Yesterday I visited the Bass showroom and got a look at the new US-made Weejun due out this fall. Bass made some last year for the Weejun’s 75th anniversary, but these are new shoes that will be part of the standard Bass lineup.
The shoes are made in Maine, and while the sales rep was unable to verify which shoe factory is making them, there are only a couple possibilities. The shoes will be available in a variety of finishes, including the pebble-grain calf pictured (far left), and burgundy and black shell cordovan (right). The cordovan models felt a bit lighter in construction compared to Alden and Allen Edmonds, and also less shiny, which many of you may like.
Bass is making a huge leap from its current entry-level Weejuns into the premium category with these new US-made models, which are priced nearly the same as those of the aforementioned competitors. The calf Weejun is expected to sell for $350 and the cordovan for $650. They should be availble in October.
For the budget conscious, Bass is looking to move production of its entry-level Weejun from El Salvador back to Brazil, where the shoes were made before, which the sales rep suggested would bring an increase in quality.
Finally, on Monday assistant editor Christopher Sharp will present a fascinating article on the origins of the Weejun. — CC
I look forward to the article on the origins.
I am delighted to hear that Bass is looking to upgrade its “El Cheapo Weejuns,” especially since the last few pairs I’ve owned had the soles scrape away to nothing in the course of short summer.
Does it really matter where they are made?
Good news. I’ve been wearing my old, but perfect American-made Weejun pennies and tassels that are a half size too small, because I don’t want to give them up for the poorly constructed newer ones.
Now I will be able to replace them with American-made replacements. I hope that they replicate exactly what they had both style and colorwise!
Or Brazilian ones!
I’m still waiting for proof that made in the USA makes a real difference in quality. Bought a pair of BK chinos and they already have a tear in stitching after a handful of wearings. I regularly beat the hell out of my “El Cheapo” Weejuns and they look like they did the day they arrived in the mail. Just use a shoe tree and all is well 🙂
Holy shnikes! That’s optimistic! Think I’ll just stick with Alden, as would I expect many others. I strongly prefer to buy USA-made products, both for conscience and quality purposes, but I still expect decent value.
Well, their senior management just made their first mistake.
Like many boardroom decisions, bravado sets in and someone says, “We’re Bass! We were an iconic brand! We deserve, and should command the price that our competitors get!”
It takes a lot of guts for the President to stare the shareholders down and say, “We ain’t gonna get that price…..yet.”
I’m not sure what margin of profit $650.00 will get them, but they just over price their “place” in the market.
I’ll be waiting for the knockdown.
We like to buy things that are Made in America for many reasons.
Although there have been exceptions, traditionally, things made in America are made of better quality materials and are better constructed than those made in Third World countries.
For the PITA crowd, Made in America is a stamp of legitimacy as well as nostalgia.
Economically, it’s better to support your fellow countrymen than to support foreigners. There’s nothing wrong with foreigners per se, but just as we care more about our own families than we do about strangers, we naturally care more about our fellow Americans than we do about foreigners.
I have many older items Made in America that have lasted decades, and look to last a long time more. In contrast, many of my foreign-made goods–at least the ones not from the British Isles, Europe, or Japan–have come and gone with alarming speed.
M Arthur hit the nail on the head. To 99.9% of the shoe-buying public, Bass don’t make $350+ shoes and simply do not exist on that step of the ladder. The 0.1% who know they used to be a great brand, have moved onto more trusted alternatives – Rancourt etc
Got MY original Weejuns in 1966 at the local “Varisty Shop” (how many 1,000s of THESE were there in in the ’60s?).
Paid, as I recall, $14.95; had to put up $7.00 of my own money since shoes acceptable (to my mother) for high school could be had for only $7.95.
Adjusted for inflation per the CPI those $14.95 Weejuns would be $106 in current dollars.
Had other pairs of U.S.-made Weejuns essentially identical to the 60s version in the late ’70s and mid-80s that I wore out.
The shoes in the photo sure don’t look like circa 1966 Weejuns to me.
FWIW my experience with Brazilian-made “traditional” American shoes has been mixed but generally more favorable than otherwise. Central American-made shoes? Not so much.
Christian, please plead on my behalf: offer in wide widths !!
I spoke too soon.
Look at the styling of the strap. Not the old Weejun.
Okay, never mind.
An interesting study in the difference in cost between making shoes in the United States as opposed to the cost of making shoes elsewhere might be found in the difference in price between the Allen-Edmonds loafers made in the United States and the Allen Edmonds loafers made in the Dominican Republic.
