Shoe vs. Weenie

For Yale men, Barrie Ltd. was shoe headquarters since the Isaacs brothers opened their narrow slot of a store attached to J. Press in 1934. Bob and Barry Isaacs always had their shoes made specially for them and sold under their Barrie Ltd. private label, which afforded them very competitive pricing for students and faculty.

Barrie’s birthed Yale White Shoe Chic hand in hand with the growing influence of the natural shoulder style promoted by its York Street neighbor. I remember Barrie’s temporarily warehousing extra stock of white bucks in the J. Press cellar until shelf space opened up to move them into the greedy hands of reunion classes eager to replace their old white bucks from good old days gone by.

The opposite of a guy who was shoe was a weenie. The conflict between those who were shoes and weenies provided longtime fodder for various Boola Boola chroniclers. Humorist, poet, and novelist Calvin Trillin discussed it in a memoir entitled “Remembering Denny.” Recalling his entrance to Yale “as one of the brown shoe freshmen,” a virgin weenie from Kansas City up against the St. Grottlesex elite.

Political Satirist Christopher Buckley explored the dirty white buck scenario in “My Harvard, My Yale: Memoirs of College Life by Some Notable Americans.” Garry Trudeau addressed the age-old conflict regarding his college weenie fixation in his “Doonesbury” comic strip. Trudeau was quoted in The Atlantic, “Ridiculing the non-privileged is almost never funny—it’s just mean.”

But young men who were infinitely privileged titillated “shoe,” the distinctly upper strata Yale phrase, “never, never white shoe.” Buckley was Skull & Bones, Trillin head of Yale Daily News, Trudeau wrote for The Yale Record and was a member of secret society Scroll and Key. If you were shoe you bridled your white bucks until they became so tattered they bared your toes. Accompanying tweed, flannel, linen, seersucker, khaki, and suit trousers all four seasons. Weenies buffed them fluffy white, or God forbid, wore them shiny.

Barrie’s is gone, but other sources instruct nouveau riche fashion feeders how to dress shoe wise. “White Bucks make the gentleman,” declared Rugby’s spiritual advisor Mr. Wooster. Not many took his advice and RL Rugby is a remnant of bygone days along with dirty white bucks.

Cole Porter and Shakespeare exclaimed, “Where is the life that late I led? Totally dead.” I share loyalty with 1930s collector of animals Frank Buck forever pleading, “Bring’em back alive.”


RICHARD PRESS

11 comments

I’d love to get a pair of the Barrie Ltd “Gonga Boot”, That’s what we at Hamden High School called the Barrie Ltd Jodphur boot. it was a must have at Hamden High. 9 1/2 W by the way.

Mike Devine March 09, 2020

What belt was worn with white shoes? I’m not envisioning white belts on campus in the 30s…

David March 09, 2020

Being “shoe” (at least by that name) was well in the past by the time I arrived in New Haven in 1977. Worth noting: white bucks as a short-hand for elite (or at least elite-adjacent) sorts survives in the phrase “white-shoe law firm,” which originally referred to the fact they were largely manned by YHP alumni of a certain ilk.

FWIW, in its heyday, the cool (or “shoe”) way to wear your white bucks wasn’t exclusively an Ivy League thing. My father (Illinois ’53) reminisced about how they would drag their new white bucks around behind a car for a little while to get them into the appropriate state for first wearing.

Scot Johnston March 09, 2020

Life can present many challenges. Without getting into too much detail, breaking in a pair of Barrie Ltd. .Wingtips, was certainly one of them!

Billy Walik March 09, 2020

I’ve been away from the New Haven area for quite some time. I didn’t know that Barrie’s Bootery went out. I myself bought a pair of white bucks, red soles and all, back I think in 1999. Haven’t worn them much, but I still have them. I was doing law school at Quinnpiac in those days, and I’d often come to downtown New Haven. I started picking up a taste for New Haven/Yale type fashion. I even bought a derby and a homburg at Delmonico’s. I bought a couple of things at J. Press – although I do not have preppie income, I like the style. Well, life goes on.

Stephen Sczurek March 02, 2020

herbrulelaw@gmail.com
Great and clever reminder for us southerners trying to fit in with the preppies.
With help from roommates and influential upper class men-Sam Chauncey & Randy Ney stand out-I barely made it: Bakers Dozen, ‘59 Whiffs,
Torch & Book & Snake…..still missing Barrie’s.

Herb Rule March 02, 2020

I first starting buying Barrie LTD loafers in the mid 1960’s. The smell was so wonderful when you opened the shoe box. Also, Arnold ’s on Chapel Street had very nice shoes.

Howard Goldstein March 02, 2020

In 1957 we swapped our “dirty bucks” for dirty white low cut tennis shoes!
Will the white buck ever come back?

Mike Young Cornell ‘58 March 02, 2020

One afternoon I was walking from the gym back to Pierson when a dog started biting my dirty
white bucks. He wouldn’t stop: I had to run. I was obviously shoe and he was a resentful weenie.

Sandy Pearson '56 March 02, 2020

When I was at LSU, a pair of white bucks would only last me six months or so. My current pair is thirty years old and still look new. The secret is to never let them get wet. Hard to do on a walking campus given to rain. On the other hand, my recollection is that I only had to pay $20 a pair. I recently had a dream that I had been caught in the rain and ruined my shoes. Not to worry; it was only a bad dream, I have gotten far more use than I had ever hoped for, and I can easily afford the replacements. My motto is “style, not fashion.” White bucks are essential to my style.

William Hugh Murray March 02, 2020

Does the “Barrie Last” sizing used by Alden derive from the store in your story?

John March 02, 2020

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