The Look: Images and Styles That Have Influenced The Weejun – MJQ & Jimmy Giuffre

Modern Jazz Quartet at Music Inn Guest Artist Jimmy Giuffre

Modern Jazz Quartet at Music Inn Guest Artist Jimmy Giuffre

Back in the early 1981 there were very few jazz LPs from the golden age of modern jazz in print. As such we relied on the vagaries of the record companies to reissue random titles. There were almost no concerted themed reissues.

Those that were most interesting often seemed to be from France or Germany. This was the beginning of the major record labels re-organising production to be in the cheaper territories for paying royalties and exporting throughout EEC as it was then known.

One of the first jazz LPs that I ever came across (and I have to admit my record hunting pal found it by searching in the ‘bin’ in front me) was the Modern Jazz Quartet at Music Inn: Guest Artist Jimmy Giuffre. It was a revelation as a 16 year old because it was jazz without saxophones or trumpets. Back then there were not even any books in print about modern jazz (with the exception of Joachim Berendt’s book that focused mostly on mainstream and older styles) so the only way to progress and find more in a similar vein was to assiduously read the liner notes, take note of other artists mentioned as well as seeing who the track authors were.

This first Jimmy Giuffre album lead me on a search not just for chinos and khaki field shorts and loop collar plaid shirts as sported by the ever cool MJQ, but also in search of more music by Giuffre. Within a couple weeks of moving to London in early 82, I had managed to find a Japanese reissue of Jimmy Giuffre 3 (£20 in Dobells – one fortnight’s dole money!) and then, shortly afterwards, a French reissue of this wonderfully laid back album on Verve called The Easy Way.

Jimmy Giuffre - The Easy Way - Verve 1962 - Check out the Imperials

Jimmy Giuffre - The Easy Way - Verve 1962 - Check out the Imperials

On the cover Giuffre was sporting a pair of what I called ‘military shoes’ back then, in the American style. Later, of course I could identify them as Florsheim Imperials or possibly Aldens. The dark suit with the no break trousers and white shirt was also an influence at the time, even if did spend most of my time wearing Levis and button down oxfords. As anyone around in London at the time will attest, back then we looked like people from another planet in the time of mullets and chemical wash denim. One benefit was that landladies always thought you were ‘such a nice well dressed young man’ looking as we did like throwbacks to another era.

Record covers were a huge part in this education, both for the clothes and of course the life long passion for the music.

The Devil Wears… Bass Weejuns?

The ‘New’ Weejun Dover. Dump It Off the White Cliffs, I Say.

This blog is supposed to be a positive celebration of Americana but this week there’s been a bit of a negative tone about where some of the classic US brands are today. It’s not really my place to have a dig at these companies. In reality I just ignore what most of them are doing these days. But, the thing is they’ve been contacting me, not the other way around.

It started with LL Bean earlier in the week, but to tell the truth, I liked the way they handled it. As a brand LL Bean obviously understand that customers have opinions, not always good ones, but they are big enough to handle anything in their stride. They even linked to this blog from their Facebook site and follow The Weejun on Twitter. And you know what, they know exactly what they are doing because it got me thinking this week about LL Bean and a brand that I’d been ignoring for the best part of a decade now.

Today I got an email from a PR firm representing GH Bass based in New York. How different. Bass is a company that doesn’t even have real website, has no idea of the groundswell against the dumbing down and trashing of the product quality and obviously sees the internet as a tool for its own end. Nothing to do with the customers.

Rather than than rewrite everything I’m going to quote the correspondence, names of course withheld to protect the ‘innocent’.

we just discovered your site. Love it! Especially since Bass is the one who coined the term Weejun in 1936! I thought you might like to read the attached news on the newly redesigned Weejun from Bass.
Let me know what you think!”

Funny I never knew that about Bass. Now I know where I got the name for my blog from and why there are loads of pictures of Weejuns. Fancy.

Well, you asked me so I’ll respond politely and honestly. (I’d already seen this abominable creation over on Ivy Style and realised that poor old Mr I.S. had posted about these shoes as if he liked them. So many people left comments that you can see he tries to back track from the original stance. Again, when I saw this early today I didn’t want to get involved in the war over there with the Ivy. But in the light of the Bass PR it needs to be mentioned).

I responded to Bass, thus:

“Thanks for the message of support. There’s a lot of love around for the original Weejuns.

