Dressing for a wedding doesn’t have to be painful. It often is, but doesn’t have to be. Dress code confusion is a key culprit and footwear should take some of the blame. That begs the question; can you wear loafers to a wedding?
Loafers can be worn to smart-casual weddings and even some formal ones when paired with an appropriate outfit. Certain types, colors, and styles of loafers are dressier than others and this needs to be factored into the decision. Ultimately, black-tie is the only wedding dress code where you should really avoid loafers if possible.
That’s the gist. But as you’d expect, there’s more to it.
Underdressing is the main risk. While loafers are technically dress shoes, they’re on the most casual end of the “dress shoe spectrum”.
This article will teach you how to figure out whether you can wear a specific pair of loafers to the specific wedding in question.
Saving yourself the faux pas alone would make it worth reading until the end, right?
I’ll also be talking about colors, going sockless, and whether a groom should ever dare to wear loafers to his own wedding.
Let’s get to it.
Can You Really Wear Loafers To A Wedding?
The glorious versatility of loafers does allow you to wear them to most weddings, but certainly not all of them.
To understand what’s appropriate and what isn’t, it’s worth first running through the main dress codes you’re likely to come across on a wedding invitation.
- Black-Tie – Usually an evening event and a tuxedo is required. Go for black or midnight blue.
- Formal/ Black-Tie Optional – A notch less formal but a tuxedo would still be appropriate. A dark worsted wool suit is usually best.
- Cocktail Attire – A very common wedding dress code. A suit is still most appropriate but lighter shades and splashes of flair and color would be fine. A suit separate (spezzato style) would also most likely be OK.
- Casual – Go wild but not too wild. Essentially, smart-casual is about as casual as you should really go. Think sports coats and chinos.
The question is, can loafers be worn for these dress codes?
Black-tie is really the only dress code where you should stay clear of loafers completely. There may be a few fashion-forward outsiders who might disagree, but at the end of the day, it really isn’t worth the risk.
Even the blackest, shiniest pair of leather horsebit loafers would pale in comparison to patent leather Oxfords when worn with a tuxedo.
For the other dress codes, you should be able to wear a pair of loafers of some variety.
What I mean by that is, yes – but it depends on what type of loafers.
As I mentioned earlier, the main risk is underdressing when it comes to loafers. There will definitely be some loafers that definitely aren’t formal enough for a formal/black-tie optional wedding dress code.
That brings us to the simple 2-step process you should use to decide which pair of loafers you should wear for the specific wedding you’re attending.
N.B – I haven’t mentioned “business-casual” here; it would never be a wedding dress code. I have written about wearing loafers as business-casual in a separate article if you’re interested.
How To Wear Loafers To A Wedding: The 2-Step Process
So you’ve merrily opened the wedding invitation and it’s still hot in your hands. Here is the two-step process you need to follow.
Spoiler alert – it isn’t rocket science.
1. Find Out The Dress Code
Almost all wedding invitations will let you know what the dress code is. It will most likely be one of the dress codes I listed above.
That’s the easy part.
The hard part is interpreting it and making sure you don’t mess up.
If it says “black-tie”, your decision has been made so much simpler. Loafers are out of the question.
But if it’s “formal/ black-tie optional”, “cocktail attire”, “smart-casual”, or “casual”, move on to step two.
2. Pick The Right Pair Of Loafers
Loafers differ from each other in three main ways:
- The material
- The color
- The style
Each of these differences can make a pair of loafers look more or less casual. Let’s talk about each of them in turn.
Loafers are most commonly made in either leather or suede. Technically suede is a specific grade and finish of leather that simply looks softer and more napped.
But the difference is immediately obvious and suede will always look more casual than leather.
- Wear suede loafers to casual weddings. As I mentioned earlier, when it comes to “casual” weddings, don’t go any more casual than smart-casual.
- Wear leather loafers for cocktail attire and formal weddings.
Black loafers will always look more formal than brown, and darker shades of brown will always look more formal than lighter shades of brown.
For formal dress codes, go for black or dark brown without question.
For cocktail attire and smart-casual dress codes you’ve got a little more choice, but sticking to brown would definitely be a good idea.
Go for a lighter shade of brown (like tan) for cocktail attire. Avoid anything too intense, bright, or obvious. One of the dangers is upstaging the groom.
