Questions about unlined loafers – with my Belgravia

Friday, August 18th 2023
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There have been quite a few queries about unlined shoes, particularly loafers, in recent months. Ones about longevity and fit specifically have come up multiple times.

I thought it would be good therefore to do a post summarising answers to them, in order to create a single place to point readers to in future.

It's also a subject I was interested in because I worked with Edward Green last year to help introduce an unlined version of my favourite EG shoe, the Belgravia

Perhaps the thing I found most instructive during that process was how little has to be changed in an unlined shoe - given the reinforcement that can remain around the toe, heel and topline. But let's start with those frequently asked questions. 


The first question people normally ask is about sizing - should I get the shoes in the same size as a regular, lined shoe? 

I can see the thought process: lining is being removed from the inside of the shoe so the inside must be bigger, therefore I must need a smaller size. (Two layers are actually removed through the sides of the shoe - a sidelining that sits between the lining and the upper, and the lining itself.)

But actually, this is not how an unlined shoe is made. The shoe is stretched over the same last as a lined shoe, so the space inside the shoe is the same. The lack of layers means the outside comes in, rather than the inside going out. 

The general advice, therefore, is to get the same size in an unlined shoe as a lined one, and that’s what I’ve usually done.


But will the shoe not stretch, because it doesn’t have that internal structure? And does that not mean I should get a smaller size, to anticipate the stretching?

Again this makes sense, except that most of the fundamentals of the structure are often kept in place. The toe puff, for example (that gives structure to the front of the shoe) and the heel stiffener (which holds the back) often remain, as does the lining that covers them. 

The top line (around the opening of the shoe) is retained, although it won’t be quite as strong without those three layers running into it. The vamp, on the top of the foot, will also often be lined to cover up stitching. 

So the bones of the shoe remain, which is why this structure is sometimes called a ‘skeleton’ lining. Unlined shoes can have more taken out, and this is easy to spot because the heels and toe are much softer than a regular shoe, but that’s usually a completely different style, with a cemented sole. 

The other factor is that leathers vary in how much they stretch. It’s about how open the fibres in the skin are, which is about what it’s made of and how it’s tanned. Some colours can even be more open than others, as the pH levels change with different tannins. 

However, a lot of unlined shoes are suede, and suede is mostly soft and open. It will stretch therefore, and you can see that in an unlined loafer when you’ve had it for a while - the topline, the opening of the shoe, becomes rounder, distorted by use and wear. 

But, my experience has been that the skeleton structure means the fit doesn’t change much. If you rely on that top line a lot to hold you in a shoe, it might affect you; but even with my narrow heels and issues I have with loafers, I haven’t found them to stretch to the degree that the fit changes.  


So there’s a little bit of a trade-off with stretching. The same applies to longevity. 

The fact that there aren’t three layers through the sides of the shoe does mean they won’t last as long, though often in hidden ways. When you resole a shoe, for example, you re-use holes in the upper and the welt. When the upper is made of one layer rather than three, those holes are more likely to stretch, reducing the number of times the resoling can be done. 

Talking to the Edward Green factory, they’ve had unlined shoes come back after 20 years for repair. They’ve also repaired a pair of Harrow loafers (the unlined style they’ve had the longest) four times. Given I haven’t owned any unlined shoe that long, it’s interesting to hear.

However, a huge amount of course depends on how intensively your shoes are worn, and how they’re looked after. What kills the upper, for example, is drying out too fast - putting them near a radiator after they’ve got wet perhaps. That evaporates the fats, making the leather more brittle. 

My general advice to readers would be to worry about longevity only if you’re just starting out with good shoes (so they’ll be worn a lot), or you’re really stretching the budget (in which case longevity might be the number one priority). If either of these apply, perhaps start with a lined loafer; otherwise don’t stress about it. 


This was a point a reader brought up recently, and I actually hadn’t considered before. 

Some of the support in a shoe for your arch comes through the sides, and with an unlined shoe that is lost. There is some debate about how much support you want - more of a barefoot or more of a pure podiatry approach - but the salient thing here is that this all varies between individuals. 

