Everybody can identify the silhouette of a classic penny loafer. It comes in so many different incarnations today, although of course, there is nothing quite like the original. Established in 1876 by George Henry Bass, G.H. Bass & Co. believed in a simple principle – “To make the best possible shoe for the purpose for which it was intended”. The iconic penny loafer was created by G.H. Bass & Co. in 1936, in response to a request from the US editor of Esquire. Putting heads together, they adapted a Norwegian farm shoe intended for ‘loafing in the field’ and as such, the ‘Bass Weejuns’ were born.
The shoes in themselves are iconic – easy to wear up and down and effortlessly stylish. Without a shadow of a doubt, Weejuns are some of the most adaptable shoes we’ve personally ever owned. Synonymous with Ivy League/preppy style, the very students that wore them kept a quarter in the shoe’s saddle so they could always make a call, long before the age of WhatsApp and FaceTime – thus, the moniker ‘PENNY’ was coined. The icons extend far beyond the college campus, too. Bass Weejuns were adopted by Hollywood greats and The White House in equal measure, from Paul Newman, Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Cary Grant, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe to the original preppy icon, JFK.
Outside of the loafer, Bass has established a consistent presence in cultural history. In 1938, the U.S golf team won their first ever Walker cup, with 5 out of 9 participants wearing Bass Sportocassins. In 1941, during WW2, Bass developed a cold-weather boot for the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division. Later, in 1976, the ‘BASS 100’ was developed in celebration of Bass’ centennial, selling 1 million pairs. By 1990, a million pairs of the Bass Compass canvas shoe had too been sold, breaking records. By 2014, G.H. Bass & Co. has 160 stores worldwide.
Handmade ethically in their factory in El Salvador, Weejuns still use the same techniques pioneered in 1936. Moreover, there are now some contemporary takes on the iconic shape available alongside the original, bringing an intriguing alternative to the time-honoured classic. Take the Weejuns 90s range with chunky outsoles. Ideal for the winter months with their lightweight EVA sole offering the shoe a mix of comfort and durability.