Reviewed & updated: October 19, 2022 by Jamie Wilson BA
Moccasins are a comfortable staple that many of us love wearing, but the problem many of us face is that we don’t know when to wear them, but this guide should help you out.
The first thing you should know about moccasins is that they aren’t slippers. Not at all. They have similarities no doubt; they’re both comfortable and have a similar shape, but moccasins are closer to loafers and boat shoes, only made with softer material and with their stitching a prominent feature of the design.
Having evolved from an ancient design, many moccasins have taken inspiration from the more modern loafer design, adapting added details such as penny bars, thicker soles and varying materials. They may not be in every store in town, but moccasins have a unique look that can add an element of sophistication and boldness to an outfit.
Moccasins are probably one of the oldest shoes to date, and go back further than the eighteen hundreds. They were mainly worn by indigenous people in North America and intended for outdoor use, with hunters and traders enjoying their easy design. Created simply with the sides made from one continuous strip of leather and a flexible sole, the shoes was easy for the wearer to run in and fitted comfortably around the foot.
The name moccasins originates from the Proto-Algonquain word ‘maxkeseni‘, which translate to ‘shoe’. So yes, we have a shoe named after the word shoe. The design has simplified over the years, but there were various decorations depending on the groups that wore the shoe. The Kiowa tribe wore intricately decorated moccasins with additions of thread, beads and symmetrical designs. However the Cheyenne tribe had a more encompassing design with a higher base and heavier beading.
Loafer and Moccasin Difference
Although there are a lot of similarities between loafers and moccasins due to their easy slip on design, there are a few differences between the two that make moccasins a unique design in its own right. The main differences are;
- Loafers can have a small heel to give an elevated look, while moccasins have a flat sole.
- Moccasins often have laces as part of their design, although a lot of the time they’re more aesthetic than practical.
- Moccasins are usually made in materials like suede, giving it a softer more flexible look than loafers.
If you’re going somewhere hot or just stocking up for summer, a pair of moccasins in a neutral light colour is going to be a great alternative to sandals. They’re lightweight, easy to slip on and give your feet enough padding and protection that they won’t be killing you after your days commute. It’s easy to create a casual outfit with a pair of moccasins, and if you’re not in the mood for too much creative matching, just pair a simple crew neck T-shirt with some raw denim jeans.
But how do you wear moccasins with jeans? Well, pretty easily. Although we don’t recommend wearing anything too loose with these shoes (boot cuts should be avoided like the plague), a simple pair of slim fit or tapered jeans will be tight enough to wear with a pair of moccasins. Try cuffing the ends of your jeans to emphasise your shoes and add more of a contrast to the outfit.
Keep the colours neutral to ensure the overall look is understated, adding a little colour with your moccasins if you’re feeling the outfit is too simple. Then we come to the age old questions when it comes to moccasins, “socks or no socks?”. In general it’s best not to wear socks with these shoes, but if you can’t stand that idea then try out trainer socks, which will keep your feet protected, but won’t let the world know.
The good thing about moccasins is that they don’t jump out and take over the look of an outfit. They pretty much blend into whatever style you’re going for, so even a smart casual look is going to work with these shoes. Pairing them with a light pair of slim fit chinos will create a smart yet relaxed look, with the chinos adding a formal element to the casual looking moccasins.
For a light finish pair a slim fit pair of beige trousers and match with a light coloured pair of moccasins – again, no socks, before finishing off with a white oxford shirt. You can also add a bolder element to the outfit by picking a pair of moccasins in a bright colour like a vibrant blue or red. The idea is to keep the rest of your outfit as neutral as possible and make your shoes the main focus of the look.
You can also go for a less summery vibe by choosing chinos in a darker tone, like a strong navy, and pairing it with a more casual slim line T-shirt. If you’re going for dark chinos keep your moccasins in a bold colour or a neutral black or navy. Don’t do for a colour that’s lighter than the chinos as you’ll end up looking too top heavy. Overall the chinos will keep the outfit on a formal level, but the T-shirt and moccasins will keep the look rooted in an understated vibe.
Although moccasins give a more casual vibe to a look it is possible to dress them up in a more formal outfit. For a twist on the classic suit, choose a pair of moccasins in a bold colour and match it with a clean cut navy suit. Creating a clean canvas with a neutral suit and making your shoes the highlight of the outfit will keep a good balance between bold and sleek. A general rule is if you want to go for a grey suit, choose a cool tone coloured moccasin like blue, and if you want to go for a navy suit, go for something a little warmer like red.
If you’re looking for a lightweight shoe that can be dressed up and down, while blending in one moment and making a bold impression the next, try out a pair of moccasins and see how they work for you. You can easily create some interesting and eye catching looks with these simple and comfortable slip on shoes. Remember, any outfit that you like to wear with loafers can easily be recreated for warmer weather with a pair of moccasins. Experiment, and make these shoes work for you.