Hold off on reaching for your winter boots just yet. As we cling on to the final days of summer so should our footwear, which is why the autumnal flat is having a moment, before our feet go into full hibernation mode.
London Fashion Week drew to a close yesterday and there were two shoes that were ubiquitous on the front row – the loafer and the ballet flat, or ballerina. Mary Janes, the sturdier sister of the ballet flat, were also a strong contender for most popular shoe, particularly after Alaïa’s jewel-encrusted version went viral earlier this year, prompting high street copies aplenty. Where trainers have previously been the style of choice for fashionistas, this autumn, attendees were looking for something a little more sophisticated to elevate their look.
Loafers are the perfect autumn shoe. Reliable, comfortable (once you have worn them in) and light but still protective from the rain, they will go with everything from jeans to floaty skirts.
“They’re a lot easier to style than people think,” says Archie Hewlett, CEO and founder of footwear label Duke + Dexter. His clients wear loafers of all varieties, from tonal pennies to his signature printed styles. He is also noticing a younger audience picking up on the trend, joining loafer veterans such as the late Queen Elizabeth, who was dedicated to her Rayne versions.
Loafers also bridge the gap between smart and casual. Stylist Sarah Corbett-Winder wears hers with bare legs in the summer and dons colourful socks in winter. “If you are worried about an outfit looking too pretty, a pair of loafers will bring an instant cool,” she advises.
In the other corner, ballerinas are the more feminine choice and draw your eye down further, therefore elongating and slimming the legs. They now come in every iteration imaginable – buckled, strappy, pointed toe, chunky sole and in a rainbow of colours.
I like mine with a slight block heel for support, and always choose a good quality leather which will wear in well and last longer than the flimsy flats of the noughties.
The ballerina pin-up is Alexa Chung, who wears hers all year round with sheer tights and fine-knit socks in the winter. Other fans include Dame Helen Mirren and Sienna Miller, who have both worn Pretty Ballerinas. “You always look smart wearing ballerinas – it’s the casual shoe for the well-dressed woman,” says brand founder David Bell, who has seen orders double in the past year.
It’s an impossible choice, so I would recommend a pair of loafers and a pair of ballet flats to see you through until the temperature dips.
Here is my round-up of the best ones to try now…
Suede shoes, £90, Vagabond
Penny loafers, £100, Duke + Dexter