I would guess the market for pennies is (at least) not growing, the competition is very strong in quality and price, “Bass” and “Weejun” are associated with outlet-level to most folks. This doesn’t look very promising.
I would prefer to help poor factory workers in the Third World rather than illegal immigrant factory workers in the U.S.
I would prefer to subsidize American factory workers in America and have all the illegals here leave, voluntarily or otherwise.
Why in the world would you want your taxes to be used to subsidize half-literate drones who happen to be American?
That’s about what I pay ($ 350) for Belgian shoes, which IMO are far superior in quality.
I’ve heard the (probably also) El Cheapo Sebago loafers are significantly more reliable than those made by Bass–and Sebago uses full-grain leather. Seems like that’s a better buy at entry-level prices; Aldens or AEs at the higher end.
Weejuns were never the quality of Aldens, they have always been relatively moderate priced shoes. I ordered a pair of Logan Weejuns last night on Amazon for $84. I’ll report back, I’m going to compare them to the six pair I bought thru the 70s and 80s now residing in my closet. My guess is that the workmanship will be equal, but the materials deficient. If they really suck I’ll wash my car wearing them or donate them to a hobo.
216 reviews, 5 star satisfaction ratings!
Lol, $650.00 for something so boring is ludicrous.
Don’t worry––I’ve already bookmarked the page! ; )
As much as I wear my outlet purchase Weejuns, I can’t see the value of paying $50 more for Bass Weejuns made in the USA when Alden sells their Cape Cod Beefroll for $300. Can’t comment on Alden offering a better Cordovan beefroll loafer, but Allen Edmonds offers one that $55 less than the Weejun.
I think they need to keep at the price point they’re right now and leave the high end to Alden and Allen Edmonds.
I could be proven wrong, but I suspect that the price point we’re seeing here will quickly be subject to the same discounting that we see with the rest of the Bass line. While finding Aldens on sale is akin to finding a leprechaun riding a unicorn, I think we’ll find these US-made Weejuns for ~$150 about six months after they debut.
@ Henry- I have less of a problem with globalization than do others on this forum. We export resources, know-how and capital to the 3rd world and they provide “cheap” [at least cheap by our standards] labor. We can look at these wages and conditions and think they’re abhorrent- and I can say that they are from my temp controlled office [or, if I want to, home office]. But compared to the job options available to many poor people in the 3rd world, it’s a good deal.
Additionally, you do the working class in this country no favors by inshoring labor thereby driving up prices to such a point where clothes are no longer affordable. I can see dropping $250 for Quoddys [NO way $650 for Bass]; but I, and others like me, are in the minority in this country with being able and willing to spend that much on footwear.
The advent of a highly globalized economy has contributed greatly to American prosperity over the last several decades since the end of the Cold War and the construction of a range of IOs in which the United States basically has controlling interest. Whether the status quo (highly globalized trade and complex, international divisions of labor and production) will continue to reward us with high dividends is not uncontested, and many scholars of international political economy, in particular, argue over whether our enablement of global economic players such as China will ultimately herald our own fall from primacy.
With all of that said, I think the real point of THIS debate is whether American/European/Japanese (or, most OECD nations) craftsmanship is better than the work performed in developing nations. There’s also the sentimental/moral/nationalist perspective that, to use Henry’s words, “it’s better to support your fellow countrymen than to support foreigners.” That’s of course the hardest argument to downplay here, because it’s not a strictly rational economic choice. Otherwise, nothing stops me from buying, say, all Italian- or British-made clothes (or maybe jeans from Japan), because quality is on-par with or better than American manufacturing. If Bass shoes were being made in South Korea (where we find low manufacturing costs but high-quality products), I doubt we’d be having such an extended conversation on this topic, though I wouldn’t expect the issue to evaporate completely.
Why in the world would you want your taxes to be used to subsidize half-literate drones who happen to be American?
Perhaps “subsidize” was the wrong word. I meant that by buying something made by Americans in America, I would be supporting them. I am opposed to nearly all governmentally mandated wealth transfers. Charity ought to be a private, not public, concern.
Yes, all you say in your first paragraph is true. However, your second paragraph is based on a false premise. Once upon a time, a blue collar factory job was a ticket to owning your own home and supporting your wife and children. Even now, factory workers make more than the vast majority of service industry workers. Factory workers could not afford the best, but they could afford what others in the middle class could.
