Lately I find myself craving a pair of classic Bass Weejuns penny loafers. I had a pair when I was in the 8th grade. Growing up, we did not have a lot of money, and my parents resisted spending money on unnecessary things like expensive shoes or clothes. Every year I was provided with one trip to Filene’s Basement in Downtown Crossing, Boston, to purchase clothing for the upcoming school year. We shopped at Filenes because my parents had a Filenes card, and my parents were (and still are) horrible at managing money and thought that buying thing son credit was a good idea. The upside of this was that I was able to easily convince them to purchase things from brands like Guess and Esprit because it was all on credit. The downside was that if it wasn’t available at Filene’s, I couldn’t have it.
As it so happens, there was a Bass shoe outlet a few towns over from where I grew up. I grew up in the ass end of nowhere in New Hampshire, but there were a few random shoe outlets scattered around that attracted tourists who visited the area of the lakes in the summer and the skiing in the winter and the leaf peeping in the fall. A giant Tanger outlet mall now exists only miles from where I grew up, but back in the day the Bass Outlet (along with a Dexter – or was it Timberland? – outlet) were the only places to get discount prices on expensive shoes. This was all the days before big box stores like WalMart and Target, so the only places you could buy shoes was either at the mall, or at a local privately owned expensive shoestore. Being an athlete, my shoe budget usually went towards running shoes or field hockey cleats, so I seldom had anything leftover for fun shoes. Thom McCann (and eventually PayLess) was usually my only option if I needed something else.
But for some reason, at the tender age of 13, I decided that I absolutely needed a pair of penny loafers. And even though the pair that I wanted, original Bass Weejuns, were expensive for my parents budget, my mom conceded to letting me get them because she wore penny loafers when she was a teenager, and I think that she liked that I had similar tastes. After all, I wasn’t demanding spike heel hooker boots or stilettos or anything else that was questionable for a teenager…I was asking for a pair of practical, flat, conservative dress shoes. One trip to the Bass outlet and I happily returned home with a pair of oxblood Bass Weejuns, which were cheaper for me because at at the age of 13 I still wore children’s size shoes.
I loved my Weejuns and I wore them a lot throughout 8th grade, but by 10th grade my feet were no longer childrens size 13, and I had no choice but to start wearing adult ladies size 6.5 shoes. (I now wear a 6 in most shoes, but I was a 6.5 until about 3 years ago). And when I was in the 10th grade in 1992, the shoe to have was a pair of Bass boat shoes. Everyone wore them, and we did things with the laces so that you did not lace them up, you instead took the lace and reversed them outwards through the last hole and then spiraled the ends around themselves. Don’t ask me how to do this, I had to have someone else do it for me, but that was how we wore them. Without socks. Never, ever did we wear them with socks, not even in the dead of winter when we stood outside in the dark at 6:45 am waiting for the school bus in sub zero temperatures. Socks were verboten. Convincing my mom that I needed a pair of Bass boat shoes was not as easy as getting her to concede to the penny loafers. For one thing, she didn’t see the point of boat shoes. They were not dressy enough for a dress shoe, so what was the point? They were expensive and trendy, not a classic that could last forever. But then I dragged her to the outlet, and she was impressed with the fact that they had more than one color of boat shoe. Yes, the classic boat shoe was not only available in standard brown with a white sole, there were also pairs in black, burgundy, navy, and hunter green, all with brown soles. I wanted the hunter green. My mom liked the navy, but agreed that I had a lot more green clothes, so she agreed to purchase the green ones.
I wore those shoes to school (without socks, but with tights on occasion) every day for the remaining 3 years that I was in high school, and into my freshman year of college. By the time I was a sophomore, they had started to fall apart, were wearing holes in the toes, and they had grown mold on the inside,. In 1995 they were no longer in style (as a college student I had discovered combat boots and platforms), so I easily tossed them in the trash (a biohazardous waste collection bin would have been a more appropriate place for them).
Over the last year and a half, I went on a shoe buying bender where I only purchased shoes that had at least a 3″ heel. I now own over 50 pairs of shoes, boots, and clogs, all with a minimum of a 2″ heel. I do not own flats and refuse to wear them.
Except, suddenly I am craving my old Weejuns and boat shoes again. I find myself wanting a pair, thinking that they would look cute with a lot of outfits. I also am discovering that wearing 3+ inch heels every day is getting a bit uncomfortable (last year I seldom had to leave my classroom, but this year I have a study hall that is down two flights of stairs on the opposite side of the building).
The exact pairs that I owned are no longer available, and I have not yet found a similar enough pair to convince me to purchase any. I am skeptical about the comfort of flats…I prefer Dansko clogs over pure flats, and I hate the way flats make my legs look, but every once in a while I start looking again.