THE HISTORY OF THE HERO:
THE PRADA LOAFER
Miuccia first introduced the shoe in 1996, and over two decades on, it is more popular than ever
This article was originally published on harpersbazaar.com
When the Prada loafer stomped onto our Instagram feeds in 2020, we should have known it would remain there for the foreseeable future. Now a style stalwart, the chunky-soled, plaque-adorned shoe felt both refreshingly practical and comfortingly familiar.
The loafer certainly wasn’t a new addition to Miuccia Prada’s box of tricks; it had been a regular feature on the house’s catwalks in the ‘90s and ‘00s. But its revival came at the right time, with both coronavirus-induced lockdowns and the ensuing hybrid-working model sounding the death knell for heels. We collectively agreed: no more tottering.
It’s widely acknowledged that Miuccia Prada invented ‘Ugly Chic’, an aesthetic most famously epitomised by Prada’s Spring/Summer 1996 collection entitled ‘Banal Eccentricity.’ It was a radical embracing of ‘70s prints, awkward colour combinations and librarian-worthy silhouettes. On foot? The loafer’s gawky sibling – the lace-up brogue. These were “the kind of shoes women could run in,” writes Susannah Frankel in Prada Catwalk (Thames Hudson, 2019).
This wasn’t Prada’s first flirtation with unsexy shoes. The hero of this piece, the loafer – albeit in a more understated guise – first appeared in Prada’s Spring/Summer 1991 show, as part of Miuccia’s sixth collection for the house. These were sleek and logo-less, ornamented only by a few stitches in contrasting thread. The loafer’s regular reprisals – tapered and metallic in 1992; chunky and jewel-hued in 1999; glossy and preppy in 2005 – cemented it as a brand signature of sorts, alongside the Mary Jane or the nylon Vela backpack, at least throughout the ‘90s and ‘00s.
The Prada catwalks remained relatively loafer-less until 2020, when Prada unveiled its most conspicuous version of the shoe yet. One can suppose its arrival came off the back of the Y2K revival, which saw fashion lovers flocking to resale sites to snag vintage Prada loafers as well as nylon bags and backpacks, both of which were officially re-issued in 2019 and 2020 respectively.
The Chocolate loafer was a larger-than-life take on the classic penny style, crafted from glossy leather and equipped with a sizable sole, tapered toe and thick strap. Its crowning glory? The label’s recognisable triangle-shaped plaque. It featured the House of Savoy coat of arms, a symbol that’s been incorporated in the Prada logo since 1919, when the house was appointed Official Supplier to the Italian Royal Household.
If the ‘90s resurgence and lockdown heel-phobia wasn’t recipe enough for the loafer’s success, the shoe was officially legitimised by the holy trinity – or rather, quaternity – of modern style: Bella, Gigi, Kendall and Hailey, who wore their Prada loafers with white ankle socks and mini skirts and oversized jackets, or ‘90s jeans and baby tees. A special mention goes to Pernille Teisbaek, whose leather blazer and loafer look has been shared, pinned and recreated hundreds of thousands times over.
For a while, the Prada loafer was practically ungettable, unless you were lucky enough to make it to the top of a very long waiting list. Luckily, Prada brought it back the following season, and the season after that, and the season after that, in both its original form and fresh new guises: foiled in high-shine metallics, stacked upon the heavy-tread Monolith platform, or liberally studded with crystals.
The anti-sexy shoe that had won our lockdown-wearied, Prada-archive-loving hearts has become a modern classic, giving new meaning to the term ‘Banal Eccentricity’. It’s comfortable (requiring little to no wearing in) and it looks good with everything from baggy jeans and blazers to voluminous tulle dresses. We say, long live the loafer.