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G.H. Bass

The history of the one and only American penny loafer

This season we are proud to introduce the legendary G.H. Bass Weejun, the shoe which was created with loafing in mind. The very first advertisement in the New York Herald Tribune back in 1936 read, “Not shoes, not slippers, not moccasins...but all three!” Loafers were built for comfort provided by sturdy, yet soft leather uppers and flexible leather soles. The following Esquire illustrations further proved the silhouette’s versatility showing handsome men wearing loafers with both slacks and shorts, with socks or sockless.

As the 20th century progressed the Weejun became a wardrobe staple for generations of American men. John F. Kennedy wore loafers when playing golf and going on boat trips. James Dean paired them with his favorite denim and white t-shirt combo. Most notably loafers have become the definitive Ivy League shoe with many students wearing them on campuses and later to their prestige positions at Wall Street. And yet, back in 1936 John R. Bass, who took over the company after his father died, wasn’t so sure about the Weejun’s success.

Founded in 1876, by the mid 1930s G.H. Bass has already become a well-established quality moccasin-type shoe manufacturer. The brand supplied US Army aviation, Antarctic expeditions and local Maine hunters. So it comes as no surprise that the idea of creating a shoe for leisure was born outside of the company. In fact, it was Esquire magazine who noticed the new silhouette at European resorts. The shoes were brought to UK by English fisherman who spotted them on peasant’s feet in Norway. Esquire believed that Norwegian moccasin - hence the name Weejun - have potential on the US market and with the support of New York based store Rogers Peet approached G.H. Bass as a company that has the expertise in moccasin shoe construction.

The rest is history. With the help of Esquire illustrations the Weejun has gained attention of American upper class. John R. Bass was still skeptical about the new model’s success. G.H. Bass actually positioned the Weejun as slippers one could wear après-ski. Luckily, New England students loved skiing, so the shoe has quickly made its way to university campuses becoming an Ivy League staple just as much as Sperry Top-Siders or Tretorn sneakers. But while the last two can only be paired with casual outfits, G.H. Bass Weejun is a truly versatile pair of shoes which looks just as good with a suit for a job interview as it does with shorts on the beach.

Shop G.H. Bass in ITK KIT

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