When it comes to penny loafers, as the name of this site suggests, I am mostly a Bass Weejun fan. With beefroll loafer there are more styles and many different makers who get their own look, but, to my mind at least, nobody ever gets that deep vamp look that Bass has, creating a highwalled side to the shoe at the front.
So, I was very pleasantly suprised when I found this near mint pair on Ebay back in early January from Dexter, another classic US handsewn maker with a history of excellent middle ground products, not unlike Bass themselves. I was also very pleased by the colour and evident quality of the leather. Back in about 1985 I had a pair of Bass Weejuns from The Natural Shoe Store in London that were this kind of natural colour, with an unglazed leather sole and heel. They had a quite of late 60s early 70s college look that I was into at the time and went well with a tan corduroy jacket and selvadge 501s.
Bass themselves have a model in similar leather now (one of the few that isn’t sprayed with Marmite) that seems to be available in the US from some close out dealers but the sole edge is lacquered dark brown.
Anyway, back to these lovely Dexters. I’m guessing that they are mid to late 80s from the plastic rubber insert in the sole. They are of course still Made in USA and the leather looks like chromexcel, thick and soft but not floppy. I also really love the shape of the cut out on the penny strap, and like Weejuns the shoes are nice and deep as you can see from the photos.
They were marked as a size 10M but when they arrived I literally could not put my foot into the left shoe. I began to think that maybe they were in such perfect condition because they were an odd pair someone bought by accident (would not have surprised me from this seller – see ‘Aside’ below). The other problem was that the plastic/rubber inserts in the soles had dried out and warped – upwards. This gave the effect of having a rolled up sock stuffed in the bottom of the shoes. I was a bit crestfallen as to find a great penny like this and then it not fit was bad news. Other Dexters I have in 10D fit large, but not these babies.
So I dug out some old Dunkelman shoe trees that are the kind with a screw thread between the front and the back and started to stretch them out a little more every week. A couple of months later (and although tight to get on initially and impossible without a shoe horn) they now feel wearable – even the soles have dropped down a little. I’ve yet to wear them outside as I bought them in the throes of deep snowstorms and was since working away in Italy, but now that spring has arrived in England I will venture out to the local shops and see if I make it there and back with becoming a hobbit.
I remember my first ever pair of Weejuns were almost crippling for the first few weeks and then became like slippers…
Aside: I bought them on the ‘Bay from a wacko seller from Texas along with a pair of vintage USA made Bostonian beefrolls in a wonderful vintage oxblood. However, when the package arrived the Bostonians were a modern Spanish made pair in cordo colour. The seller was one of those who gets annoyed with the buyer when they’ve made a mistake themselves. He said ‘They are shoes, my friend and the same in God’s eyes”.
I’m a tolerant sort of fellow to religion usually and therefore didn’t reply that some might say ‘God was in the detail’. Still this didn’t stop him from sending me countless rants about how ‘his’ God would punish me for taking away his profit by asking for a refund. Bizarre. After a week or so of these emails he said he would only refund them if I left positive feedback. Enough of that I thought – even if God is his personal mentor, eBay is all powerful when it comes to selling second hand stuff and they would not be happy with this malarkey. Needless to say Wacko, Texas finally paid up. (His seller name has the word ‘graciously’ in it by the way. I should have guessed.)