Next up is the style of loafer and why it’s so important. This is so important that it really does deserve its own section.
Choosing The Right Style Of Loafer For A Wedding
Loafers have transformed in so many different ways since their birth in Norway. They’ve become a serious cultural phenomenon over the years.
There are several different types of loafers but I wanted to go through the three main ones and when you could wear them to weddings.
When dressing for a wedding, horsebit loafers would often be your best option if you were worried there may be a risk of underdressing.
Horsebit loafers (a.k.a Gucci loafers) are widely considered to be the most formal type of loafer.
Created by Gucci in the 1950s, he revolutionized the traditional slip-on design with his most famous addition; the metal buckle on top.
Shaped like a horse bit, the metal buckle can come in a variety of different metals; from silver to brass.
The horsebit loafer is really the only style of loafer that can be considered formal enough to wear with a formal suit.
Stick to leather and darker colors and a pair of horsebit loafers will most likely pair well with a formal suit.
Do bear in mind that it still won’t look as formal as a dark pair of Derbys or cap-toe Oxfords, for instance.
But it should still work. In fact, it can be a nice way to subtly stand out from the crowd without looking like you’re trying to upstage the groom.
Plus, a nice touch would be to match the color of the metal horsebit to your cufflinks or studs.
When dressing for a wedding, penny loafers would look a notch less formal than horsebit loafers. They generally wouldn’t be appropriate to wear to formal or traditional weddings, but would usually be absolutely fine for a smart-casual one.
They’re characterized by a leather strap across the vamp, usually with a diamond-shaped cutout.
As a general principle, avoid wearing penny loafers with formal suits no matter how dark or leathery the finish is.
Penny loafers are hugely popular worldwide and have many use cases.
But they should always be considered a casual shoe and wearing them with a formal suit will usually look awkward.
So, this generally means you should avoid wearing them for formal and even cocktail dress codes.
But they may work perfectly well for smart-casual weddings.
Consider a casual 2-piece suit (eg. linen) or a blazer + chinos/dress pants combination.
You want a laid-back pair of shoes that still makes it clear that you’re stylish and have made an effort for the occasion.
Penny loafers are often a great option.
They’re especially ideal for casual, summer, beach weddings.
Tassel loafers are about as formal as penny loafers, but you could argue that they were actually a notch less formal.
They’re defined by the prominent tassel on the vamp; a fun and decorative addition to the classic loafer design.
The tassel does add a distinctive, casual vibe.
They’re generally more popular with older gentlemen, but the more vibrant colors and suede finishes are popular with a younger crowd as well.
At the end of the day, the same rules that applied to penny loafers apply to tassel loafers.
Sure, dark brown or black leather will look more formal than suede.
But it’s still best to avoid wearing tassel loafers with a formal suit if possible. In other words, you can wear them as part of a smart-casual wedding outfit, but avoid wearing them to formal or cocktail attire events.
How To Wear Loafers To Beach Weddings
When wearing loafers to a beach wedding you’ll need to prioritize comfort. Consider a pair of suede loafers and pair them with breathable items such as linen suits and lightweight cotton shirts.
Sitting through a ceremony in the sun might sound like fun, but it can be pretty unpleasant if you aren’t prepared.
If the dress code is casual, loafers are an excellent option.
Having the top of the foot exposed will allow it to breathe and keep your feet a little cooler in the heat.
Suede penny loafers and tassel loafers are great options for beach weddings in the summer.
For the rest of your outfit, you’ll want to stick to breathable fabrics such as cotton, linen, or seersucker. Chinos work great for smart-casual events on the beach.
What To Wear With Loafers To A Wedding
When styling loafers for a wedding, consider the setting and the dress code. Loafers would really be more appropriate for the spring and summer months, so we’ll take that into account when choosing our other items.
For a smart-casual summer wedding, consider wearing the loafers with a light-colored (eg. beige or cream tone) 2-piece linen suit, or perhaps one made from lightweight cotton.
Alternatively, you could consider a linen blazer with a pair of unmatched linen pants.
For a more formal summer wedding, you’ll most likely want to wear a darker-colored suit, although linen would still generally be considered appropriate in warm weather.
I’ve written separate articles about wearing other specific items to weddings if you were interested. I’ll leave the links here, just in case you wanted to dig deeper:
- Wearing White To Weddings
- Wearing Chinos To Weddings
- Wearing Short-Sleeve Shirts To Weddings
- Wearing Blazers To Weddings
Can You Wear Loafers With No Socks To A Wedding?
