Categories: Business and Industry, New Haven, Popular Culture, Sports and Recreation, Who Knew?

Boat Shoes Have Ties to Connecticut – Who Knew?

1938 ad for Sperry Topsider
1938 ad for Sperry Topsider

…that during a cold Connecticut winter in 1935 Paul Sperry watched his dog run across ice and snow without slipping and got inspired to create a shoe that would help human traction.

Sperry designed the Sperry Top-Sider with a herringbone pattern of grooves in the sole, reminiscent of the grooves and cracks in a dog’s paw. His shoes, launched in 1935, were a hit with boaters not only for their non-slip soles but also for the white colored material the soles were made of that did not leave marks on a boat’s deck. In 1939 the US Navy contracted for the right to manufacture the shoes for sailors and the US Rubber Company purchased Sperry’s shoe business. After the Navy contract ended, the business was bought and sold a number of times.

In the 1980s boat shoes were a ubiquitous part of the ‘preppy’ lifestyle but fell out of favor in the ‘90s. Today, the shoe has seen a resurgence in popularity and once again is a popular footwear style for folks both young and old. Sperry Top-Sider is the official footwear sponsor of the US Sailing Team, the US Junior Olympics, and the US Paralympics Sailing Team.

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Documents

Sperry, Paul A. Patent Number 117,585 - Design for a Shoe Sole. USD117585 S. New Haven, CT, issued November 14, 1939. Link.
Sperry, Paul A. Patent Number 2,206,860 - Shoe. US2206860 A. New Haven, CT, issued July 9, 1940. Link.
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