While we’d typically gravitate towards traditional laced shoes, slip-ons more than have their merits. After all, for ease of use and ultimate comfort, they’re hard to beat.
Depending on the style, slip-on shoes can add a casual edge to a weekend look, or, in the case of the penny or horsebit loafer, be the finishing touch to business casual outfit. Whatever feel you’re going for, there’s a slip-on style to suit all needs. From sneakers and drivers to espadrilles and deck shoes, these are the best slip-on shoe brands in the world today.
Relaxed and easy to wear, slip-on sneakers bring with them a slice of that 70s California cool. Vans is responsible for much of the classic silhouette, having produced its take for decades, but a number of brands have reinterpreted the style, crafting their designs from high-quality leather and suede, making them the natural pairing for dressed-down tailoring.
When it comes to slip-on sneakers, Vans did it first. The California brand began producing the definitive slip-on silhouette since way back in 1977, when it was dubbed Style #98. Now known simply as the Slip-On, it’s been the skater’s go-to choice for decades – thanks to its clean lines, comfortable padded heel and signature waffle gum sole – and remains a classic off-duty option to this day.
Purveyor of minimally-designed, trend-led sneakers with a focus on premium materials and construction, Axel Arigato is well placed when it comes to offering beautifully-made slip-on models. Its Clean 360 silhouette demonstrates what it does best, combining a pared-back leather upper with a chunky white sole for a contemporary look.
Based in Los Angeles, Clae prides itself on the quality of its materials and the fact that each of its designs are handmade. For its slip-on style, expect classic minimalism made in an array of interesting materials including organic canvas and corduroy.
If you’re going to go for just one slip-on style, make it loafers. It’s the perfect in-between shoe; one that’s just formal enough but not too stuffy. Loafers are easy to dress down with jeans and a T-shirt, but can also add a relaxed edge to tailoring, making them among the more versatile smart casual shoes you could own.
Think of loafers and chances are Gucci comes to mind. The Italian fashion house’s signature horsebit loafer first hit the market in 1953, becoming an instant hit with the jet set and most of the Hollywood elite. Today the classic style has aged like wine, with its buckled front and handsewn, moccasin construction. They are pricey, yes, but there might just be the best-looking loafers out there.
For something at the more affordable end of the price spectrum, and with almost equal levels of style, G.H. Bass is your best bet. Today the brand produces a range of loafers, but its signature style is the Weejun: a ‘beef-roll’ penny loafer with perfect proportions that looks straight out of the 1950s. Wear them with raw denim jeans or tailored trousers and you can’t go wrong.
Driving shoes were originally designed to do just that: driving. They’re usually made from supple, comfortable leather or suede and come with a rubber sole that extends to the heel for added grip behind the wheel. Aside from being gentle on your feet, driving shoes are ideal for wearing in warmer climes thanks to their low profile and soft construction.
There is arguably only one pair of driving shoes you need: the Tod’s Gommino. The archetypal take on the silhouette, it’s crafted from a range of soft leather and suede and comes complete with Tod’s pebbled rubber soles. Lightweight and comfortable, they’re as perfect for weekend road trips as they are strolls through the city.
For an alternative to Tod’s best efforts, Salvatore Ferragamo produces its own line of driving shoes which offer a distinct look of their own. The pebbled soles are replaced with Ferragamo’s own rubber design, which arguably offers a more durable grip than Tod’s. They also boast a large metal buckle across the vamp, giving an added touch of Italian flair.
The no.1 summer holiday shoe on this list, espadrilles are the slip-ons you didn’t know you needed. A simple design, traditionally made with a canvas upper and an esparto rope sole, they are are the ideal, and more grown up, alternative to flip-flops. Wear them by the pool, in the bar or strolling through a southern Italian village.
With its first workshop opening in 1927, and a heritage that involves collaborating with Mr Yves Saint Laurent himself, Castaner lays claim to producing some of the finest espadrilles in the world. The brand places great emphasis on craftsmanship and staying true to its original designs, but these days you’ll find its espadrilles made from luxurious suede as well as classic canvas.
Although it doesn’t quite have the heritage of Castaner, London-based brand Mulo makes some of the best espadrilles you’ll find. They differ from the norm in that they’re made on an Oxford shoe last, giving them a smarter, more structured silhouette. They’re handmade in Portugal and come in a range of fabrics including suede, denim and linen.
Rivieras offers its own take on the espadrille silhouette, with its sleek, two-panelled uppers, often made from its signature mesh fibre. A combination of 50% organic cotton and 50% Seaqual recycled marine plastic, its mesh is a breathable, sustainable solution to the suede and canvas offerings available with other brands.
Another slip-on with a humble history, the deck shoe began life at sea, designed as it was to keep fisherman and deck hands from sliding overboard. Typically made from tough, salt-resistant leather, with siped (thin slits) rubber soles that offered the necessary grip, deck or boat shoes are now a classic staple of the casual summer wardrobe.
Sperry first invented its ‘Top-Sider’ deck shoe in 1937, designing it for sailors who’d previously struggle to stay upright on a wet deck. Its rubber sole was combined with a salt-proof leather upper and a unique lacing system that allowed the wearer to tie the laces around the ankle. It’s stayed true to this classic design today, offering its Top-Siders in a range of colours and finishes.
While it started manufacturing its deck shoes some 30 years later, Sebago quickly became known as a master of the easy-to-wear style. Making use of high-quality leather that’s both supple and durable, the Sebago Docksides went on to be worn by style icons including Steve McQueen, Paul Newman and more recently, Pharrell.
Timberland is most well known for its 6-inch boots, which have been worn extensively by everyone from builders to virtually every East Coast rapper in the 90s. But its deck shoes are arguably the best thing the iconic brand puts its name to. It does produce pairs with classic slim soles, but the ones to go for boast chunky lug soles, which give them a contemporary look while adding extra grip and durability.