I have to say though I haven’t found anyone who knows about the classic models who likes that Dover shoe.

Whilst I understand the need for a company like Bass to continually change, so many classic US brands seem to have lost their confidence in the products that made them great. In the case of Bass it’s the cheapening of the quality of the core models like the Weejuns. Making them offshore is not the issue really, rather that the materials and quality control is pretty poor.

Having said that the Heritage collection from a few years back was a welcome project and I see that the venture with Opening Ceremony has produced some interesting colourways on the original Weejuns, and that’s encouraging.

Over here in London I have a project to put some high quality replica Weejun models into production to satisfy the demand for them. Now, if Bass were to reproduce some classics again in quality leathers (I know they’ll say that brush off is ‘quality’ but trust me, I know about leather and it’s the worst quality material there is) then I wouldn’t need to bother producing them. The demand is there. It may be a niche but it’s a global one and as a PR you’ll know that column inches can be gained these days from heritage products.
Sorry, to go on, but you asked! Hopefully you can filter some it back to Bass.
If Bass need direction on this there are plenty of us out there who can help.
All the best,

The Weejun”

Shortly came the response:

“This is so interesting because it’s in stark contrast to the reaction we’ve gotten here which has been overwhelmingly positive. Fashionable men have been super appreciative of the update and say they don’t feel like it’s the same stodgy shoe their dads wear. In fact the Fashion Director and Editor at GQ both snapped up pairs for themselves as have high profile celebrity stylists. But hey, everyone’s entitled to their opinion! And actually the
leather used in the new Dover is different and of a higher quality.

At any rate, I appreciate your honesty and wish you all the best with the site.”

It’s funny isn’t it? Everyone wants to tap into the internet to understand their customers but few actually want to listen. LL Bean did, to their credit.

The Bass response shows the sheer folly of following fashion at the expense of brand heritage. I also know some secret info about the Bass operation in the UK that is astounding in its crassness.

The leather remains appalling corrected toxic stuff. Why do people think shiny leather is good leather?

But GQ, I ask you.

Shoes I Have Loved: Vintage Bass Weejuns 2 Tie Moccasins

Vintage Bass Weejuns Lace Up - Similar to Sportoccasins

Vintage Bass Weejuns Lace Up - Similar to Sportoccasins

Back in 2000 I was sent on a mission to LA on behalf of well known TV company to talk to Warner Bros about why they didn’t really need to buy into Warner’s own version of the internet, called Entertaindom, instead of using the real internet for free. Strange but true. Anyway the point is that I got to stay 5 days in LA just for one meeting, drive a Mustang Convertible and cruise up and down Pacific Highway 1 blaring out jazz and bossa nova to bemused passers by. And of course shop.

Part of my mission was to get a Golden Bear suede stadium jacket with a round neck shawl collar, just like I’d seen in the 80s in John Simons but could never afford back then. I rang up Golden Bear and spoke to a nice lady who was one of the owners and of course she remembered the J Simons models. Well you would wouldn’t you? The only store in UK selling your products. I told her I was looking for this specific jacket. I described my size and height over the phone (oh foolish man) and Sherry said she had some old stock jackets and she’d get one of the girls to run up a shawl collar for me and replace the standard one. She’d also ship the jacket from San Francisco to my hotel in time for my arrival. Good old fashioned American service.

Unfortunately, when I got to LA and saw the jacket it was massive, like a baggy track suit. Golden Bear had been so nice that I couldn’t call them up and return it. I tried wearing it out in LA but knew it looked a bit preposterous even though no one would tell me (Mrs Weejun would have laughed but she wasn’t around in those days).

Anyway, that lead me to thinking: ‘Hold on, I’m in the USA with time on my hands – let’s go thrifting!’ I drove around for hours trying to find an area that was dodgy enough to have thrift stores, but not too dodgy to park a rental Mustang and talk with a British accent. Eventually I spotted a charity store on Wilshire Boulevard with parking nearby in a drive-in drug store. I went in hoping to find a FLIP type experience of oxford shirts and chinos aplenty, but there wasn’t really much in there at first glance. Then things looked up and I found a Ralphy Purple Label grey herringbone hacking jacket for $5.00. I went to pay at the till and behind the woman taking the cash there was as row of shoes on a high shelf.

They were staring straight at me.

