About the Weejun..
This blog is a personal journey around that indefinable something that delineates a kind of American ideal that appears to never change, but does it subtle ways, and touches on its relatives the Italian look, from the 50s and 60s, as well as the mod interpretion from this side of the big pond.
Back in 1979 at the tender age of 14 I became a Mod. At that age six months was an eternity and I was proud to have been a mod when they were very few others let alone fourteen year olds. I remember being hugely influenced by a big spread in the NME about the style and the music. Soon, within a few months of the 2 Tone launch the whole thing became a cliche. Mods were kids out shopping with their mums and the whole thing was over. Except that it wasn’t, really. It was only just beginning.
For me and many others in those long ago pre-Internet days that brief flash began an affair with the roots of that style. Where had it come from? Italy certainly, a little Parisian style definitely, but mostly it came from America – the land of movies and of modern jazz.
Soon the fifties american look took over. By 15 I was imitating the older kids from London that used to travel to Bournemouth every bank holiday and were a walking style lesson. Again the common denominator was American style.
When I was 16 I moved to London to pursue a career as a jazz musician. My best friend moved there too, but I made the mistake of playing the double bass – hugely hip but stupidly big to carry around the streets of Warwick Avenue and Ladbroke Grove, whilst my colleague played the just as hip and light as a feather, flute.
At 17 I was working in Covent Garden and dressing entirely from Flip in Long Acre. You need to remember that it was virtually impossible to buy classic American clothes new in those days, especially on £60pw before tax.
I had already bought my first pair of Bass Weejuns from Bob Lusk’s Natural Shoe Store for £44.50. That was a fortune in 1983 – a whole week’s wages. Having made my mind up that I absolutely had to have them I went in to buy them, only to find that they didn’t have them in the Neal St store. There was a pair they could hold in World’s End, an hours bus ride away that would mean not returning to work after lunch and risking the sack. Well, if you’ve read this far you will know that the next day I was wearing those oxblood Weejuns to work. Luckily no one had noticed my absence.
Then one lunch time I was walking around Covent Garden and discovered a tiny dark shop that shone like a beacon in the forest of 80s glam that was Covent Garden in 1983. In the window were the clothes I had seen in my favourite movies. Seersucker suits as worn by Anthony Perkins in W.U.S.A, button down oxford cloth shirts where the collars had a roll to them (unlike the appalling shirts in British high st stores that just had buttons added to the collar points), and incredibly, Halrin chinos with a flat front – a daring notion in those multi pleated days.
The store was J Simons. I went in and spent £24.50 on a Sero ‘The Purist’ short sleeve blue button down shirt. Suddenly I had a shirt just like the thirft store examples from Flip but with all the correct buttons and without the collar having been worn to within an inch of its life. And so began a long, long journey of attempting the impossible – to recreate some mythical era, a fleeting look seen in movies, jazz record sleeves, the pages of National Geographic, that was somewhere between 1957 and 1965; a journey that 25 years later I realise I will never quite finish. But with the internet, ebay, and the wealth of knowledge available at a click, it’s never been more fun or more easy to seek out that classic americana.
Contact The Weejun
Disclaimer: People keep emailing me asking for a size 10D in Black and other silly questions. I’m not a store, nor am I affiliated with G.H. Bass the makers of the current crop of IMO, sadly inferior products. This is just a blog…
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