Unlike a bespoke shoe, a ready-made shoe is guessing with how much arch support it includes - it’s shooting for an average. But some people have higher arches than the average, some less. An unlined shoe placing the support a lot lower, which will be bad for some people but might also be better for a small number with lower arches. 

I have average to high arches (a thin foot generally) and I don’t have a problem with unlined loafers. At the very least, arch support is way down the list of my foot priorities and problems, with hammer toes, sensitive bones and incipient arthritis higher up.

So in a similar way to longevity, I’d say only worry about support in an unlined shoe if you know it’s a problem you have.

The Belgravia

Developing the unlined Belgravia involved quite a few design decisions. For example, keeping the braided leather on the outside of the shoe (even though it’s a little bulky, and covering it harder) or resorting to the flat leather of the Greenwich?

On the heel of the shoe, there was a question of how to recreate the raised stitch of the lined version. It would be risky to do the same with the unlined loafer, as the stitch could pull or twist. In the end a waxed thread was used, and that solved the problem. 

Then there were the normal questions of which colours to make, in what volumes. My favourite is the brown (mink) shown above, but I also liked black (below) while knowing that wouldn’t be as popular. 

Still, it was the questions of internal structure, and questions that were raised by readers about fit, stretch, longevity and so on, that I’ve found the most interesting. Hopefully answering them here has helped a few people that raised them - and it will do in the future as well. 

Clothes pictured:

  • With black Belgravia:
    • Brown PS Linen Overshirt (coming next Spring)
    • Black T-shirt from The Flat Head
    • Black Irish-linen trousers, bespoke by Whitcomb & Shaftesbury
    • 'Californian' sunglasses by EB Meyrowitz
    • Yellow-gold JLC Reverso
  • With brown Belgravia
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Lindsay McKee

I think I’ll play safe for now and keep to my fully lined shoes!


Hey Simon

When it comes to unlined cordovan shoes, I understand they usually retain their size/shape better due to the hardiness of the leather. However, with something as delicate as a loafer, would you advise against putting in an insole for arch support (I have practically two dimensional feet, they’re so flat), given how much volume they’d be liable to take up?
I’m always apprehensive about adding insoles, as Loake’s many years ago refused to resole a pair of boots I owned at about 19 years old, telling me the off-brand arch support insoles I used distributed the weight of my foot unevenly, causing the sole to wear out faster than it should have. (Seemed dubious then, still seems dubious to me now!)


Good points – thank you! Will shop around for the right pair.

Nigel C

Hi Jackson – Try the C&J Harvards in unlined cordovan. I have a pair – see Simon’s review, he lead me astray with this purchase!
They are very comfortable, none of that heavy Cordovan feel you can get when they are lined and so easy to wear. I am a UK 12 and my feet are a little flat. They stay on no problem, perhaps by not being low at the front. I think it’s just important to keep them on shoes trees and rotate them and they should hold up just like any other shoe.
Best wishes N

david rl fan

Hi Jackson, if you are in the UK Timpsons offer a resoling service, when I asked the price was pretty much the same as Loake at around £110, but the price may change depending on the quality of the sole in question, ie Dainite or not. Timpsons was good for a shoe stretch I had recently on a pair of slightly too small shoes.

To Simon, in futu, spelling error?


I would recommend caution with Timpsons. They’re very hit and miss these days depending on what store you go to – sometimes they’ve skilled staff who can do really decent repairs, sometimes they really don’t have a clue and can end up damaging stuff. Took my Loake Chelsea boots to about 5 different stores last time I was in England for their first resole. Each one sat on the job for days until I came in for pick up just to tell me they couldn’t do it. Except the last one, who did a botch job that I had to get rectified elsewhere. Should’ve just sent them to Loake


Hi Jackson
I too wear orthotics and have a few pairs of the C&J loafers in the Boston and Harvard 2 model (which I believe are the same last) and they fit me very well and are comfortable. I can’t speak to cordovan as I have no experience there but would recommend those shoe styles.