The old heart started pounding as I asked to have a look.

Lace up Bass Weejuns – in MY size. For $3.00.

So that’s how come I got these beauties here.

Unusual Side Lace Detail Echoes Boat Shoes

Unusual Side Lace Detail Echoes Boat Shoes

They are not Sportsoccasins and from the man made heel sock and type face I’d say they were late 60s earliest, or 1970s. The lace through detail on the sides is different from any other models I’ve seen. The soles and heels were worn right through so on my return to London I took them to KG Shoes in Mornington Crescent (to the man who used to resole loafers for Gucci back in the day) and he did a great job on them. Oh and the Golden Bear jacket I sold to Johnny Rushton of shoes fame.

This year I tried to buy a Golden Bear jacket I found at Sierra Trading Post. What they sent me was not the jacket in the photos and it was truly appalling – made in China and with gorilla arms. Another shame. Sierra Trading Post refunded all the money even the shipping, but I’d have rather had the jacket.

But hey, I still have the 2 tie Weejuns in true oxblood and my meeting with Warner Bros only lasted an hour. Both true consolations.

What’s Wrong Old Bean? LL Ain’t What It Used To Be

A Classic Illustration: LL Bean 1972 Catalogue

A Classic Illustration: LL Bean Spring 1972 Catalogue

Yesterday’s post of some wonderful vintage LL Bean hunting gear from a LIFE magazine feature in 1941, led to The Weejun being followed on Twitter by LL Bean’s Head of PR. This set to me to thinking about bringing forward a piece I’ve been planning since first starting The Weejun, and that is the evolution of LL Bean from where it was when it started up to only 10 or so years and then to where it is now.

I was a bit sarcastic on yesterday’s post calling LL Bean ‘mumsy’ so I thought it only fair to elaborate a little. Back in the mid 80s when I first discovered Freeport’s finest, long before the easy click of the internet, the seasonal LL Bean catalogue arriving on my doorstep in London was, along with Brooks Brothers, Filson and Russell Moccasin, a rare glimpse into the escapist world of American traditional clothing and a rich heritage that stretched back the early 20th century. LL Bean had grown up with ‘the American century’ and was part of the defining of an indigenous culture of new tradition where despite America’s endless reinvention and relentless progress, men’s clothing seemed to remain a constant.

You can see a movie from the 1940s and Robert Mitchum will be fishing in chinos, hunting boots a flannel shirt and a field jacket. Step forward 40 to 50 years and you could still see the tradition being followed in any US movie or even sitcom. Button Down oxford shirts, loafers, sack suits, seersucker, chinos, work boots – all staples.

LL Bean Illustration from Spring 1939 Catalogue

LL Bean Illustration from Spring 1939 Catalogue

Even just 15 years ago the LL Bean catalogue would have had most merchandise made in the USA. The legend ‘Imported’ was reserved to show fabrics and materials where the American version was perhaps not the best – shirting cotton from Italy maybe, Portuguese flannel, Shetland sweaters from, of course, the Shetland Islands.

For everything else there was America’s finest – handsewn loafers and camp moccs from Maine, and all manner of traditional US made products – from fleeces, sweatshirts, anoraks and parkas to traditional single needle tailored shirts and of course, chinos.

Then, somewhere along the line, around about 1999, there began a subtle change. Maybe it had already been happening for a while. Men’s sports shirts (as opposed to dress shirts) had started to be sold in the ubiquitous S/M/L/XL instead of collar sizes and sleeve lengths. Of course sleeve lengths had disappeared in UK retail at least a decade before, but these were the details that made the clothes from America special to us, the outsiders. They were details that differentiated the clothes we wore from the dross of the UK high street as we dressed as if we were in our own Hollywood version of America.

Between the mid 80s and 2000 (the last time I ordered anything from LL Bean – Blucher Camp Moccs I believe) I turned on countless friends and family to the joys of the LL Bean catalogue.

LL Bean Spring 1959 Hunting Catalog

LL Bean Spring 1959 Hunting Catalog

Then came the the real signal that the ‘modern world’ had started to infect the Old Bean. Suddenly, the signature Double L flannel shirt that I bought every autumn in at least 2 colours in a size 16 was no longer made. Now I fell somewhere between an ‘M’ – too short in body and sleeve’ – and an ‘L’ – a giant sail of a shirt. I simply couldn’t buy anymore. Next came the classic dress chino – one of the only cuts available at that time that was classic enough to be really vintage (as opposed to the fake fashion cuts that pass for ‘vintage’ from most suppliers these days). Now only available with a crease down the front made of some kind of teflon. Try as I might, I could not get the damn things to look crumpled and casual as of old. Even the goat skin A2 style leather jacket used to come in suit sizes – I still have my 80s size 40.

