Many aspire, few achieve. When it comes to loafers, however, the Weejun penny loafer can be counted amongst the latter. First introduced in 1936 by G.H. Bass & Co., who derived the name and moccasin design from Norwegian shoes, it became popular with the prep school crowd and college students. It is an American classic.
On a recent visit to a G.H. Bass & Co. retail establishment, I picked up a pair of loafers in burgundy. Weejuns and I go way back. In fact I recall a family photograph depicting me age 8 or 9, wearing Weejuns with tan cords, argyle socks, and a Shetland crewneck sweater. During summer holidays in Connecticut and New York I wore them almost constantly, usually without socks. I took them seriously. On boating and fishing expeditions to Ontario or the Thousand Islands, rows would ensue with my chums over the comparative merits of the brown versus the black Weejun. Which colour was 'cool'?
Back in England, where the footwear of choice amongst my schoolmates was an English-style black loafer from New & Lingwood, I added the Weejun penny loafer to my collection, replenished thereafter by regular visits to J.Simon in Covent Garden. My Weejuns attracted notice wherever I went. During one of my first visits to Kenya in East Africa, where I liked to imagine Hemingway once wore the Weejun, a brand new pair of penny loafers disappeared from my tent one night.
Today, though tempted at times by similar offerings from firms such as Alden and J.M. Weston, I remain loyal to G.H. Bass. I still wear Weejuns in casual settings. There are few pleasures in life that can match the sheer joy of going out for the morning paper and a cup of tea in a blue OCBD shirt, khaki shorts, and a pair of old Weejuns.
The allure of these shoes only grows stronger over time. I experience it daily. Each morning, as I prepare my clothing for the day and reach for a pair of brogues or tassel loafers, my hands are drawn as if by an unseen force to the loafers from G.H. Bass. Such is the power of the Weejun.