The provenance of moccasins is traced back to Native Americans who fashioned their own moccasins (usually in a boot design) primarily for hunting purposes. Made from deerskin and a rubber sole, the shoes made for stealth like movement during hunting. Over time moccasin design has evolved, and embraced soft leather, consisting of a sole and sides made of one piece of leather, stitched together at the top. The primary distinguishing feature of moccasins is that they do not have a heel. There might be what appears to be a semblance of a heel but that is just something for decorative purposes. For example, Tod's moccasins come with multiple studs on the sole, these have become a trademark of Tod's. Berluti have a model of moccasin with a bearfoot print on the sole. The shoe has no heel except for the slightly raised bearfoot print which doesn't function like or as a heel. One indubitable fact is that moccasins are hugely popular in South Africa.
Loafers on the other hand, ironically as well, are simply constructed shoes that base their style on the moccasin. Loafers, therefore, are low leather slip-on shoes that resemble a moccasin. The primary distinguishing feature of a loafer is that it has a distinct heel. Loafer design and styles have also evolved over the years incorporating tassels, kilties, embellishments, bows, bow laces, chains and metal bits.
The most popular loafer to date has got to be the horse-bit loafer by Gucci. Although a variety of designs by different brands have emerged, with their own metal bits, the Gucci horse-bit loafer remains a firm favourite.
I hope this post was to your benefit as much as it was mine. Knowing the distinction between moccasins and loafers guarantees that you can both wear and talk about them with aplomb.
PG: Man to man, generation to generation.