There had always been ‘new’ designs and elements in each new catalogue but now there were ‘new’ products pushing out the old in a tidal wave of mediocrity. These new products were ever more bland, mainstream and Gap like. Everything was ‘nice’. Jeans were no longer made of raw denim as an option but ‘enzyme washed to feel like you already broke them in’. More and more products came in a ‘pre-washed for comfort’ kind of fabric or else a ‘pre-ironed for life’ alternative. My favourite product, the LL Bean stadium trousers, chinos with a sewn in scotch plaid woolen lining for the deep winter faded into distant memory.

For years LL Bean had been my staple every day American clothier, but I had to stop and look elsewhere.

Now, of course I appreciate that LL Bean was growing massively during these years (anyone remember the short lived UK catalogue based in Swindon?) and we all need progress, and some of Bean’s technical fabrics on parkas, fleeces etc were necessary and great evolutions of the genre. But somewhere along the way, the Old Bean lost too many of the classic elements that made it the institution that it was for many decades. As a business owner I understand some of the decisions to rationalise product lines and so on, but as a customer I lament the dumbing down of any classic brand.

To a great extent Land’s End (in the USA, not the poor UK relation), Orvis and the reinvigorated Filson (who used to make the LL Bean Upland Hunting coat) have picked the bones of many of Bean’s trusty classics in recent years.

A trip to Tokyo in 2003 had me eagerly seeking out the LL Bean store – surely the Japanese, protector of all that America throws away of its own popular culture, must have cool stuff branded LL Bean? Nope. The same old mumsy look and comfortable uncle’s clothes.

Could it be that LL Bean, as it moves towards celebrating it’s first century of American lifestyle, might reflect on where it came from and create a Heritage collection? Real ‘Made in USA’ traditional American clothes and footwear? The price would be much higher of course, but these days niche customers are a global phenomenon happy to pay for ‘authenticity’ such as it is and surely enough in number to warrant such a series, especially when the trickle down effect on the brand for its mainstream customers is also highly beneficial.

So if you’re reading this LL Bean PR, we’d all love you to come back to where you once were, even if it’s just those few evergreens that we all loved dearly.

L.L Bean – Hunting Gear from 1941

LL Bean 1941 style. Looks a bit like a Liverpool fan in the 80s!

LL Bean 1941 style. Looks a bit like a Liverpool fan in the 80s!

Whatever you think of the mumsy style of LL Bean these days and the self-butchering of their own heritage, once upon a time it was about as hard core as you could get if you wanted a spot of upland hunting.

This photo series appeared in LIFE magazine in 1941. Some elements are still available in pretty much the same styles. Duck hunting boots of course – from early 1900s functional to 1980s Parisian BCBG Yuppies and back.

LL Bean 1941 Canadienne

LL Bean 1941 "Canadienne"

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What’s The Weejun Buying on Ebay? Florsheim Imperials!

Florsheim Imperial Kenmoor Long Wing Brogues in Rare Chocolate Brown Scotch Grain

Florsheim Imperial Kenmoor Long Wing Brogues in Rare Chocolate Brown Scotch Grain

Last night I lost an auction for a pair of vintage Weejuns that I’d been watching for ten days. The seller had agreed to ship to the UK, which was very nice of him, but at the last second when my bid went in I got an error message from Ebay saying seller hadn’t selected ‘ship’ worldwide. Too late the hero, and they went for buttons. I’ll have to watch that in the future.

My thoughts then turned to Florsheim Imperials – the long wing brogue version to be exact. I’ve been keeping an eye out for a pair in my size and in really top condition for some months to replace the shell cordovan pair I had some years back that were too small for me. I’ve seen NOS in the box models but these went for big money, I’ve seen minty plain toe redbone scotch grain, which are very nice, but I think I prefer cordovan in those and of course many a pair of the classic light tan grain brogues.