When wearing loafers to a smart-casual wedding, consider a pair of no-show socks for the sake of comfort and hygiene. This is especially important for summer weddings where sweating is likely to be an issue.
As a general rule, loafers should never be worn without socks regardless of whether it’s to a wedding or not.
Walking around in loafers without socks can be pretty uncomfortable and quite painful after a while.
So, no matter what the dress code is and no matter what you’re wearing those loafers with, you’ll need to wear socks.
If you’re wearing a formal suit and horsebit loafers to the wedding, consider a longer pair of socks (eg. over the calf socks).
While wearing long socks with loafers would usually be considered unusual when dressing more casually, when wearing a formal suit, it would be the more appropriate way to go.
But if you’re wearing loafers (either horsebit, tassel, or penny) to a smart-casual wedding, go for no-show socks.
Can A Groom Wear Loafers To His Wedding?
It’s usually acceptable for a groom to wear loafers to his own wedding, especially if it has a smart-casual dress code. At the end of the day, grooms have the freedom to express themselves with what they wear to their wedding, even if it’s at odds with what their guests are wearing.
For a smart-casual wedding, there’s no reason why not and it can definitely work if styled effectively.
For a more formal/traditional wedding, loafers would be an unusual choice for a groom, but it’s unlikely anyone would question them if the weather was warm enough for loafers to make sense.
Remember, the groom is traditionally meant to dress in a way that helps him stand out from the crowd.
A pair of loafers may be absolutely fine. But a groom should ensure that his loafers stand out a little.
Choosing loafers in a more unusual color such as navy blue or gray suede might be one way to achieve this.
Of course, this wouldn’t be appropriate with all dress codes. After all, those colors would look quite awkward with a formal suit.
But try to look for loafers with a distinctive feature that will make them stand out from the crowd while still sticking to the formality of the event overall.
Black Loafers Vs Brown Loafers To Weddings
When dressing for a wedding, black loafers will generally look more formal than brown ones. If the wedding is “formal” but you feel loafers would be appropriate, black horsebit loafers would be your best option. For “smart-casual” weddings, brown loafers in any style would potentially work well.
Sometimes, it really isn’t easy to decide.
As I mentioned earlier, black will always be considered more formal than brown – even dark brown.
So if you’re looking to wear a pair for a formal/black-tie optional wedding, strongly consider black loafers. Dark brown at the very least.
But if you’re looking to dress for a smart-casual wedding, brown would often be a better choice.
This isn’t simply because it’ll look more casual and laid-back.
It’s also because brown is a much more versatile color.
You’d be able to comfortably pull out a brown pair of loafers for a wide range of occasions and settings in the future. A black pair will usually only make sense for more formal outfits.
Just remember, the darker the shade of brown, the more formal it will look. In addition, brown leather is more formal than brown suede.
Alternatives To Loafers For A Wedding
You’ve got plenty of alternatives to loafers when attending a wedding. In fact, it could be argued that loafers are probably about as casual as you could get away with.
Your alternatives would be the “dressier” pairs of dress shoes.
Consider a pair of Oxfords, Derbys, or monk straps in black or brown. For smart-casual weddings, you could get away with any of these pairs of shoes with a brogue pattern too.
Can You Wear Loafers To A Wedding Reception?
Loafers can be worn to smart-casual wedding receptions, but should be avoided for those with a black-tie dress code. For a “formal” wedding reception, loafers may be appropriate if the weather is warm enough, but try to choose a pair of black horsebit loafers to reduce the risk of underdressing.
Ultimately, the same rules apply to the reception.
Loafers will inevitably be more casual-looking than Oxfords, Derbys, and monk straps. If you feel as though there’s a risk of underdressing, it’s probably not worth the risk.
A pair of loafers may eventually become one of the most worn dress shoes in your collection.
The versatility can’t be denied, but it’s clear that a lot of men wear them when they may not be entirely appropriate.
Underdressing to a wedding is an experience you’d rather avoid if possible.
Hopefully, this article has given you enough information to significantly reduce the risk of that happening.
Ready Sleek founder. Obsessed with casual style and the minimalist approach to building a highly functional wardrobe. Also a fan of classic, vintage hairstyles.