29 June 2016 12:00:00
Sperry Top-Sider: Boat shoe on the boat
We talk about the bizarre way of the famous shoes – from the slaughterhouse to a long voyage
A small invention of the world-large scale
It is hard to imagine that one of the most significant inventions of the XX century was developed by a butcher from Pennsylvania John F. Sipe he always slipped on the wet floor of the slaughterhouse. Hurting himself several times he cut herringbone slits on the sole of his shoes. That’s how “siping” process appeared – cutting thing slits across a rubber surface to improve traction in wet or icy conditions. Sipe patented it but at his presence it was unsuccessful. Only in the 60’s this technology became popular when an American manufacturing tires company patented similar to siping technology to create treads.
Meet the dog, the inventor
While Sipe was walking in his new shoes with the treads his fellow American had the same problem. He also slipped on the deck of his boat and fell overboard. He was a sailor, inventor, businessman and photographer. His name was Paul A. Sperry. The idea of making special boat shoes came to his mind when he tried to get to the steering wheel during the storm. Coming back from his fantastic voyage he started the experiments to create non-slip shoes. The major contribution was made by Paul’s pet – a cocker spaniel Prince. Sperry put the dog on his knees studying its paws. He noticed grooves on it and then he tried to do the same with the sole of the shoes cutting a herringbone pattern of grooves on the sole. Top-siders were discovered. The first models were made with white sole not to leave footprints on the deck. Later, a historically known factory Commonwealth Shoe and Leather Co. offered Sperry to develop a joint model with specially tanned leather. The first flangship from this cooperation was called Authentic Original. Sperry is still manufacturing this model.
The unique sole was patented in 1937. Sperry applied to many companies but all of them refused because one sole cost $4.5 when the price of a good pair of shoes was not higher than $3.75. Then Paul offered Converse to cooperate with him that was a young shoe producer from Boston. Company agreed to supply Sperry with siping sole and after that they glued a canvas upper-shoe sending the completed product to Paul.
For a long time top-siders occupied a niche and they were in demand among sailors and yachtsmen while in 1939 Paul was awarded an offer by United States Naval Academy to produce shoes for its students. A year later Sperry sold his brand to the U.S. Rubber Сo. After that a famous designer founded several companies not connected with shoe making and dedicate the rest part of his life to the photography.
Top-siders are a classic silhouette which can be recognized by everyone – non-slip shoes with a good quality. Today boat shoes are not the part of special equipment becoming an essential item in the wardrobe of people no matter what their occupation is. Of course, some stars also appreciate them. Kanye West, Pharell Williams and Natalie Portman expressed their feeling to this brand. Now it’s your turn.
Sperry Top-SiderMen's shoes A/O 2-Eye Boat Navy
Sperry Top-SiderMen's shoes A/O 2-Eye Burnished Tan
Sperry Top-SiderMen's shoes A/O 2-Eye Tan
Sperry Top-SiderMen's shoes A/O 2-Eye Oatmeal
Sperry Top-SiderWomen's shoes A/O 2-Eye Deerskin Navy
Sperry Top-SiderWomen's shoes A/O 2-Eye Classic Brown
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