There are always lots of Imperials on US Ebay, some totally mullered (always described as Excellent Near Mint Condition) and others simply listed by people selling some strange old man’s shoes. These are the ones I look out for and last night I found a seller with the very rare chocolate brown Scotch Grain long wings. They were my size (and no B or C fitting) plus the shipping quote to the UK was only $23.00. In like flynn with the ‘buy it now ‘ and for £30 a very nice pair of unusual colour Florsheims Kenmoor.

By the way don’t be tempted to buy modern Kenmoor they are made in far flung climes now and cheap and tacky looking. This pair does not have it’s original V-cleat but I don’t mind that, they are deathly dangerous walking around the London Underground!

The Look: Images and Styles That Have Influenced The Weejun

New Series

Miles Davis Wearing Ivy Style Seersucker at Newport

Miles Davis Wearing Ivy Style Seersucker at Newport

Over many years there have been certain movies, record covers, or just stills that have captured the essence of a look that has inspired the Weejun towards a better wardrobe. Inspired by some of the great posts over at Film Noir Buff I decide to start a new series with some of the elements that have inspired The Weejun look. Some of them are obvious, Miles, McQueen, Mulligan. Others less so.

One early influence is this still of Miles Davis at Newport Jazz Festival wearing a fantastic seersucker suit with drastically cut away front below the bottom button and flat front trousers.

This is from an album called Miles Davis : Directions, double LP of outakes released in 1982 on CBS. Inside the 70s era image on the front cover was this cool shot of Miles from his Ivy League style period.

This image inspired a friend of mine in 1983 to buy a seersucker suit from J Simons in a fantastic buttermilk and blue stripe. I was so envious, but the saving grace was for me that the trousers had pleats on his suit.

Nevertheless it was a quite a few years before I could find a seersucker jacket of the the style Miles shows here. I did eventually pick up a second hand Haspel that was a perfect fit. Years later the great moth plague of Crouch End caused there to be a few nibbles in the shoulder that ruined the jacket forever.

I remember one particular day around 1994 wearing the seersucker jacket with old Halrin flat front chinos with deep turnups and a pair of deadstock natural leather soled suede desert boots and a newly acquired (and long gone) Leica M6 around my neck. I caught a glimpse in a store window in Portobello Rd and thought to myself ‘Yes!’

Well, almost.

These days the Weejun has a nice Ralphy seersucker suit for those summer days, but still keeps an eye out for a vintage one like this.

The Hathaway Shirts Eye Patch Gent

In amongst the batch of vintage new old stock button down shirts I received from the USA earlier this week were two identical Hathaway  white button downs from the 1960s. As well as the fact that unlike almost every other manufacturer of Brooks knock off oxford shirts, these have no placket on the front.

I wasn’t sure if I liked that at first, but then I recalled that many a time in 1940s movies when actors are wearing button downs they are often placket free and double darted at the back instead of box pleats.

I haven’t checked the back pleats on these yet but I do love the ‘neck fill’ tissue paper with the Hathaway stamp.

Rather more alarming is the sinister looking gent with the steely gaze and the eye patch. I did some digging around and found he was a ‘real’ character. A quick check on Wikipedia revealed this:

C. F. Hathaway Company was a private manufacturer of shirts for men and boys, located in Waterville, Maine. It was founded in 1837 and made uniform shirts for Union soldiers during the American Civil War. It is most famous for its “man with an eye patch” advertising campaign, which was created by Ogilvy & Mather in 1951.[citation needed] The man who appeared in the ad was Baron George Wrangell, who was a Russian aristocrat with 20/20 vision,[1] but the advertisement’s creator, David Ogilvy, was inspired by a picture of Lewis Douglas, who had lost an eye in a fishing accident.

Here he is in full glare:

Hathaway Ad Man With the Eye Patch

Hathaway Ad Man With the Eye Patch

Weejun Wearer of The Week – Unknown Model

Found on Google images – unknown young lady modelling her weejuns…

Weejun Wearing Woman Wears Them Well

Weejun Wearing Woman Wears Them Well

Well this post has caused some stir in Ivy Land, so here are some images from the anonymous weejun wearing woman.

Coy Weejun Wearer

Coy Weejun Wearer

Kilties? Enough Already!

Kilties, too? Enough Already!

For those who are actually into this stuff for ‘personal’ reasons here’s the link to the whole 152 photos. LL Bean Camp Mocs and everything.