I own the trendy loafers that keep selling out—and I wear them everywhere
Bass Weejuns marked my foray into the penny loafer trend.
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As the years pass by and I approach my 30s (at what feels like an accelerating rate, mind you), I’ve been increasingly interested in seeking a smarter alternative to the average sneaker or sandal. Of course, there are plenty of options for grown-up footwear, ranging from the oxford to the derby, the Chelsea boot to the chukka. But living in the hot and humid state of Florida, I find that most of these formal dress shoes don’t offer the necessary breeziness for everyday wear. Enter the penny loafer.
What are penny loafers?
The penny loafer is a minimal, low-cut piece of footwear that looks like a moccasin ready for prom night. Popularized in the 1930s by G.H. Bass & Co., the penny loafer features a strap across the upper with a slit that's just the right size for—as the name suggests—a penny. This shoe promises the sleek sophistication of casual footwear with the ease of a slip-on. The last few years, some fashion enthusiasts have embraced a "post-sneaker world" that ditches tennis shoes in favor of a more formal, classic style of shoe—and it’s this exact movement that became the catalyst for me to jump on the loafer bandwagon. That and, well, everyone seems to be wearing them lately.
Having never worn a pair before, I scoured the internet in search of the perfect entry-level penny loafer. Reddit and GQ both agreed that G.H. Bass & Co’s Weejuns loafers were a solid choice. Made of corrected grain leather (which is leather that has been buffed and sanded), they're a fraction of the price of full-grain leather loafers at $110 a pair. I decided to purchase a pair of the Larson Colorblock Weejuns—here are my honest thoughts on the trendy shoe.
What I love about Bass Weejuns
Straight out of the box, my Weejuns felt comfortable and required no breaking in at all, which was convenient and impressive, as leather materials often take a while to stretch and mold to your feet. I usually wear a size 11.5 in most shoes, but the rule of thumb is to order a half size down, so I got an 11. This proved to be good advice: The shoes are relaxed, not narrow yet not too loose, so as to cradle the foot and prevent it from slipping out. The midsole provides a nice cushion and the heel gives off a soft clanking sound that I enjoy hearing when I walk. And despite their dressy appearance, they genuinely feel laidback—loafers are made for loafing, after all.
I’ve been wearing my pair of Weejuns on a weekly basis since last July, putting them on for quick visits to the grocery store and farmer’s markets. These things are so easy to slip on and off, it’s a no-brainer to choose them over a pair of sneakers when I’m leaving my house. While Weejuns are offered in a variety of colors, from classic tones of brown and black to contemporary stylings of green or maroon, the "Colorblock" model of black and white that I went with looks sharp with its contrasting sections and has a nice sheen to its surface, which gives it a polished and clean look that I adore.
They look great on my feet and match most items in my current wardrobe, offering a versatility a lot of other casual shoes can’t provide. If I wear a pair of jeans and a basic T-shirt, I can choose to feel a bit more dressed up by wearing my Weejuns. Shorts and a button-up? I’ve definitely felt spiffier with a pair of Weejuns and some no-show socks. Sweatpants? Um, well, it’s been done before. (I wouldn’t myself, though.) But these shoes have the power to make me feel sophisticated without feeling like I’m in the spotlight, and I love that.
Of course, the price is also a win for me. For $110, anyone can wear iconic footwear that feels like a true piece of Ivy League, prep-school fashion. This is a little pricier than a pair of similar Rockport loafers, but G.H. Bass has a sort of legacy behind them that makes them a preferred brand in my book. Weejuns offer a classic look for much less than, say, a pair of full-grain leather loafers that cost a lot that some prep enthusiasts seek out today.
What I don't like about Bass Weejuns
Unfortunately, affordable pricing sometimes comes with a lack of craftsmanship. Being that this is an entry-level loafer, Weejuns aren’t necessarily known for lasting forever, and some unhappy Amazon reviews confirm this. My shoes scuff easily and aren’t meant for the long run. Sure, to the casual bystander who may see me in my shiny Weejuns, I look somewhat formal. But up-close-and-personal? There are a few flaws. A closer look at my loafers revealed asymmetrical stitching, and less than a year after buying them, some of the stitching on the sole is already unraveling.
Another note, particularly for the wide-toed wearer: The shoe’s toe box is narrower than some shoes. A snugger fit ensures the shoe stays put without laces to tighten, but it comes at the expense of comfort. Don’t expect to wear these for more than a few hours at a time. I found that they work best for running quick errands rather than wearing when I expect to be on my feet all day.
Are Bass Weejuns worth buying?
If you’re looking for an entry-level loafer that will look great straight out the box, with no breaking in required, absolutely try out a pair of Weejuns. They're a great way to break the ice with a more formal, smarter sort of footwear and they're easy-to-slip-on shoe that’s very versatile. Although it may feel daunting to dive into a slightly more expensive casual shoe, a price of $110 makes that decision a little bit easier for some.
However, if you’re already a fan of wearing penny loafers and prefer the supple feel of full-grain leather shoes, it might be worth spending the extra cash to purchase a more expensive and higher quality shoe. Weejuns won’t last in the long run due to its subpar quality. After eight months of regular wear, my shoes are visibly beaten up and are starting to feel a little flat from their trips around town. Do I regret my purchase? Absolutely not. But now that I know I love penny loafers, I may be upgrading to full-grain leather loafers on my next shopping trip.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.