In 1876, George Henry Bass, a resident of Wilton, Maine, established G. H. Bass & Co. and set out to “make the best possible shoe for the purpose for which it was intended."
Nearly 150 years later, it’s hard to deny his success in accomplishing that mission. Bass shoes have become a true heritage icon, the shoes that have helped shape American style and culture into what it is today.
Adored by superstars of culture, countless war heroes, presidents of the United States and the British Royal Family, it’s safe to say that Bass shoes are true classics and a staple wardrobe essential for any style conscious individual.
Delving a little deeper into the illustrious history of this quintessential American heritage idol, we take a look at some of the events and years that helped to craft the narrative of Bass shoes and ensure that they are still an iconic essential a century and a half later.Source: Mike Mozart
The G. H. Bass Shoe
G.H. Bass footwear is renowned for being durable and hardwearing, even the more casual styles. Owing to the use of top quality materials and superior construction, the Bass name is synonymous with longevity and reliability.
In terms of style, Bass have never needed to stray too far from their own iconic brand image. The shoes and boots are all classics - as stylish as they are functional.
The Bass Weejun
In 1936, Bass developed the shoe that would eventually define their image and launch them onto the global stage.
Now a timeless classic, the Weejun has been immortalised by style icons such as Michael Jackson and the Kennedys, and has long been the favourite shoe on American Ivy League university campuses.
For over 80 years, the Weejun has been the world's most iconic penny loafer, a true symbol of gentlemanly sophistication.
British Influence and Mod Culture
The rise of British mod culture in the 1950s and ‘60s saw a surge in popularity for the Weejun on this side of the Atlantic. The smart, polished and effortless look of the shoe appealed to the mods in their slim cut, tailored suits.
It was an added dimension of culture with its traditional Ivy League heritage and streamlined Italian aesthetic.
The growing jazz scene in America was attracting a great deal of attention from large swathes of young mods in Britain. When stars such as Miles Davis started to wear them, due to their comfort and practicality, they instantly became a favourite in British subculture.
The Weejun once again became the centre of attention when they were proudly worn by British icon Paul Weller, affectionately dubbed the ‘Modfather’ for his contribution to the mod revival in the late 1970s and early ‘80s.
East Coast and the Ivy League
Shortly after Bass introduced the Weejun, it was adopted as an integral part of the American collegiate wardrobe, sparking a love affair that is still enduring to this day.
The arrival of the Weejun came at an important point in history, as it was a time when people started to dress more and more casually.
The Weejun represented a perfect transition between formality and a more relaxed way of dressing, as it could be worn both ways.
Whether dressed up with chinos and a blazer, or kept casual with shorts and an oxford shirt, the Weejun spent the 1950s taking Ivy League campuses by storm.
“There was virtually not a middle-class young man or woman in the United States who did not own a pair of oxblood-coloured penny loafers in the 1950s,” wrote esteemed fashion journalist G. Bruce Boyer in Elegance.
Many bankers and high flying businessmen started to adopt the Weejun as part of their working wardrobe, either because they fell in love with it at university or because they loved the comfort and versatility that it brought to their look.
G.H. Bass Timeline:
1876 - The first step, G. H. Bass & Co. Shoemaker is established by George Henry Bass of Wilton, Maine.
1887 - Making progress, the Bass factory is relocated from Wilton, Maine to Wilson Stream in Farmington, Maine. This is done to make use of water-powered machinery, decreasing production time.
1910 - Finding the niche, the Bass ‘Rangely’ mocassin is conceived and swiftly becomes adopted as the shoe of choice for campers and adventurers alike.
1918 - Call of duty, the Bass Aviation Moccasin style 773 is adopted by the United States Armed Forces as their official aviation boot, used for insulation from the cold by men deployed at higher altitudes.
1934 - Unchartered territory, American explorer Henry Bradford Washburn wears a pair of Bass Boots as he treks the Alaska - Yukon Boundary.
1936 - An icon is born, Bass creates the first Weejuns, the shoe that the brand will eventually become globally renowned for. Bass Weejuns will go on to be worn by people such as President Kennedy and Michael Jackson. Bass shoes were no longer just functional and hardwearing, they were now a style essential, worn by people such as the Duke of Windsor.
1940 - Switching it up, Bass issues a lace-up pair of Weejuns in suede, known as ‘Bucs’ owing to their Nubuck style.
1941 - Mountain expertise, during the Second World War, Bass are called upon to create a cold-weather, spiked boot for the 10th Mountain Division of the United States Armed Forces.
1962 - Entering the mainstream, the Weejun starts to become a cult classic and is adopted as the shoe of choice by many American due to its comfortable, stylish and versatile nature. The Bass brand sees exponential business growth as a result.
1984 - Global superstars, Michael Jackson sports a pair of black Weejuns in his newly released video for Thriller. These ‘Michael Jackson loafers’ spark another few years of Weejun mania and launch the G. H. Bass & Co. loafers onto the global stage.
2017 - Still going strong, nearly 150 years on, G. H. Bass & Co. shoes are still benchmade in Maine and remain an established American heritage icon. Bass loafers are still popular worldwide and the fame of the Weejun has been immortalised.
G. H. Bass in 2017
In 2017, G. H. Bass is stronger than ever. Their reputation for style and craftsmanship endures to this day and has been immortalised by the likes of Michael Jackson, Grace Kelly, JFK and Audrey Hepburn.
The Weejun has stood the test of time and remains a style icon with a rich heritage and loyal fan base. Today the original penny loafer is worn the world over by mods, Ivy League students and rock stars alike.
This season, Bass are paying tribute to their illustrious past with a collection of key pieces that celebrate the vintage heritage of the brand and conjure up a sense of nostalgia, but with a modern interpretation.
A timeless hero of innovation and adventure, the Bass name will eternally be intertwined with American history and culture and is a testament to its style and quality.