"Kensington High Street, October 1984. Rain. And not just any old rain either, this was that very specific London rain that comes down grey and soaks you to the skin within seconds. But I was in a good mood. As far as I was concerned, the sun was shining and the birds were singing because I was going to a shop called Meenies where I had just heard they had discounted Bass Weejuns on sale.
I was broke, as always back then, but I still had to have some. I'd only just learned about them after spending years wearing English loafers that just didn't look quite right to one obsessed with the American look. And Weejuns didn't disappoint.
The shoe department was in the basement of Meenies and they were operating on a pile them high and sell them cheap basis so the first sight that greeted me at the bottom of the stairs was quite literally a wall of Weejuns. Shoe boxes stacked like bricks filling the wall ahead with a few display pairs dotted about here and there around the shop.
Maybe it was the London weather stirring up the atmosphere or maybe it was my senses heightened with the anticipation of getting my hands on these legendary imported loafers, but the smell of leather was wonderful down there. That rich, intoxicating smell that all shoe fanatics love...
Best of all: the place was deserted! A shoplifter's paradise in retrospect, but that never occurred to me I was so keen to start trying on loafers. They had the Penny and the Tassel styles only, in black or something like the colour of dried blood that I was later to learn they called 'wine'. Wine looked uber-Ivy to me and I loved them on sight, but my finances were restricted and I always needed to justify my purchases to myself by buying things I would get the most wear out of back then. This line of thinking also delayed me buying a much-coveted pink buttondown for ages also. So I went for the black Penny Weejun as my entry into the life of a London Weejunaire, but spent ages looking at the wine Weejuns and planning ahead. If I only ever ate once a day, how soon would it be before I could get a pair?
Americans are often amazed and bemused when English Ivy League fans go into rhapsodies about the style and design of the basic Bass Weejun Penny Loafer. To them it's so commonplace that they barely register it at all. But not in London. In London they were different, but not obviously so. Just the right look to blend in and yet stand out: the ethos which is at the heart of the Ivy League style in London.
First came that snub, rounded toe. Then the 'pie crust' gathered stitching on the vamp which was so alien to traditional English shoemakers What were these shoes? Bedroom slipper moccasins presented as being dress shoes? Brilliant! What a bolt from the clear, new, brave blue in this grey and rainy city. They're smart, but they are a brand new smart which comes from Another Country. Here's my credit card...
Still to this day only a very few certain London shops have Weejuns. From Meenies I graduated to The Natural Shoe Store in Chelsea and Covent Garden before I discovered John Simons in 1985 and a much wider world of Weejuns beyond just the basics that all the rest offered. Today I buy all my Weejuns there. But not often...Style lasts!"
- Jimmy Frost Mellor, May 2012
Editor's Footnote: the above advertisements are from 1951, 1960, and 1965 respectively.