By Chadner Navarro

I’ve been wearing loafers for as long as I can remember. In fact, my parents have a photo of me, at 11, tramping around a New Jersey mall wearing a pair of black leather penny loafers with white mid-calf socks and a cartoon T-shirt tucked into Cub Scouts khaki shorts. (I looked great.) I’ve ditched the cartoon tees since then, but my love for loafers has only grown — and to near-uncontrollable proportions. I’m Filipino and, like Imelda Marcos, my craving for shoes can reach epic proportions. I own over two dozen pairs of loafers, and I keep a saved folder dedicated to photos of loafers posted to Instagram to help me expand my collection.

Of those two dozen pairs, the ones I’ve been living in for nearly a year are Wolf & Shepherd’s Monaco Loafers in cognac. I got them last summer, three months into quarantine, when it felt like maybe the tristate area would be allowed a tiny bit more mobility. I needed a way to celebrate the opportunity to walk to the nearest Walgreens in Jersey City, which meant I needed new loafers. (Wasn’t 2020 the year of celebrating tiny victories?)

As someone who traveled a lot for work, I was immediately taken by the idea that these unlined, soft Italian suede shoes would occupy very little space in my carry-on when travel was finally a thing again. (You really can flatten them down without feeling like you’re going to destroy them.) I enjoy how the shape is narrower, giving it a slightly dressier silhouette without being witchy-pointy. The heel counter (the back part of the shoe that covers your heels) folds down, too, so you can also rock them as mules. This makes them even easier to put on than regular loafers, which already don’t require much.

Over the last ten months, I’ve been in Colorado, staying with family. These shoes, of course, came with me. It’s the perfect proving ground, with new neighborhoods to explore and so many parks that’ve helped me reach my daily step-count goals. While they’re not at all appropriate for rugged trekking of the Rockies (hiking is a personality trait in the Centennial State that I was forced to pick up), they did come in handy for when it was all over: I would immediately switch out my socks and my boots for these loafers, and off to brunch I go.

I shouldn’t be surprised at how well they’ve performed and held up. The founders of Wolf & Shepherd were both track athletes in college, and so they tried to make footwear that offers the type of comfort that you find in your favorite pair of running shoes. Yes, we have all seen “dressy shoes” outfitted with tech-forward soles that are supposed to make you feel like you’re walking on air. But I have no clue if they have achieved those goals, because I’ve never owned a pair — they are too ugly. The Monacos, however, feature comfort-driven tech delivered so discreetly that the aesthetics aren’t sacrificed. Instead of having to answer the age-old question of style or substance, I feel like I hit the jackpot and got both.

There’s memory foam throughout the footbed that cushions every step. Now that I’ve been able to fly again, I found them to be a breeze when you’re going through airport security (just make sure you’re working socks for when you have to remove your shoes for TSA). I wore them all weekend long for a food festival in Wyoming. I’ve stomped around downtown Denver in them in search of the perfect green-chili burritos. (I’m partial to El Taco de Mexico.) I’ve attended dressed-up media events in them. And, yes, I rock them with workout shorts to buy Skittles at Walgreens. When I do get back to my full closet, it will be a reunion of dreams. But even with all those what’s-old-is-new-again options, I know which shoes I’ll still be wearing the most.

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