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PENNY POWER
(Published: 2008-08-25)

The dollar may be on a downward slide, but in true Trend/Countertrend fashion, pennies are trending upwards. Some would say that the penny is practically worthless. Did you know that there is proposed legislation afoot to replace our copper penny with a copper-plated steel penny? That’s because each copper penny costs 1.7 cents to make, meaning that today’s penny actually costs more to make than it’s worth. (Does that qualify as a paradox?)

This fall, fashion trends take the lowly penny to new heights. If designers have their way, fashionistas and traditionalists alike will be sporting pennies on their feet, their handbags, and around their necks. Cole Haan just introduced a line of limited edition penny loafers for fall. Each pair is handsewn by craftsmen, stamped with a Cole Haan logo, then finished with an authentic 1928-issued penny in the keeper.

The company also commissioned Bing Bang’s Anna Sheffield to create a signature jewelry collection to commemorate their 80-year milestone. She designed a special “keepsake coin” to be worn in Cole Haan’s new high heel patent leather loafer collection. Versions of the coin are also used in several styles of multi pendant necklaces and as charms on their moccasin-inspired handbags. They are also advertising classic patent penny loafers in bright fall colors (see photo.)

A lot of shoe companies are looking to capitalize on the trend currency of the penny this year. A recent fashion spread in Elle Magazine featured versions of high heel patent penny loafers from Christian Louboutin, Yves Saint Laurent, Tods, Cole Haan and Nine West in colors ranging from purple and berry to teal and taupe. Prices ran the gamut from $99 all the way up to $1,050.

This trend inspired me to research the origins of the penny loafer. Wikipedia says that in the late 1920’s, Esquire, a leading men’s fashion and lifestyle magazine of the era, photographed dairy farmers in Norway wearing slip-on shoes around the cattle loafing area (i.e. where dairy cows gather to await milking--hence the term ‘loafers.’) Over the next several years, enterprising shoe manufacturers in the U.S. took the concept and translated it into a fashion icon. In 1934 John R. Bass, a bootmaker in Wilton, Maine started making loafers and called them Weejuns (meant to sound like “Norwegian.”)

Office Max is looking to cash in on the penny trend in a different way this back-to-school season. They’re out to prove that the penny is still worth something. They created a clever set of ads called penny pranks. In one, a man with a hidden camera tries to buy a $4,000 engagement ring with a suitcase full of pennies. The indignant sales clerk implies that “pennies aren’t real money.” In order to show that you can go back-to-school for pennies, Office Max is offering weekly one cent bargains, such as a small bottle of Elmer’s Glue or a set of Bic ballpoint pens. Besides selling a lot of back-to-school supplies, Office Max garnered a lot of free publicity. At last count, “officemax penny pranks” turned up over 27,900 pages on Google, and the videos were ranked tops for the month of August on You Tube.

That’s my 2 cents worth on this trend, and I won’t even charge you a penny for my thoughts.



Lucky penny.


Cole Haan's patent penny loafer.



Robyn Waters is president and founder of RW Trend, LLC. She is the author of The Trendmaster’s Guide: Get a Jump on What Your Customer Wants Next, and The Hummer and the Mini: Navigating the Contradictions of the New Trend Landscape. Learn more about Robyn at www.rwtrend.com. All Rights Reserved.


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