Today I received a pair of vintage Bass Weejuns in the post from my good friend and thrifting colleague on the West Coast, Fred. He’d picked them up from a US Ebay seller who didn’t ship internationally, but had been a touch small for him. Lucky for me, as they fit me perfectly.
This is the second pair of deadstock oxblood tassel weejuns I’ve managed to pick up in the last couple of years. The first pair I bought on spec as they were so cheap and a rare wide fitting, but I haven’t worn tassel weejuns since around 1986. I don’t know why but unlike the standard penny or even the beefroll the tassels seemed a bit ‘wrong’ for a long time. Perhaps it was the fact that my original Natural Shoe Store bought pair lost the tassels quite quickly. In those days they were one of only two or three pairs in the arsenal but these days I haven’t even got around to wearing the pair I bought back in 2009!
The pair that Fred sent me are the pre-1983 model with the plastic heel plug and from the box probably date from the 1970s. They are a lighter colour than the 1980s pair I have with the rubber heel quarter and the quality is somewhat better. The stitching on the soles for instance on the earlier model is slightly channelled and away from the edges to avoid wearing through on day one, whereas the 80s model is quite poorly stitched. These things have glued midsoles anyway which is why they don’t fall apart on day one, but it’s not great if they get really wet and the stitching breaks through.
Compared with modern versions the vamp is longer, and the tongue much more proud, on both of these. This year as the weather gets a bit better I’m definitely going to break ground with one pair at least, teamed up with some corduroy jeans, or flat front grey flannels and a blue OCBD, I think they’ll look pretty good again. Funny how even within the Ivy / American Traditional canon that styles still come and go within the main ‘look’.
John Gall says
Oh man they were once SO good. My first shoe love was a pair of black USA penny Weejuns from Aspecto in Manchester in 1985. They were proper shoes then – magical, mythical and life changing. I don’t do black anymore, but I still do Weejun, preferably pre-outsourcing. The post-USA shoes are pretty disgraceful.
My first were from ‘Meenies’ up High Street Kensington – I’d been taken there by those two older Faces that I go on about so much after seeing the shoes & falling in love with them in J. Simons… Meenies had a special promotion & I got a good deal on both the Penny & the Tassel both in Black and both in one hit. Very giddy stuff for me, and I still have them as the next weekend I moved on to Wine Weejuns & the Black got little worn.
This was also 1985 and the iconic status of the Weejun was at an all time high in London back then I’d say. You simply HAD to have them. Then, once the shoes were sorted, you moved on to shirt snobbery… A topic for another day !
The Weejun was quite simply unlike any other English shoe you’d ever seen before. So they were more than shoes in some way – they were a huge statement of who you were & what you were up to.
Life changing? Absolutely! They were the shoe that showed the word the direction you wanted your changes to take you – away from the drab conformity of what the rest were doing and into a brave new newly discovered world of style.
You never forget your first Weejuns !
The Weejun says
Indeed. I was working at the London International Film School (a real dive) in 1983 in Langley St just around the corner from The Natural Shoe Store. When I got my first week’s pay in a brown envelope I went straight there to buy a pair of N734s in oxblood. But they didn’t have my size there, only in the World’s End store. I got on a bus and went straight down there, nearly losing the job for going AWOL. It was just what we did for hard to find items back then, wasn’t it?