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7 Rules For Wearing Loafers With Shorts (Properly)

March 23, 2023
7 Rules For Wearing Loafers With Shorts (Properly)

While many choose to wear this combination, it really does need to be done the right way. It begs the question, can you wear loafers with shorts? 

Loafers can be worn with shorts and the pair often makes for a great summer combination. More casual shorts such as polo shorts and athletic shorts usually work better with suede loafers, while more formal shorts such as chino shorts and flat front shorts can even work with leather loafers. 

Although that’s the gist, let’s dig deeper with more detailed and specific advice. 

Here are 7 tips to see you through whenever you want to pair loafers with shorts. 

Let’s get to it. 

Ensure It’s Appropriate  

Let’s face it. Loafers and shorts aren’t going to work everywhere. 

There are certain dress codes and occasions you just wouldn’t be able to pull it off. 

Here are a couple of dress codes where you can usually wear them: 

  • Casual – Shorts will always come across as casual. The question is how casual. Loafers and shorts can make for the perfect combo in truly casual settings. 
  • Smart Casual – Think first dates and garden parties. Sneakers and moccasins would be too casual. Loafers and shorts could work if you choose shorts that are “formal” enough. 

Put simply, always think casual. 

Even when wearing a shirt, the shorts will make the combination casual

Image From Shutterstock

Avoid wearing loafers and shorts for business-casual, business-professional, and formal occasions. 

You also need to consider the climate. 

Loafers and shorts are warm-weather attire. Shorts are classic spring and summer wear, with the low cut and ankle-exposing loafers complimenting them perfectly in this sense. 

Wearing loafers and shorts in cooler temperatures can often look out of place. 

Related Reading: Wearing Loafers As Business Casual

Select The Right Loafer Material

Suede and nubuck loafers work well with shorts, as the napped texture works well with the casual appearance of the shorts. When wearing leather loafers, it’s important to ensure that the shorts look “formal” enough not to conflict. 

When choosing your loafers, consider the material, no matter what shorts you’re going to wear. 

There are many different types and styles of loafers, ranging in structure, embellishments, color, and more. 

But the material has a huge role to play when it comes to how formal or casual the loafers come across. 

Remember, you want to try to make the formality of the loafers match that of the shorts. 

While all shorts are casual in some way, some are more casual than others. 

Suede loafers are usually a safer bet because they look more casual than leather loafers. 

suede tassel loafers
Suede tassel loafers work well with the casual appearance of shorts

Image From Deposit Photos

The gloss and shine of leather can sometimes look too formal for shorts if you’ve got an especially casual pair of shorts (eg. athletic shorts). 

Chino shorts are (usually) versatile enough to work with leather loafers. 

leather penny loafers alone
Leather penny loafers. Notice how the shine makes it look more formal

Image From Shutterstock

Choose The Right Loafer Style

When wearing shorts, penny loafers and tassel loafers often work better than Gucci loafers, simply because they’re more casual. 

Those are the three main styles of loafers. 

While any of them could potentially work with shorts, penny, and tassel loafers are more versatile and more likely to work with shorts than Gucci loafers would be. 

The reason for this is penny and tassel loafers are a little more casual than horsebit loafers. 

side by side of bit vs penny vs tassel loafers
Gucci loafers (left), penny loafers (middle), and tassel loafers (right). While these are leather, suede loafers would usually work better with shorts

Image From Shutterstock

Gucci Loafers And Shorts

Gucci loafers (a.k.a horsebit loafers) have a more formal appearance to them and generally work best with more “formal” styles of shorts (eg. chino shorts and dress shorts).

The Gucci loafer has a metal buckle on the vamp. It’s shaped like a horse’s bit, hence the name. 

The metal has a naturally glossy, eye-catching, and formal edge to it. So much so that it can often come across as too formal when worn with more casual pairs of shorts.

Penny Loafers And Shorts

Penny loafers work exceptionally well when wearing shorts, with the combination often seen as a go-to spring and summer favorite. Both dressy and casual styles of shorts work well with penny loafers in both suede and shinier grains of leather.

The penny loafer is arguably the most versatile smart-casual shoe you could own. While they can easily be worn with long pant styles such as jeans, chinos, and even dress pants, wearing them with shorts during the warmer months is commonly done.

They make for a dressier alternative to more casual spring and summer shoe styles such as boat shoes, espadrilles, and moccasins.

Related Reading:
Loafers Vs Boat Shoes
How To Wear Loafers With Jeans

Tassel Loafers And Shorts

Tassel loafers work very well with both casual and dressy styles of shorts. Consider leather tassel loafers when wearing more “formal” styles of shorts (eg. chino shorts) and suede or nubuck tassel loafers when wearing more casual styles of shorts.

Ultimately, tassel loafers are just as versatile as penny loafers, although do tend to be favored by the older generations.

Having said that, if you were looking for a fun, attention-grabbing, ankle-exposing summer shoe style, tassel loafers would be a great way to go no matter what shorts style you may be wearing.

Choose The Right Shorts

Very casual shorts such as cargo shorts, polo shorts, and athletic shorts would work better with suede or nubuck loafers. Smarter pairs of shorts such as chino (khaki) shorts and flat-front shorts could even work with leather loafers. 

Much like loafers, shorts come in a wide variety ranging from super casual to more formal, although ultimately, all shorts should be considered casual

But the shorts you choose should pair well with the loafers you choose and vice versa. 

Examples of the more “casual” shorts that would work better with suede loafers and shorts: 

  • Cargo shorts
  • Board shorts
  • Polo shorts
  • Athletic shorts
  • Plaid shorts

Here’s an example of a pair of cargo shorts on Amazon. They’re very casual and would work better with suede loafers than they would with leather loafers. 

