The Penny Loafer and Bass Weejuns

Penny Loafer

As far as traditional footwear goes there are a lot of options out there. You can wear wingtips, plain toe bluchers, saddle shoes, bucks, moccasins and the list goes on (almost anything that does not have a square toe). However, there is no other footwear that is as quintessentially American as the penny loafer. Like most things quintessentially American it has roots somewhere else.The loafer was not invented in America, but rather in Norway. It was a casual shoe worn by dairy farmers and made by off-season fisherman. The shoe was introduced in America after World War I by the Spaulding company and popularized by Esquire Magazine.

Burgundy Bass WeejunBurgundy Bass Weejun Penny Loafer

Vintage Bass Ad 19651965 Bass Weejun Ad (from ivystyle.com)

Bass started producing their version of the loafer in 1936. Their loafer was a little different. It had an extra strip of leather across the top and a diamond cutout. It was called the Weejun. One can presume this name borrows from the word Norwegian as the penny loafer was borrowed from the culture of Norway. The loafer started out as a casual shoe and worked its way into more formal settings. It was a staple on college campuses in the 1950′s and is synonymous with Ivy League style. In fact, it was students who started the practice of placing pennies in the diamond cutout and in doing so helped create the term “penny” loafer.  The penny loafer can now be worn in a variety of settings without causing a stir. Whether you are in denim with a flannel shirt or a blazer with wool trousers, penny loafers will look appropriate.

Brown WeejunsBrown Bass Weejun Penny Loafer

1960 Bass Ad1960 Bass Weejun Ad (from ivystyle.com)

Currently, there are many companies that manufacture a very nice penny loafer. I myself am a fan of  the Weejun. There is a Bass outlet not far from my home. I can purchase a pair there for somewhere between $50-$70. This is a nice markdown if you consider that the average retail price is around $100. The fact that they are affordable, available and classic are the reasons that lead me to continue to purchase Bass Weejuns. They also fit me. This last attribute cannot be overlooked. I have tried to make many pairs of shoes fit, that just will not. Due to my stubbornness, and my desire for these shoes my feet have suffered through many days, but not anymore.

Brown Bass Weejun and Agryle SockDay off fun. Casual cuff and argyle socks

1963 Bass Weejun Ad1963 Bass Weejun Ad (from ivystyle.com)

oxford cloth button down
is a simple man interested in simple, classic, and traditional style.

26 Comments on "The Penny Loafer and Bass Weejuns"

  1. Cassie says:

    LOVE the argyle socks!

  2. Michael says:

    Love the blog! Michael in Scotland

  3. Cory says:

    The brown Weejuns: are they a current model? Can I get them somewhere? It’s hard to find them in brown without contrast stitching.

    • oxford cloth button down says:

      Cory – They are less than 1 year old. However, when I was writing this post I noticed that some sites had the brown with contrast stitching. I hope that there is still a version without contrast stitching. I would try a bass outlet as they may have older stock.

  4. Patrick says:

    What model Brown Weejuns? I’ve been looking for those for awhile and can’t seem to find them anywhere.

    • oxford cloth button down says:

      Patrick – I believe that they are the Weejun “Logan.” Thanks.

    • Acton Baby says:

      The colour/color listed on the box will be ‘cognac’ and not brown.
      Brown Weejuns are a much darker finish with the contrasts stitching.They don’t age as well as the cognac or burgundy finish.
      Hope you find this helpful.

  5. John Horan says:

    Love wearing Bass penny loafers and white socks.Own 8 pairs of 13E Weejuns and always looking for more.Love slipping them off in bars and restaurants,Love meeting guys into Weejuns.

  6. Bryan says:

    Great post! Incidentally, that I saw it today was something of a coincidence. One shoe of a relatively new pair of penny loafers (not Weejuns) developed a major issue: the leather upper detached from the sole. Time for duct tape…or time for a pair of real Weejuns. I used to always have a pair of those, and they lasted for years. Classic!

  7. Bryan says:

    Didn’t list my correct website on the last post — http://thriftstorepreppy.com

  8. Brett Atkins says:

    I’m with you John. Have several pairs of Weejuns and frequently wear them with white socks. My boss calls me “the 50s guy” because of liking that style. Also like meeting guys into the same look.

    • Allen P. says:

      Hi,

      What type of white socks do you wear with weejuns?
      I find ralph lauren and GoldToe socks in France.

