Sperry Top-Sider

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Traded asNYSEWWW
Sports equipment
Founded1935; 85 years ago (1935)
FounderPaul A. Sperry
HeadquartersWaltham, Massachusetts, United States
Area served
Key people
Tom Kennedy, Brand President Blake Kruger, CEO of Wolverine World Wide
ProductsBoating shoes
ParentWolverine World Wide

Sperry or Sperry Top-Sider is an American 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. Sperrys, or Top-Siders, were the first boat shoes introduced into the boating and footwear markets. Today the Sperry brand is owned by Wolverine World Wide and is headquartered in Waltham, Massachusetts.


While sailing on the Long Island Sound, inventor and sailor Paul A. Sperry slipped on the deck of his boat and fell overboard. He was able to pull himself back on board, but the experience drove him to develop a non-slip shoe.[1] While experimenting with possibilities for non-slip shoes, he noticed his dogs’ ability to run down the icy hill without slipping.[1] The grooves on the paws of his cocker spaniel, Prince, inspired him to try cutting grooved patterns (siping) into a natural rubber sole.[2] The pattern of grooves or cracks on his dog's paws 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 of the Authentic Original Sperry Top-Sider boat shoe, which was first introduced in 1935. Sperry's first shoe featured a white outsole, which prevented the shoe from leaving marks on a boat's deck. The Commonwealth Shoe and Leather Co. later partnered with Paul A. Sperry to design a new leather shoe design made with specially tanned leather which later became the Sperry Authentic Original boat shoe.[1]

Sperry's shoes remained a niche product for boaters until 1939 when the U.S. Navy negotiated the right to manufacture the shoe for its sailors at the United States Naval Academy.[1] As a result of this increase in production, Paul A. Sperry sold the Sperry brand to the U.S. Rubber Co. in 1940.[1] In 1979 the Stride Rite Corporation purchased both Sperry and Keds (shoes) from the U.S. Rubber Company.[3] In 2007 Payless ShoeSource acquired Sperry Top-Sider as part of a multi-brand acquisition, but the company was again acquired in 2012, along with the other brands from the Collective Brands Performance and Lifestyle Group portfolio, by Wolverine World Wide and Blum Capital Partners for US$1.23 billion.[4]

The patent application for the Paul A. Sperry's Sperry Authentic Original boat shoe.

Present day[edit]

From 2001 to 2014 Craig L. Reingold served as the Brand President of Sperry,[5] but upon Reingold's exit from the company Wolverine World Wide announced in a press release on September 15, 2015, that Rick Blackshaw, the former Brand President of Keds, would be leading Sperry as the Brand President.[6] In early 2015 Sperry President Rick Blackshaw announced that the brand had dropped the "Top-Sider" moniker from the company name as part of the footwear company's new brand campaign.[7]

In February 2017, Wolverine World Wide CEO Blake Kruger appointed Tom Kennedy, previously the President of the Apparel & Accessories group, to the position of Brand President.

From the late 2000's on Sperry's have become popular with girls and guys from kids through to adults. Kids, tweens, teens, and college students have made Sperry's fashionable as everyday wear and dress wear. A trend last popular in the 80's. It's became commonplace to see Sperry's worn with low cut or ankle socks, knee socks as part of a school uniform, and tights. Many parents wear the Sperry's right along with their kids. Also many private, religious, and public elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools that have uniform requirements allow Sperry's as a uniform shoe choice. Sperry's popularity has declined some in the late 2010's but remains a popular shoe. [8][9][10][11][12][13][14]

Retail stores[edit]

In 2009 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.

By the end of 2015 Sperry had opened 68 specialty and outlet stores in malls across the United States.[15]


US Sailing Team Sperry[edit]

Sperry is the official footwear sponsor of the US Sailing Team Sperry,[16] the US Junior Olympic Sailing Team and the US Paralympics Sailing Team.

America's Cup[edit]

In 1987, Sperry Top-Sider served as the official sponsor of the America's Cup World Series. Sperry shoes were worn by champion sailor Dennis Conner during the race.[2] Sperry served as the footwear sponsor for the America's Cup sailing tournament for several years, but later began to sponsor other sailing events.