Outsourcing factory labor has made for cheaper products, yes–but at what cost? Those who are not able to get a higher education (for whatever reasons) are now stuck in barely-more-than subsistence wage jobs in the service industry. They have little hope of being able to support a family, much less buy a house. The capital we export to support Third Worlders is good for them, but I would rather keep that capital at home. I would rather support, through the prices I pay, my fellow citizens. I would rather see a prosperous America than one mired in economic malaise. I would rather have a domestic manufacturing industry that supports American workers in a middle-class life, than to have a cornucopia of dirt cheap (and poor quality) goods at Big Box Junk R Us.
An example: I remember paying about $20 for Levi’s 501s in the early 1980s. Adjusted for inflation, that’s about $56 (based on 1980 dollars). A quick scan of prices for 501s now shows them to be in the $45 to $55 range. That’s not much of a benefit, and at what cost? Thousands of potential factory workers are stuck doing something less productive and less remunerative.
I’m sure you can come up with counterexamples, but economic policies that harm Americans are bad.
I just opened my new $84 El Salvadorian Bass Weejuns, they are sitting on my desk. The workmanship is not a problem it’s excellent, but the materials maybe. The shoe, uppers and soles, seem less “stiff” compared to the many I’ve purchased since the late 50s. They do have real leather inserts, not Naugahyde, something the last pair from the 80s didn’t.
Rancourt shell penny loafers are significantly cheaper. Why on earth Bass’ price?
I’ve never been partial to Weejuns. But this piece does beg the question why Rogers Peet has not received more attention as a once-major player in the field of classic American soft tailoring. My own theory is that, in 2013, unless you’ve had a grandfather or great-grandfather who worked in Wall Street before WWII, you can’t really understand how influential Rogers Peet was as clothier of choice for bankers, lawyers, industrialists and prosperous merchants. The NYC Landmark’s Commission write-up on designation of the Rogers Peet building is a superb piece, with every significant fact footnoted. By 1900, Rogers Peet offered sack suits in something like 365 fabrics.
A friends once quipped that Brooks Brothers was the poor man’s Rogers Peet:
Nice to hear, but I get the feeling these are intended to be sold primarily in Japan. Am I right?
Still wondering if they can get full grain Weejuns made in the US for $225-250, especially in that reddish-brown “burgundy” color they used to have.
The original color was “ox blood”, although Bass has darken them closer to a light cordovan over the years.
I prefer to buy clothing made by manufacturers that have been making them for a long enough time that they’ve had a chance to get good at it. The macroeconomic arguments are beside the point for me. I like Scottish Shetland and cashmere sweaters. There may be some full-fashion makers in the US, but I don’t care. The Scots have been at it for a long time and have, bit by bit, refined the process and the product. Canadian Samuelsohn makes good tailored clothing. If some entrepreneur opens a clothing factory in Alabama, I would not jump from Samuelsohn to Selma to support an unproven American. If one of Ralph Lauren’s advance men walks into a room full of looms in China and hands the man at the desk a Drumohr seamless brushed Shetland and asks how much it would cost to “duplicate” it, I suspect it would take a decade of dedicated development work for the Chinese factory to produce a facsimile. By then, the fashion moment would be long gone. As I vetrenan men’s shop owner said to me when Majer sent its production to India, “How long to you think it will take a guy who wears a loincloth to learn how to make a good pair of pants?”
Oh wow, this is absolutely wonderful news. Regrettably, I can report that the majority of the Bass family does not typically buy Bass shoes any more as their quality has deteriorated unacceptably since the move of production overseas. I myself bought a pair of leather sneakers (a la Sketchers but better looking) last march and they did not last 3 months before the sole separated from the rest of the shoe in the back. My father still has some of the US made weejuns with nailed leather soles from when they last produced here (mid 90s-ish), they have not worn out since. I am desperately hoping the quality improves with this new product, it’s been very sad for us to see it go to hell after van heusen took it over…
I wore pebble grain weejuns and oxblood in high school 1966-1969.They lasted into the late 70’s .I kept them polished and used shoe trees to keep them looking good.I had them half soled and heeled with v taps twice during that time.I bought a new pair in 1985 . I still have them.They still look sharp.I just bought a new pair of black and a pair of burgundy tassel weejuns .The key to keeping your shoes looking good is spit shine them buff them then rub them with a pair of pantie hose of your girlfriend or wife and finally use shoe trees.Oh yeah and put v taps on the heels.