When a shoe style is created out of necessity, it’s eventual design is often inevitable — it serves the intended purpose with the fewest number of moving parts. Now an iconic emblem of American style, the Alden Tassel loafer comes from a completely different, and much more rakish place. The unique silhouette is often copied but never replicated, and the story behind its development is an example of wonderful serendipity.
Mr. Paul Lukas, for those who may not remember, was a Hollywood actor in the 1930s through the early 1970s. Originally a smooth and debonair ladykiller, he transitioned to the role of mastermind villain later in his career. Off the silver screen, he was a stylish, old-school Hollywood type, and a frequent customer of the finest tailors and shoemakers in the world.
At some point in the 1940s, Lukas had a pair of lace-ups made for him by an English shoemaker, with tassels on the end of the laces. As the slip-on loafer was becoming more popular, Lukas decided that he wanted a pair of slip-ons that incorporated the tassels from his lace-ups. After a few failed attempts, he eventually ended up at Leftcourt shoes in Manhattan. The owner of the shop said he only knew of one company that could make such a shoe, Alden, so he shipped them off to the owner, Mr. Arthur Tarlow, to give it a shot.
Alden is a very conservative company and very rarely designs new styles, an ethos they continue to this day; their philosophy is that timeless design, exacting make, and the finest leathers never go out of style (an outlook we certainly share). So Mr. Tarlow looked at the shoe, thought it was interesting, set it down in his office, and thought nothing of it.
After hearing nothing back from Leftcourt (and being out one shoe, rendering the other useless), Mr. Lukas brought the other shoe to a store in L.A., Morris Bootmakers. Much like the proprietor or Leftcourt, Morris thought there was only one company that could execute the style: Alden. So he sent the shoe off to Mr. Tarlow.
With two shoes in hand — from the same pair — Mr. Tarlow decided it was time to act. So he designed a completely new shoe, incorporating the easy function of the slip on with the elegant flair of the tassel. Mr. Lukas was thrilled with the design, and Mr. Tarlow immediately saw orders for the new Tassel loafer. Today, the Tassel loafer is one of Alden’s best selling shoes, now synonymous with easy, American style. And it is just as relevant today as it was when it was conceived.