In 2015 Sperry became the official Footwear Partner of the 35th America's Cup and the official footwear supplier for ORACLE TEAM USA.[17]

In 2016 that Sperry had also become the Official Footwear supplier of SoftBank Team Japan. Through their America's Cup partnership, Sperry announced that they would collaborate with athletes to create custom footwear to wear during the rigorous competition.[18]

The Odyssey Project[edit]

An Authentic Original boat shoe invented by Paul A. Sperry in 1935.
Black Sperry Top-Sider rubber sailing boots with white top band and razor-cut sole.

In February 2015, Sperry announced that, in celebration of their 80th anniversary, the company was going to send 80 influencers, innovators, and athletes on adventures around the world. Participating influencers would then create content and share blog posts about their journey on Sperry's website and social media channels.[19] As part of the brand's "Odysseys Await" brand campaign, Sperry encouraged consumers to explore and escape their comfort zone.[20] Odyssey Project travelers were sent on trips to New Zealand, California, Florida, Iceland, Alaska, Costa Rica, and Cuba among other destinations.[21]


In 2009 Footwear News named Sperry Top-Sider the Brand of the Year.[22]


  1. ^ a b c d e Monagan, Charles A. (2006). Connecticut Icons: 50 Symbols of the Nutmeg State. Guilford, Connecticut: Globe Pequot Press. ISBN 978-0-7627-3548-8.
  2. ^ a b "Discover Sperry's History & Current Events | Sperry". www.sperry.com. Retrieved 2015-12-21.
  3. ^ "Stride Rite Corp Facts, information, pictures | Encyclopedia.com articles about Stride Rite Corp". www.encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 2015-12-22.
  4. ^ "Wolverine Worldwide To Complete Acquisition Of Collective Brands' Performance + Lifestyle Group". www.prnewswire.com. Retrieved 2015-12-22.
  5. ^ "Wolverine World Wide switches up leadership of Keds, Sperry Top-Sider brands". MLive.com. Retrieved 2015-12-22.
  6. ^ "Wolverine Worldwide Names Rick Blackshaw President of Sperry Top-Sider and Chris Lindner President of Keds". www.prnewswire.com. Retrieved 2015-12-21.
  7. ^ "Sperry Prez Rick Blackshaw Talks New Brand Identity". Footwear News. 2015-02-19. Retrieved 2015-10-13.
  8. ^ https://newspaper.neisd.net/johnson/2013/10/27/sensational-sperrys-a-longtime-trend/
  9. ^ https://www.today.com/style/back-school-outfit-ideas-elementary-middle-high-school-t115055
  10. ^ https://www.famousfootwear.com/en-US/Product/18669-1039117/Sperry/Linen_Oat/Kids+Shoresider+Boat+Shoe+Pre_Grade+School.aspx
  11. ^ https://www.society19.com/shoes-that-represent-each-college-major-at-ball-state-university/
  12. ^ https://www.amazon.com/Sperry-Lanyard-Boat-Shoe-Little/dp/B008JXNR00?ref_=fsclp_pl_dp_1&th=1
  13. ^ https://www.amazon.com/product-reviews/B000EPCQA8/ref=cm_cr_getr_d_paging_btm_next_4?ie=UTF8&filterByStar=five_star&reviewerType=all_reviews&pageNumber=4#reviews-filter-bar
  14. ^ https://scotscoop.com/as-shoe-styles-vary-its-time-for-the-sperry/
  15. ^ "Find a Store | Sperry". www.sperry.com. Retrieved 2015-12-21.
  16. ^ Potkewitz, Hilary (10 May 2016). "San Diego Sailor Trains for His First Olympics". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 22 May 2016.
  17. ^ "SPERRY® AND THE AMERICA'S CUP ANNOUNCE NEW PARTNERSHIP". Multivu. Retrieved 2015-12-21.
  18. ^ Schneider-Levy, Barbara (2016-02-19). "Sperry Official Footwear Of SoftBank Team Japan for 35th America's Cup". Footwear News. Retrieved 2016-12-08.
  19. ^ "Sperry Goes Back to Basics With a Campaign for Adventurous Millennials". AdWeek. Retrieved 2015-11-19.
  20. ^ "Wolverine Worldwide's new $18M Sperry campaign targets adventurous Millennials". MLive.com. Retrieved 2015-12-21.
  21. ^ "The Odyssey Project". odyssey.sperry.com. Retrieved 2015-12-22.
  22. ^ Ernst Beaudry, Jennifer (November 30, 2009). "Brand of the Year: Sperry Top-Sider". Retrieved February 12, 2012.

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