The first pair of shoes I bought back in 2020 after moving to Europe is a pair of Crockett and Jones unlined suede Harvards. Between being my first pair of loafers, my first pair of good shoes, and the versatility a dark brown suede loafer has, I have used them a lot, even more than I should at the beginning, two days in a row and such.
They have stretched a bit, but not to the point that they are unwearable, and the uppers look great. I left them at Crockett and Jones for a full resole while in London for the PS day, and I expect many more years of use. Now that the shoe collection has grown I get to rotate them a lot more.


Two further questions come to mind:

Breathability – I had always assumed that unlined shoes keep the feet cooler, because there is one layer less between your feet and the outside air. Is that not the case. I presume that is why the original penny loafers, which are a quintessential summer shoe, are usually unlined. Is that the case?

Comfort – Again, drawing on the experience of unlined loafers, the inner surface of the leather is coarser than a dedicated leather lining would be. If one is wearing unlined shoes with thin socks (as one might well in the summer) is there a noticeably different feel around the foot?


Hi Simon,
Could you recommend some socks that are lighter and let ankles breath?

I have trouble with most being a size 11 they usually are slightly small and slip off throughout the day


I have never felt a difference around the foot between lined and unlined loafers (I have unlined loafers in suede and cordovan).

Mike T

Hi Simon

A very timely article. Waiting on a pair of Harvard 2’s to be delivered from Crockett and Jones. I tried them in the shop in a different colour of suede and normally I am a size 9 all day long, but their specific advice for unlined shoes is to go down half a size. I experienced too much heel left in the larger size, so plumped for the smaller one.

Your sizing points are completely logical so in this case I hope i have made the right choice

Mike T

Thanks Simon, maybe they’ve just changed their advice as I have checked and that instruction to downsize is no longer on their website


Thank you for a good post as usual. The unlined Belgravia loafers look great, but I think there is a bit too much focus on unlined loafers at the moment. Some retailers don’t even sell lined loafers anymore. Just as I prefer lined jackets, I prefer lined shoes. Also, I have noticed that many retailers only sell loafers with rubber soles. Do you know why that may be? It feels a bit off to me.


Re rubber soles… after buying 2x dainite and 1x leather soled shoes with toppy for work, id never buy leather soled shoes for purpose of doing more than 10k steps a day again. At work i often do more than 20k steps a day and my feet is a lot more tired on leather sole than dainite…


That is fully understandable, but 20,000 steps per day is probably quite a lot more than the average person walks per day, especially in loafers! I am all for dainite or other rubber soles on more sturdy shoes.


I find the second advantage of leather soles, apart from elegance, their breathability keeping the foot much less sweaty than rubber soles.

The main downside of leather soles for me is that they are truly not good in rain and much worse in snow. This might not be a problem when you live in Southern Italy, but in Northern Europe it is a downside.


I also found them a problem on the pavements of Athens.


I’ve also noticed that leather soles offer superior breathability. Additionally, they tend to be lighter, which is a significant consideration for loafers. While it’s true that leather soles don’t perform well in snow, I wouldn’t recommend wearing loafers in snowy conditions anyway.


Hi, I have the black suede version of the unlined Belgravia. I took my usual size and I’m quite happy with that. It’s a nice shoe and I don’t really regret buying it but I would have been happier with the lined version to be perfectly honest. I have a big shoe collection so I’m fine having this as something ‘different’ but I won’t be getting more unlined shoes and it’s sad that EG seem to be doing loads of them in the latest drops.


Sorry, I realised just as I posted that I forgot to include this. For me it’s purely how they feel on the foot. Lined shoes feel a little more robust and I like that. So my criticism is personal preference. I also find that they are nice in warmer months but not so great in winter. Perhaps I came across too negative as I do wear my loafers regularly and enjoy doing so, my only worry worry is that if EG start making most/large percentage of their shoes unlined I will be limited in choice, so coming here from a slightly selfish point of view


As a long-time supporter of Edward Green, with a particular fondness for the depth and nap of their reverse calf suede and while I grasp that each piece of suede is unique, over recent years orders have have dropped off in quality appearing almost indistinguishable from split suede.


