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|Owner||Wolverine World Wide|
Hush Puppies is an American internationally marketed brand of contemporary, casual footwear for men, women and children. The shoes have been described as "the classic American brushed-suede shoes with the lightweight crepe sole". A division of Wolverine World Wide, Hush Puppies is headquartered in Rockford, Michigan. Wolverine markets and completely licenses the Hush Puppies name for footwear in over 120 countries throughout the world.
The Hush Puppies brand was founded in 1958 following extensive work by Wolverine to develop a practical method of pigskin tanning for the US military. (Pigskin is considered one of the most durable leathers and the government was interested in its use in gloves and other protective materials for soldiers.) According to The Tipping Point by journalist Malcolm Gladwell, in 1994 when sales of Hush Puppies were down to 30,000 pairs a year, Hush Puppies suddenly became "hip" in the clubs and bars of downtown Manhattan where young people were "buying them up" at small shoe stores. In the fall of 1995, fashion designers John Bartlett, Anna Sui, and Joel Fitzpatrick began featuring them in their collections. Depending on word of mouth, Wolverine sold 430,000 pairs of the shoes, and four times that the following year. Hush Puppies won the prize for best accessory at the Council of Fashion Designers awards dinner in 1996.
Wolverine company history details this as (from 1994): 'Taking a cue from fashion designer John Bartlett, men's footwear General Manager Owen S. Baxter revived 1950s-era styles such as the "Wayne" (née Duke) oxford and "Earl" slip-on, offering the waterproof suede shoes in a rainbow of new colors such as Pepto-Bismol pink and Day-Glo green. Both Bartlett and designer Anna Sui featured the shoes in their 1995 collections. Hush Puppies soon began to turn up on the famous feet of stars such as Princess Diana, Jim Carrey, Sharon Stone, David Bowie, Tom Hanks, Dennis Rodman and Sylvester Stallone. Hush Puppies also benefited from the trend toward dressing-down at work, filling the fashion gap between tennis shoes and dress shoes. Wolverine sent videotapes with tips for casual dressing at work to 200 businesses throughout the United States. The company revived the "We invented casual" tagline that had launched Hush Puppies in 1958. By 1995, tony stores such as Barneys in New York and Pleasure Swell in California struggled to keep the shoes in stock.' In providing evidence of the sales increase being due to internal changes, this source continues: 'In 1996 [Geoffrey] Bloom was rewarded for his remarkable turnaround achievement by being named chairman.'
Wolverine company public reports for early 1994 detail vastly improved sales with 'Net earnings for the 16 weeks ended January 1, 1994 increased to $7.7 million, or $1.08 per share, compared to a loss of $571,000, or $0.08 per share, for the respective quarter of 1992.' The reports go on to mention Hush Puppies' contribution: 'This Hush Puppies Division reported significantly higher earnings'; 'The repositioning of our Hush Puppies brand and maximizing the continuing growth of our Wolverine Work and Outdoor Group will continue to lead the Company's earnings growth during 1994'; and 'The turnaround is behind us.'
- Gladwell, Malcolm (2000). The Tipping Point: How little things can make a big difference. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. p. 3. ISBN 0-316-34662-4.
- Gladwell, p. 3
- Gladwell, p. 4
- Gladwell, Malcolm (2006). The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 978-0-7595-7473-1. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
- Official website—Hush Puppies.com
- Spokane Daily Chronicle—late 1960s newspaper ad for Bozos oxfords - 1968-11-14 - p. 43