In case you hadn’t already seen it, Ivy Style posted a short interview today with Jason Lazar, an executive for Harbor Footwear (the company that holds the G.H. Bass & Company license).
This particular section struck me the most:
IS: What about quality? Longtime Weejun wearers are quick to note a steady decline over the past couple of decades.
JL: The Weejun of today is by far the best quality shoe in the marketplace priced under $100. It is a true-moc construction and handsewn on the last. Many consumers may think that the quality has declined over the years due to the fact that the Weejuns are no longer made in the USA, but all materials and workmanship are consistent with the Weejun made years ago.
For argument’s sake, here’s a good refresher: Bass Weejuns vs J.M. Weston Loafers
Now I’m not old enough to know what Weejuns in the 1960′s were like quality wise, but I do know that Weejuns today just look and feel cheap. It probably is true that the construction has remained the same – a moccasin is a moccasin. However, you can tell just by picking up a pair at a store that something is not right; the leather is shiny and plastic like, the insoles may or may not be held in place, and sometimes they even emanate an odd chemical odor (which is most likely a byproduct of the manufacturing process).
No matter how much they spend on ads, Harbor Footwear will be unable to change the perception of how consumers think about their shoes. Problems with this: one, the shoes have no heart and soul, and a marketing campaign full of happy hipsters walking around Williamsburg while wearing Weejuns is not going to help. Two, people will not forget history. And three, unlike American made shoes they can’t educate customers on how or where they’re made – in this case it could be some random factory in the middle of China with cheap leather sourced from a random tannery in India (many of which are places you would never want to visit). We’ll never know who made them, but then again maybe Harbor Footwear doesn’t even care about all of this.
I do know that with all of the other made in the USA options on the market, I will never buy an imported pair of Bass Weejuns.
Pictured, an old Cable Car Clothiers ad from when Weejuns were still made in Maine.