I believe the pictures show you wearing some gray/beige trousers which you didn’t list at the end.

Regarding the raised stitch on the heels, is that the two semicircle rows of stitching around the heel “cap”?


Hi Simon,
Would you say that unlined loafers are more suitable than fully lined if one prefers to wear loafers barefoot? I have an unlined pair of Edward Green chukkas, and they are indeed wonderful, but I haven’t had any experience with their unlined loafers. With a low arch, I also find it difficult to avoid having bulging sides on most loafers. Perhaps it is an issue of finding an appropriate last rather than loafers themselves. Cheers!



A minor question but do you recommend any particular sock to wear with unlined loafers? I’m thinking of those still-bright early autumn days when the breeze might be a little chilly and wearing darker trousers and shoes with pasty ankles on show! Thanks

Dan G

In terms of sizing for the Belgravia (lined and unlined), does it generally fit “true to size”?


Very insightful read, thank you. Love the mink one. The black one has too much of a funeral accessory aesthetics with all the embellishments of this particular shoe.

Michael K.

Fantastic and timely article, Simon and makes me very curious to try the Belgravias. It’s been a very warm summer in the northeastern US this year and I’ve been living in my Baudoin and Lange Sagans. I have had five pairs over the years, three at any given time, and their longevity is surprising, even given very heavy use — eight or ten miles every other day on one long holiday. Of the two pairs that wore out, both survived one resoling, multiple heel replacements, and even one discreet stitch and patch of the suede where I must have caught it on something. The topline does visibly widen and get rounder around the ankle with wear, but that has made no difference to the fit at the heel. Overall, my experience confirms your advice: unlined shoes are great. Stylish, breathable, comfortable, not significantly less durable than lined shoes and yet they are simply not going to last the way a lined dress shoe will, so if cost is a primary concern, you’re probably off with a lined pair.


While appealing when brand new, a lot of the worn in unlined suede loafers I see on social media appear sloppy and distorted. This is most apparent on plain penny loafers. I’d guess having very low arch or flat feet would aggravate the issue on sleeker lasts and thats why I generally buy lined these days. If you have a well fitting shoe, that isn’t fighting against your anatomy, then I find there isn’t that big of a difference in comfort.


Hi Simon,
A bit off topic, but do you know where the flat head t-shirt can be purchased with delivery to EU? Or even similar tees from comparable brands/makers? I’m looking to get a black t-shirt but most options I’ve found just look tacky to me. If you have any knowledge about it, I’d also consider knitted t-shirts in merino, where the main issue I’m having is getting something which doesn’t look as if it were made for hiking.
Thank you very much,


My unlined loafers (including calfskin, not suede, ones) definitely stretch more than my lined loafers. One pair, which fit me perfectly out of the box, I can no longer wear. If buying new, I would definitely recommend a size that initially fits very snug.

Of course the EG factory would tell you they have repaired 20 year old shoes. But anecdotal outliers from vested sources aren’t very useful are they?

Fats don’t evaporate… They melt if exposed to high enough temperatures, but that’s the least of your concerns if you’re cooking your shoes on the radiator.


It’s interesting that instead of telling you about the average age of the shoes they repair, which they certainly know and would be much more relevant to determining the durability of unlined shoes, they chose to tell you about an outlier indicator of longevity. Regardless, in my experience I’ve had a puncture in the the upper of one pair of unlined loafers because I tend to scrape that area against the floor when walking and didn’t notice that the edge of the sole (which was thin and blake-stitched) was worn down. This was an avoidable issue and preventable with toe taps, but durability is a relevant concern.

There are a lot of reasons why leathers dry out. Oils and fats don’t evaporate but they can break down from oxidation, UV, etc. Physical abrasion plays a role. There’s also some water in leathers, and that can of course evaporate.


Hi Simon,
Would you mind sharing the main measurements of the black linen trousers?
I find they have a well balanced proportion on you and I’m basically built like you.


Interesting point about the fats in suede leather evaporating if it’s dried too quickly. Were we discussing thirsty top grain, I would simply apply a bit of renovateur. But how does one condition suede?

