Rothy's now makes men's shoes—are they worth the hype?
I wore the loafers for a week to find out.
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After years of selling various styles of flats in only women's sizes, Rothy’s is officially entering the men's footwear space. The company, best known for its use of recycled materials a la Allbirds, is releasing its first-ever line of men's shoes: a sporty lace-up sneaker and a canvas-like driving loafer.
Like Rothy’s line of women's shoes—which have invaded my girlfriend's social media feeds—the new men's styles are sure to infiltrate my algorithm. But how well does Rothy's do men's shoes? I had the chance to test out a pair of the company’s driving loafers in a bold navy blue. I wore them out in the city and around my house for a week to see if they were for me.
What is Rothy’s?
Rothy’s is a San Francisco-based shoe company that rose to social media fame thanks to its commitment to sustainability and its signature flats (which many tout as the most comfortable you can buy). Its shoes are made of recycled plastic water bottles that have been melted down and spun into thread that's woven into fabric, then hand-sewn to rubber soles. All of the company's shoes are machine-washable shoes with styles in women's, kids', and now men's sizes, in a multitude of patterns and colors.
What I like about the Rothy’s Driving Loafer
Leather loafers and drivers are two categories of smart casual footwear intended for loafing around or driving in, respectively. In my experience, they typically require a break-in period, during which time the shoes may cause pinching or rubbing while they conform to your feet. Which is why I was surprised that Rothy’s version felt comfortable straight out of the box. I attributed this to the company’s plastic-based knit material, which is far from the rough texture of leather and closer to that of a tight-fitting cotton ribbed sock. As soon as I put my loafers on, they felt snug, soft, and cozy. This is surprising for a driver—I’m used to ones that scrape and cause blisters within the first few minutes of wear. But my experience with Rothy’s was painless, at least in the beginning—more on that below.
I’m usually a size 11.5 in sneakers and 11 in slides and loafers, but Rothy’s driving loafer fit me well in an 11.5. The upper fits tightly to hold the shoe in place, much like how Bass's Weejuns penny loafers are cut to fit narrow to prevent feet from falling out of them while you're walking. This might be a problem for some, but I find it comforting to know my shoe won’t slide off with each step I take. They feel secure without being too constrictive and still manage to offer extra room for my toes to wiggle. While walking short distances, my toes don’t scrape the toe box and my ankle doesn’t chafe against the heel. The loafers are easy to slip on and off, much like a worn-in pair of house shoes.
You can style these drivers like their leather-made brethren, with a pair of tapered and cropped pants. Wearing these with shorts isn’t out of line either, as their low profile, solid color, and woven appearance suit casual outfits. The navy color is striking, but the textured fabric makes them less conspicuous.
The fact that these shoes are machine-washable makes socks optional, in terms of odor control. I washed these one time and air-dried them overnight, and didn’t notice any difference in shape or color. Reviewed’s Sara Hendricks washed her Rothy's flats 20 times and had a similar result. This leads me to believe that my loafers are equally durable and will hold their shape after multiple washes and potentially years of wear.
What I don’t like about the Rothy’s Driving Loafer
Although these drivers felt fine on my feet when I first put them on, I didn't find them appropriate for all-day wear. A few hours of wearing these shoes in the city had me wishing I brought a spare set of sneakers to switch into. My toes began to rub the edges of the shoe, while my ankles started to scrape the shoe’s back—two things that didn’t bother me when I first put them on. Of course, this isn’t a feeling exclusive to Rothy’s loafer—scrapes and pinches are a general symptom of wearing most loafers for an extended period of time. The difference is, loafers made of leather or fabric will stretch out and mold to your feet over time, which I would not expect the plastic material of the Rothy's to do. They're designed to keep their structure looking exactly how they did on day one. I don't know if you could ever expect to comfortably walk a mile in these.
I’m also not a huge fan of the visual texture of Rothy’s driving loafer—they remind me of car seat upholstery and call to mind a tech-bro uniform more than menswear. (For the record: I’m not a fan of the mesh-like appearance of Allbirds either.)
To make another—perhaps unfair—comparison to leather drivers: I wish there was a wear and tear aspect on these reminiscent of the menswear shoes I adore. Leather wears down, loosening up and darkening in color over time. Rothy's shoes will never look worn-in, and that fact makes them stylistically too sterile for my tastes. I can’t help but feel like I’m missing out on a classic visual component of a loafer or driver’s appeal here.
Are the Rothy’s Driving Loafers worth it?
The Driving Loafers fit well and won’t cause harm if you live a fairly sedentary lifestyle or only plan to wear the shoes in short bursts. They’re fine for office settings and casual environments where a solid driver can spice up a jeans and T-shirt outfit. They’re machine-washable, eliminating any long-term odor concerns.
However, these aren’t exactly a traditional driving loafer. The shoe’s plastic bottle fibers are an interesting talking point, but its no-frills design doesn’t feel sophisticated like leather or suede. These are aesthetic issues, not performative ones—the driver holds up on its own as a durable, mostly comfortable shoe. I'm just not a fan of how they look when compared to other fabrics or styles.
If choosing apparel made of recycled materials is important to you, these $185 driving loafers could be worth the investment. They’ll certainly last a while and add a pop of bold color to your summer attire, if you go that route with your shade selection—the loafers come in four colors and prints. But if you like the classic style of loafers or drivers, you may be better off sticking to a leather version.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.