Sam Trotman or Samutaro as he is known to his thousands of followers, is an Instagram archivist as well as a well known writer and cultural scholar who has contributed to magazines such as Vogue, Hypebeast, Grailed, Highsnobiety, PAQ and Complex.
In celebration of the 85th Anniversary of our Iconic Weejuns Penny Loafer, We invited Sam to take a deep dive into the origins of the shoe worn by subcultures the world over.
THE ORIGINS OF WEEJUNS
Did you know that the name Weejuns is a playful abbreviation of “Norwegian”, the country where the shoe's origins can be found. Once the staple of well heeled Norwegian anglers, the locally crafted slip-on soon became popularised at wealthy European and American resorts by men who had visited Norway on fishing trips. In 1935, representatives from US Esquire magazine spotted the shoe in Palm Beach, Florida. Seeing a gap in the market, they partnered with G.H.BASS to make it, and in 1936 the Weejuns was debuted to the world.
Not shoes, not slipper, not moccasins...but all three
The success of the Weejuns is a story of the greatest footwear trick ever played on the world. The instantly recognizable moc stitching, supple leather, and traditional flat-strap detailing make it a modern day icon, one that's capable of making the move from boardroom to backyard drinks with ease.
Uncompromised quality & craft
Despite many imitations of the penny loafer - there’s only one Weejuns. The G.H.BASS loafer has kept its place as the true penny loafer for eighty five years thanks to the same care and handcrafted traditions of those created back in 1876. Each pair of penny loafers are hand sewn by a footwear artisan and finished with natural oils and polishes. Bass Weejuns are a tubular moccasin construction, where the loafer is crafted with a single piece of leather wrapped around the mould of the foot, creating a “hammock” of unparalleled comfort.
From peasants to presidents
While the Weejuns owes its roots to the local fishermen of Norway, the shoes are now synonymous with presidents and Hollywood legends alike. Some of the most celebrated names in history have worn the Weejuns including Paul Newman, Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, JFK and Michael Jackson. Today influential figures like FKA Twigs, Jared Leto, and Blanca Miró Scrimieri continue to help maintain the iconic status of the style.
Ivy league explosion
It’s impossible to speak on the history of the Weejuns without mentioning the influence of Ivy league style. As a shoe that was rich in style and quality, but didn't break the bank, the Weejuns was a near-instant hit on the campuses of elite American colleges. It was here that the Weejuns would adopt a more casual style of dress, with students pairing the slip-on with everything from khaki shorts and a varsity sweater to chinos and a navy blazer. While the popularity of the Ivy League look has fluctuated in the decades since, the penny loafer seems never to have fallen out of fashion.
A subcultural icon
It’s easy to think of penny loafers as a preppy shoe since, in the grand footwear scheme of things, they are a product of Ivy-League style. But over the shoes 85 year history, it's become a staple for some of the most influential style tribes in fashion history. A big part of the reason Weejuns wound their way into the wardrobes of so many subcultures is their versatility. Whether you pair them with tailoring like mods, subvert them with distressed denim like punks, or simply throw them on with track pants as skaters do, there are endless cultural connotations to go with any outfit.
A penny for a payphone
In an era of smartphones, facetime and whatsapp, it's hard to think back to a time when instant messaging didn’t exist. But in the 1950s, if you wanted to make a call while out you needed pocket change. Legend has it that the loafers took on a new meaning as Ivy League students used the front slot of their loafers to tuck in a one cent coin for the payphone.
To sock or not to sock?
At G.H.BASS, we’re firm believers in tearing up the rulebook when it comes to style and celebrating all things individual, which is why there are no set rules when it comes to wearing Weejuns. Legend has it that the no-sock style was born out of students running late from class, but it was in fact the shoes popularity as a comfortable après-ski option for weekends in the mountains that gave way to this casual style. While the supple leather and slipper-like form certainly lends itself well to an easy-on, easy-off barefoot style, the versatility of the shoes look just as good when paired with coloured or white socks, just like the mods did.
A classic evolved
The classic penny loafer from G.H.BASS is an iconic, stylish shoe that is consistently coveted the world over. While the classic penny Weejuns champions heritage style and profile, there have been plenty of fresh spins that take Weejuns loafers to fashionable new heights. Take for instance the EVA lug sole on the Weejuns 90s that features a aggressive profile for the more directional customer
A post-sneaker world
In case you haven’t heard, sneakers are passé. In an ever crowded marketplace with inflated prices and seemingly endless drops, it is no surprise that many modern menswear aficionados and streetwear enthusiasts are trading in hyped sneakers for loafers. For many, the classic Weejuns has emerged as the perfect antidote to the exhausting sneaker market. Whether you’re looking for classic heritage style or a more modern profile, G.H.BASS have got you covered with their range of reworked icons as well as seasonal streetwear collaborations with the likes of Browns, Maharishi or Fred Perry.
Now it's your turn
Legend has it the penny loafer got its name when Ivy League students began tucking a coin for the payphone in the front slot of their Weejuns. Now it’s your turn.