Dan James

Someone else above mentioned ‘breathability’ and I have a question for you on a similar note. Which material-suede, calf or cordovan- would you recommend for extremely hot and humid in the summer? I have been putting off buying some unlined loafers as I am concerned I would ruin them with heat and sweat in hot and sticky Japanese summer


Great article.
Quick question for you.
Why do you see so many self-appointed ‘style gurus’ constantly wearing light-coloured trousers, dark footwear and dark socks?!
It must be one of my Top 5 style blunders men can make. Hardy Amies seemed to think so. Anyone reading Alan Flusser’s Dressing the Man book would think so, and yet, so many men make this rather simple error.
I’m a big fan of Mes Chaussettes Rouges. A great resource for covering one’s ankle that would solve most chaps needs.
Any theories?


What a tragedy. You’re spot on about laziness. It’s everywhere!
Many thanks on your thoughts.


Hi Simon,
Thanks for this, very instructive.
As I mentionned in the Rondini/sandals post, unlined shoes and particularly C&J and EG are my only option in summer when I dress up. Other than that I fallback on sandals. The reason is mainly the softness and comfort you get from these without degrading too much the fit and overall the way your feet are maintained. I am not too sure if this is due to the « unliness » (sorry I am French native), or the fact that they are most of the time in suede .
In any case, this improves the comfort and in some way the breathability as they end up being more roomy and slightly less feet maintaining than a pair of double sole winter calf boots (to give an extreme example).


I’ve got lined and unlined Belgravias (suede and leather) and second a lot of what you say, Simon.
I’ve come to really appreciate the slightly more ‘loose’ feeling (it’s not marked, but it is there), as well as the lightness and lack of overall bulk.
If I could only have one pair I would stick with lined, as they are more versatile and feel to my mind (feet?) a little more formal. Ditto for being more comfortable to wear if it’s raining..


Dear Simon,
I hope that you are well. I just wanted to ask your professional opinion (if you dont mind) as a fashion expert on shirt sizing especially if it is a slim fit. I have purchased a size L short sleeve Charles Tyrwhitt (see attached photo) but I am not sure if it is too tight. The regular version of the same shirt looks too baggy (so does the XL version of the slim fit) but I feel this one is just fitting (it feels comfortable) although when I look at the photo it seems to look a bit tight. I just feel it is like a curse- I can’t seem to find the right fit at all 😔. What is your opinion?

Thanks in advance


Thanks Simon. This is very helpful.


I have to disagree on personal experience regarding the fit Simon.
I purchased a unlined 314 last cordovan crocket & jones loafers, after enquiring they assured me the lined version fit is exactly the same. I purchased a calf leather 314 last lined loafer.
Regardless of how long i tried to wear it in, or have it stretched it was still unbearably, too tight and unwearable. I ended up selling the shoe as the fit was nowhere near the same fit as the unlined version.


This article is fantastic and with impeccable timing. I’m considering an unlined shoe from Crockett & Jones called the Genoa and all questions and concerns I have you’ve answered, thank you.


Hi Simon, this is a really helpful article. I’ve wanted to know your thoughts on this.

I have had both lined and unlined versions from Edward Green and other brands, but personally, I tend to prefer the lined versions. I can see why the unlined shoes are generally considered as comfort shoes but as someone who has flexible flat feet (arch collapses while standing/walking), I find the lined version more supportive. Although occassionally I can feel unpleasant pressure in the beginning, it forces the arches to collapse less which makes me less tired at the end of the day.

Also, aesthetics wise, I noticed that the unlined version immediately lose its shape due to excessive weight distribution on the arches making the waist of the shoes become even wider (bulging) than the vamp and the toe box area. This often makes my the unlined loafers, especially suede ones, look unnaturally chubby.

Many thanks,


Thanks, Simon! Great answers to questions I’ve had but never asked. An unlined loafer is on my list for next summer.

Christopher Lee

Very informative and useful as always, Simon. Just a note that toward the end of the article where it says, “My favourite is the brown (mink) shown above, but I also liked black (below),” I believe both images are above the text. Below is the photo of your shirt only. 


