It’s been 85 years since George Henry Bass, a shoemaker from Wilton, Maine, decided to make a new model for men, with a leather band sewn onto the saddle of the shoe. The design was inspired by the leather footwear models used by Norwegian fishermen and workers, hence the name Weejuns, a nickname given by Americans to the inhabitants of the Scandinavian state.
Starting from the ’30s the moccasin becomes a shoe symbol of the American style, representing in the ’50s and ’60s the aesthetic ideal of the young people of the Ivy League and a Preppy style that well described the economic boom of those years.
Audrey Hepburn, Paul Newman, J.F. Kennedy, Steve McQueen and Michael Jackson have enriched the history of these loafers. Youth cultures (such as the Mods) defined their style and details, including the habit of embedding a coin in the cut on the shoe’s leather band, making them known as Penny Loafers. But how did the idea of this detail come about, which led the B.H.Bass brand, on the occasion of the 85th anniversary of the Penny Loafer, to mint a celebratory coin.
It’s hard to remember that geological era when there were no ultra-efficient phones. Around the ’50s, American college kids only had the phone lines available for emergency calls, hence the need to always have two cents on hand, the cost of a call.
With the risk of losing the coins in the pockets, the safest place was the slot of the Weejuns, which began to be called Penny Loafers. Practicality was replaced by whimsy over the years, and the shiny coin in the black leather shoe became a way to personalize one’s style. With fashion constantly looking for stories to tell, the penny in the Penny continues to be a detail with great narrative power, which has inspired brands like Berluti, Sebago and 1017 ALYX 9SM.