen-blend suit will look great with your bench-made Oxford shoes, but you also know that the sand and salt could ruin them.
The trip, the stag do, and the wedding present have already cost you a small fortune. A re-mortgage could be necessary if you need to budget for shoe replacement. But you aren't ready to give up just yet, and you won't even consider donning sandals or, God forbid, flip-flops. You'd never take that chance, and you know for a fact that there will be a photographer there.
The solution is as simple as going sockless with your leather driving loafers. The rubber bottom is great for walking on sand, and the look of these shoes will only improve with age.
Western European Casual
If you're planning on going to any summer sporting events like Wimbledon, your shiny new driving shoes will be just the thing. Avoid the dreadful British uniform of too-tight beige chinos and blue shirt and instead take fashion cues from the Italians.
To complete the look, wear a blue hopsack blazer in the unstructured Neapolitan style over slim-leg cotton trousers, a shirt made from textured cotton, and a 7-fold silk tie. A single-ply Scottish cashmere slipover is an elegant choice if you anticipate a chill at the event. Oh, and put on that Audemars Piguet Royal Oak watch you've been saving for this occasion.
Shoes for driving: the dos and don'ts
Take care of your suede shoes by steam cleaning and brushing them regularly, but don't treat them like heirlooms. They're more appealing with some wear and tear.
When not in use for an extended period of time, stuff them with tissue paper. Because of this, they will maintain their form. Good, solid wood trees are unnecessary.
Alter the hue of your shirt. Although brown is always fashionable, these shoes are a great way to spice up your shoe collection with some fresh blues and greens.
Only take off your socks when you fly.
Use them too much for walking They're perfect for going from the beach to a bar or the car to a café, but not so great for touring Milan's famous landmarks.
Worry about the stones wearing down Put the old ones in storage and get a new pair to wear around the house and yard.
The Top Manufacturers of Driving Shoes
In 1979, Diego Della Valle, the grandson of a shoemaker, founded the company that would become known as Tod's. He is credited with introducing the Gommino, which would go on to become the brand's most recognizable driving shoe. The cult status of the Italian shoe company Tod's is largely attributable to the fact that Fiat magnate Gianni Agnelli wore them to Fiorentina soccer matches, which were broadcast worldwide.
The company now also provides a tailoring service, so you can have one of its classic designs made in the material and finishing touches of your choice.
Gianni Mostile founded the Italian company Car Shoe in 1963, and the company has maintained deep ties to the classic car community ever since. The Italian fashion powerhouse Prada acquired the company in 2001, and since then it has worked with Alfa Romeo and The Driver's Club.
In addition, a temporary store selling its wares has been a regular fixture at the annual The Goodwood Revival, a celebration of the heyday of motorsport. It even has a crocodile skin option for those who want to show off
Though it's more common to associate Gucci with its iconic horsebit loafers, the brand also produces high-quality footwear for the driver. The brand's name is instantly recognizable as a symbol of refined Italian style, and the range of the brand's designs reflects this. From simple black leather to extravagant shearling-lined suede, many of the brand's designs prominently display the horsebit snaffle over the vamp.
Jones and Crockett
Crockett & Jones, despite being one of Britain's most illustrious shoemakers, has a history dating back to 1879. The driving shoe is a style that might surprise you among its options.
There's a lot to pick from with three distinct styles, each with its own subtle differences, but the Modena in dark brown calf leather is the classiest. It's a shrewd choice, and the flat lace tie allows it to work with anything from jeans and shorts to a suit.