Sperry Top-Sider is the original brand of boat shoe designed in 1935 by Paul A. Sperry, older brother of writer and illustrator Armstrong Sperry, whose books often featured a sailing theme. The Top-Siders were the first boat shoes introduced into the boating market.
Sperry was an avid boater who, like most boaters, risked injury while walking on the slippery deck of his boat. His design was inspired by his cocker spaniel, Prince. While watching Prince run across the ice on a winter's day in Connecticut, he noticed his dog's ability to maintain traction on the slippery surface. The pattern of grooves or cracks on his dog's feet gave him the idea for a canvas upper-shoe with a herringbone pattern of grooves on the sole. The cutting of grooves in the sole of the Top-Sider was an implementation of a process of splitting or siping a shoe sole invented and patented in the 1920s by John Sipe. This process was instrumental in maximizing the traction and performance of the Authentic Original Sperry Top-Sider first introduced in 1935. Sperry's shoe quickly became popular with boaters not only for its non-slip sole but also for its white color, which prevented the shoe from leaving marks on a boat's deck. The shoe remained a niche product until 1939 when the U.S. Navy negotiated the right to manufacture the shoe for its sailors. As a result of the Navy contract, Sperry's business was purchased by the U.S. Rubber Co., which then marketed the shoe across the country.
In 2012, Sperry, along with Keds, Stride Rite and Saucony, became part of Wolverine World Wide after a joint agreement with Blum Capital Partners and Golden Gate Capital acquired the Performance Lifestyle Group of Collective Brands for US$1.23 billion. This effectively makes Sperry a sister company of Sebago, their main rival.
Footwear News named Sperry Top-Sider the 2009 Brand of the Year. In the same year, Sperry opened its first five retail stores with locations in Tampa, Florida, Orlando, Florida, Boca Raton, Florida, Kansas City, Missouri and Dallas, Texas; in November 2010, the brand opened stores in Burlington, Massachusetts, Houston, Durham, North Carolina and Westchester, New York.
The athletes of Team Sperry travel around the globe and compete in prestigious competitive events in their sport. They also assist the Sperry product team to design and test performance footwear.
Sperry Top-Sider is the official footwear sponsor of the US Sailing team, the US Junior Olympic Sailing Team and the US Paralympics Sailing Team.
- R. Steele (April 2007). Boating Magazine.
- Official website
- Meet Team Sperry Sailing Athletes