Not shoe related, but I really like the color combination of your outfit. The grey pants and blue shirt are both dark shades. The brown (which I normally associate with being the darkest of these 3 colors) is a medium-dark shade. It makes the over shirt stand out a bit, but isn’t flashy.

I’m not sure I explained it well, but I will recreate it well!


Hi Simon! I am getting married in a few months in a non-traditional, cocktail party/attire style wedding. I will be wearing a navy suit (no tie) and was hoping you could suggest a dressy enough brown leather loafer I could wear that was under $1,000 USD. I was wanting to go with a loafer so that I could wear it year round at work. Thank you!


Thank you Simon!
I was actually looking at the Crockett & Jones Sydney or Harvard and the Carmina Full Strap 80708.
Our wedding party is at a hotel lobby bar and has kind of a cocktail lounge vibe. I will be wearing a dark navy Proper Cloth VBC Fresco Allen Suit. I was going for a slightly more relaxed tailored fit.
Thank you for the help!


I was leaning towards the Sydney!
My plan was to wear a white dress shirt with a Todd Snyder Nay tipped white linen pocket square and am absolutely needing advice how to make the suit feel a little more special and less businessman. Would you suggest a boutonniere? Or any other accessory to make it feel more fun and special?


Thank you for the feedback!
Would you consider the Carmina loafer? I do like the full strap look. Or at that price point, is C&J the better option?


Reading the comments I felt that much of the discussion around the difference in fit between lined and unlined loafers in general is actually about the difference in fit between C&J and EG unlined suede loafers. It would seem to me that everything else equal, C&J suede loafers would require a half size down compared to lined equivalents, but that EG unlined suede loafers would not. Before reading that piece, I had gone ahead and bought a pair of unlined C&J suede Cadogan loafers (their hand grade collection, bought used from Abbot’s so already stretched) in my usual size for lined loafers and yes I could have easily gone with half a size smaller. They are my first C&J and the difference with EG is marked. The issue with them goes beyond the wider opening that suede acquires as it’s wearing, it’s more to do with how much the side stretches.


Hi Simon,
I have a few burning questions about shoes. From several posts of yours (including this on the unlined Belgravia), it generally emerges that heritage brands such as Edward Green, Gaziano Girling and John Lobb make extremely high quality shoes, with excellent leather and craftsmanship. I own Galway boots by EG and Thorpe boots by GG. I used to own a pair of Lopez by JL that I sold. All these are high quality shoes for sure. But last year I got a pair of MTO Oct Tenth through Sons Of Henrey. Hand-welted on an extremely sleek last (similar to the GG deco), not mass-produced, in a gorgeous horween hatch grain leather that is thick and supple and only has very minor creasing after almost a year of relatively frequent use… and not a single stitch nor anything else is out of place. How come that such brands are not more talked about? You find some brief honorable mentions and positive reviews here and there, but not that much. And yet for half the (current) price of the likes of EG, you get an entirely handmade pair of shoes that looks and feels gorgeous, and also appears to stand the test of time. Do you still think that heritage brands that make goodyear welted shoes are preferable to these newer brands making handwelted models to your specifications? Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this…


Hi Simon, hope you are well. Had a couple of style-related unlined loafer questions:

1. What do you think of Edward Green’s Duke loafers? Would you replace your C&J’s Harvard for the Duke in a dark brown cordovan?

2. I am a fan of the unlined Piccadilly. What do you think of them in dark brown London grain ( Seem to remember you are not fond of grained leather but, if so, why?

Thanks very much in advance.


Greatly appreciated, thank you!

I actually have access to an unlined cordovan version of the Duke but in Horween’s color no. 4 ( picture attached).

What do you think of that color?


Hi Simon

Excellent article and thank you for this insight. I recently bought a pair of unlined, single soled Dover shoes from Edward Green and wonder if these are summer only shoes – are unlined shoes good for the British winter or are they mostly a summer shoe?

Thanking you in advance for your kind time.