      Allen

      • Brett Atkins says:

        Hi Allen, Tend to wear to Wigwam crew socks. Either their 625 wool crew, which is an off white color, or their basic white cotton crew.

  9. Acton Baby says:

    Excellent post.
    I have huge envy at the cost of your Weejuns and that you have a Bass outlet nearby.
    In the UK they are relatively pricey, costing the same in Pounds as you pay retail in dollars ( £95 approx $135 for strap style pictured in your post). Although we do get a little revenge as the cost of Barracuta jackets are half what you’ll pay in the USA.
    A timeless footwear classic that works with so many styles from rockabilly to mod to skinhead to trad and preppy.
    Keep up the good work.

  10. Carl Anderson says:

    Hi from good old Blighty.

    I just found your blog this weekend and went way back to the start. Love the Ivy Look and find it hard over here to find thrift items but have nearly had a heart attack today. TK Max in the UK have Bass Weejun Larson in Black and Oxblood in most popular sizes 8,9 & 10. Only £49.99 UK Pounds. Needless to say my wallet is £100 lighter but I am oh so smug. Hopefully your previous correspondent will see this or you can e-mail him the ” Heads Up”

    Thanks for an interesting blog, I shall follow you along with Ivy Styla and An affordable wardrobe.

    • Acton Baby says:

      Cheers Carl,
      I saw that TK Maxx had loads of Weejuns in recently, but none in my size on my visit. However a pair of beautiful Florshiem Yumas in my size for a minuscule £24 ( $40 ) were purchased, and a dig in the racks turned up some Gant ‘Yale Co-op’ button-downs for £19 and some Pantherella socks at £5 for two pair.
      We seem to get a better range of stuff in UK TK Maxx stores than our brothers across the pond get at TJ Maxx.

  11. oxford cloth button down says:

    @Carl – Nice find, I have heard that finding Weejuns in the UK can be challenging. I hope the thrift gods smile upon me soon! Thank you for your kind words. I am glad that you enjoy my blog.

  12. Paul Connors says:

    I love Weejuns and have been wearing them since I was a teen in the 1960s. However, the current versions have thinner leather soles than past versions and the primary and most available color known as Burgundy Brush is NOT the original oxblood that so many of us grew up with. Last year, when Bass temporarily re-introduced the Longwood Wine color but alas, it is now no longer produced. I bought one pair at the time and now regret not “stocking up” with more.

    I also have the darker burgundy brush and when I shine them, I use KIWI NEUTRAL polish so as NOT to darken them any further.

  13. chris crabill says:

    Sorry folks the days of the GH Bass company making New England hand sewns are gone. Lord knows where they are made most likely China. The next best thing to an old Wejun may be a Sebago or,Johnston and Murphy Ski Moc.These are far superior.Better to drop several hundred dollars and resole them or have them factory restored.

  14. chris crabill says:

    ps.check out a junior league thrift shop grab a nice pair of shoes on the cheap and send them to the manufacture for an overhaul.

  15. Eric says:

    You should invest in a proper pair of shoes. Weejuns can be resoled, but at the end of the day they are still corected leather of chinese origin. Get some Aldens or at least some AE’s…

  16. Roger C. Russell II says:

    I wore Bass Weejuns a lot back in the 80′s. They made a beautiful cordovan color back in the day. Also, you could actually get them resoled with success. The sole was a good quality leather. I have become interested in loafers again. I have worked in the shoe industry and become acquainted with composite leather. In my opinion some companies use composite leather and label their products as all leather. I saw a pair of Bass Weejuns in an outlet store. When I picked up the shoe and examined the sole it was cracked all the way across. I suspect it was composite. A composite sole will really break down fast especially if it gets wet. I plain English don’t buy it. It is a shame iconic brands have thrown quality away and generate sales from a reputation earned years ago when they did have quality. It would be a smarter purchase to go American made :Rancourt(semi affordable) or go all out and get Alden.

    Roger

  17. oxford cloth button down says:

    Allen – Generally folks wear an off-white sock.The sesquicentennial white penny loafer sock is the Wigwam 625 or the Husky. However, I often wear a light tan (not quite white) cotton crew sock by Dockers. I do however want to check out a pair of Gold Toe “Fluffies.”

I would like to hear from you