WHAT'S A WEEJUN?
Pardon me? It’s a Weejun, as in Norwegian. Fancy British sportsmen used to go to Norway to fish, and noticed these locally crafted slip ons. These loafers were then seen all over European resorts, followed by Palm Beach in 1936. At the time these true Norwegian shoes were exclusively sourced by two London shops, and had no American maker. That was until G.H. Bass got involved and made them even better – updating the design to include a little cutout for a penny, officially making the original penny loafer. And the rest... is style history.
HISTORY IN STYLE
Because of the versatile and adaptable nature of the Weejuns' design, the shoe has found itself at home in the closets of many varied subcultures and stylish artistic movements since its inception. Weejuns penny loafers have graced the feet of everyone from James Dean and John F. Kennedy to scruffy London punks and even scruffier Tennessee rockabillies, and continue to be worn by fashion trendsetters across the globe.
A NEW PAIR
G.H. Bass was the first American manufacturer to construct leather loafers inspired by fashionable footwear popular in the social scene of Palm Beach. Featuring a signature strip of leather stitched across the saddle of the shoe, these penny loafers harkened back to traditional shoes worn by Norwegian fishermen, hence the name “Weejuns.”
James Dean’s chiseled looks and captivating attitude gave him star power on and off the screen. His casual style, consisting of cotton t-shirts, jeans, leather jackets and Weejuns, were replicated in men’s wardrobes across the nation.
The preppy look of penny loafers reigned supreme on Ivy League campuses during the ‘60s and beyond. The casual slip-on silhouette merged with a leather finish complemented their existing classy yet casual wardrobe of cardigan sweaters, khaki chino pants, sport coats, and knitted ties.
With his charm, and timeless good looks, John F. Kennedy stepped Weejuns up to the next level. He embodied effortless American elegance, reflecting the relaxed yet polished appeal of Weejuns loafers. His distinctive style immortalized Weejuns as the “American Shoe.”
Influenced by an influx of Jamaicans to the UK, British youth began to adopt aspects of the island’s culture, mixing it with style cues from the Mods and Teddy Boys of previous decades. They preferred sharp suiting, thin ties, pork pie hats and Weejuns.
PREP IS BORN
“Preppy” came to replace the “Ivy League Look” in the 80’s. An ascendant term used to describe the tastes, behaviors and values of prepdom’s chief arbiters – the upper middle class of the East Coast. Weejuns with a popped collar polo shirt topped off with a cable knit sweater tied around the neck was the quintessential preppy look.
During the time of maximalism and the rise of MTV, Weejuns were preferred among youth culture in America. From peacock punks to hip-hop legends to supermodels like Cindy Crawford, trendsetters of all types favored the iconic Weejun penny loafer.
The rise in brand collaborations, including Chloe Sevigny for Opening Ceremony, Mark McNairy, Tommy Hilfiger, and Rachel Antonoff introduced the loafer to streetwear style, creating a whole new generation of Weejuns lovers.
Weejuns penny loafers continue to unite style sects with the universal nature of their classic design and contemporary vibe. In the digital social era, people are able to share their opinions on politics, art, and, of course, personal fashion now more than ever.
MAKING AN ICON
There may be many imitators, but there’s only one Weejun. The loafer's design is simple yet bold, classic but never boring. The materials are both beautiful and high quality, built to stand the test of time. And no matter which sole you choose, you never have to sacrifice comfort for style.