Examples of the “smarter” shorts that may also work with leather loafers: 

  • Flat-front shorts
  • Bermuda shorts
  • Chino shorts
  • Khaki shorts

Here’s an example of a pair of chino shorts on Amazon

While there are no firm rules here, it’s safe to say that pairing the wrong pair of shorts with the wrong pair of loafers does look obvious. 

Understanding the difference between “casual” and “less casual” pairs of shorts and loafers is the key to getting it right. 

Go For T-Shirts Or Polo Shirts

T-shirts and polo shirts often work well when combined with loafers and shorts. They’re casual enough to make it work and are also ideal to round off a summer or spring ensemble. 

When wearing shorts and loafers, you’ll want to make sure what you wear up top compliments them in terms of formality. 

If you’re going for more casual loafers and shorts, T-shirts work great. 

Example outfit: Plaid shorts, suede penny loafers, and a T-shirt. 

If you’re going for a smart-casual pair of shorts and loafers, polo shirts or even button-down Oxford shirts can work well. 

Example outfit: Chino shorts, leather tassel loafers, and an Oxford shirt. 

Dress shirts would usually look too formal, even with a more “formal” pair of shorts and loafers. In general, it’s best to avoid them.

Feel free to experiment with additional layers, bearing in mind it should be summer or spring-appropriate.

For example, a light blazer layered on top of a T-shirt would work great combined with a smart pair of shorts and loafers. It could be ideal for smart-casual outdoor events such as garden parties. 

Color Match Carefully 

When combining loafers and shorts, sticking to light, minimalist colors should minimize the risk of clashes. Shades of blues, whites, and greys work well for the shorts.

The main point here is to keep things as simple as possible when it comes to the colors of the shorts. 

Minimalist or “neutral” colors include charcoal, white, navy, olive, khaki, grey, and sage. 

Any of these would work well with brown loafers, regardless of whether they’re suede, nubuck, or leather. 

When you stick to simple, neutral colors for your shorts and loafers, it gives you more freedom to add some splashes of color up top. 

You could quite confidently experiment with bolder and brighter colors for your T-shirts, polo shirts, and blazers. 

You can do so without risking a clash with the shorts and loafers. 

It’s generally a good principle when it comes to style. You don’t want too many parts of the outfit drawing attention. 

In general, you want a splash or two of color on a neutral background. 

In this case, the loafers and the shorts form the simple, neutral background onto which you can add bits of color in the form of shirts, hats, jackets, and so on. 

Brown Loafers With Shorts

Brown loafers are generally the most versatile and would pair well with shorts in a variety of different colors. This is especially true of loafers that come in light or medium shades of brown.

While dark brown loafers are also versatile, they generally have a dressier appearance to them and would be better suited to dressier shorts styles.

Loafers in lighter shades of brown are versatile enough to pair well with both casual and dressy styles of shorts.

Black Loafers With Shorts

Black loafers generally come across as more formal and would be better suited to dressier shorts styles such as chino shorts, khaki shorts, or dress shorts.

This is especially true when dealing with black leather Gucci loafers – arguably the dressiest pair of loafers you could own.

In general, however, black leather loafers of any style should be reserved for your dressy shorts and would look awkward when paired when more casual styles such as cargo shorts or board shorts.

Always Wear No-Show Socks

When wearing loafers with shorts, you should generally always wear no-show socks. Not wearing any socks would be unhygienic, while wearing socks that extend beyond the ankle would look awkward.

However, the type of socks you wear is important. 

When wearing loafers, “normal” socks such as short crew or crew cuts can often look awkward. I’ve written separately about the difficulty of wearing long socks with shorts.

You may hear different opinions on this, so do take your personal preference into account here. 

But overall, most would say that wearing socks that extend beyond the ankles when wearing loafers and shorts usually looks odd. 

A key reason for this is that loafers are low-cut and expose a lot of the ankle and foot. 

The answer? 

No-show socks. They’re honestly a gift. Everyone should own a couple of pairs of them. 

Just as the name suggests, you can’t see them while they’re being worn. This gives you the benefits of wearing socks – namely comfort and hygiene – while not having them on show. 

To the outside observer, it doesn’t actually look like you’ve got any socks on at all. 

This loafers, shorts, and no socks look is ideal because it oozes a casual, summery aesthetic and that’s exactly what most people are going for. 

And that about wraps things up. 

Being mindful of this tip, as well as the others in this list, should see you through whenever you feel like wearing loafers with shorts. 


Related Reading: Wearing Loafers Without Socks

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are a couple of FAQs on the topic to finish up.

Can You Wear Moccasins With Shorts?

Moccasins are a fantastic choice when wearing shorts, especially more casual styles of shorts such as cargo shorts, board shorts, and athletic shorts. The combination is ideal for relaxed, summer-casual settings.

Moccasins are generally seen as more casual than loafers and because of this, are generally better suited to casual shorts than they are to dress shorts.

When wearing chino shorts or dress shorts, for example, a pair of brown leather loafers would generally be seen as more appropriate than moccasins.

Can You Wear Loafers With Shorts And A T-Shirt?

Loafers can easily be worn with shorts and a T-shirt – the outfit would make for the perfect summer-casual ensemble.

The classic T-shirt and shorts combination is ultra-casual. Because of this, a pair of casual-looking suede or nubuck penny or tassel loafers would often look great.

On the other hand, a pair of black Gucci loafers might look a little too formal. These shoes would work better with a polo shirt and dress shorts combination, for example.

Ultimately, it’s important to consider the shirt and shorts style when deciding what color and style of loafer would work best.