Sperry Top-Sider

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Sports equipment
Founded1935; 86 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.


Sperry's 1937 patent application for what became a new category of footwear, the boat shoe

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 for boating.[1] While experimenting, he noticed his cocker spaniel's ability to run down an icy hill without slipping.[1] Examining its paws, he noticed traction-enhancing grooves - which he sought to mimic by cutting a pattern of them into a natural rubber sole utilizing a process known as siping.[2]

The Sperry "Top-Sider" boat shoe that was introduced in 1935[citation needed] featured a canvas upper, herringbone siping, and a white outsole to prevent the shoe from leaving dark scuff marks on a boat's deck. The Commonwealth Shoe and Leather Co. later partnered with Sperry on a design using specially tanned water-resistant leather, which became the familiar Sperry "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 increased production, Sperry sold the brand to the U.S. Rubber Co. in 1940.[1] In 1979 the Stride Rite Corporation purchased both Sperry and Keds (shoes) from U.S. Rubber.[3] In 2007 Payless ShoeSource acquired Sperry Top-Sider as part of a multi-brand acquisition. The company was purchased, along with the other brands from the Collective Brands Performance and Lifestyle Group portfolio, in 2012 by Wolverine World Wide and Blum Capital Partners for US$1.23 billion.[4]

Present day[edit]

Black Sperry Top-Sider rubber sailing boots with white top band and razor-cut sole

In 2009 Footwear News named Sperry Top-Sider the Brand of the Year.[5]

In early 2015 Sperry announced that the brand had dropped the defining trait "Top-Sider" name from the company as part of the footwear company's new brand campaign.[6] By the end of 2015 Sperry had opened 68 specialty and outlet stores in malls across the United States.[7]


US Sailing Team Sperry[edit]

The modern take on a much different shoe invented by Paul A. Sperry in 1935

Sperry is the official footwear sponsor of the US Sailing Team Sperry,[8] 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.[9]

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.[10]


  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. ^ Ernst Beaudry, Jennifer (November 30, 2009). "Brand of the Year: Sperry Top-Sider". Retrieved February 12, 2012.
  6. ^ "Sperry Prez Rick Blackshaw Talks New Brand Identity". Footwear News. 2015-02-19. Retrieved 2015-10-13.
  7. ^ "Find a Store | Sperry". www.sperry.com. Retrieved 2015-12-21.
  8. ^ Potkewitz, Hilary (10 May 2016). "San Diego Sailor Trains for His First Olympics". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 22 May 2016.
  9. ^ "SPERRY® AND THE AMERICA'S CUP ANNOUNCE NEW PARTNERSHIP". Multivu. Retrieved 2015-12-21.
  10. ^ Schneider-Levy, Barbara (2016-02-19). "Sperry Official Footwear Of SoftBank Team Japan for 35th America's Cup". Footwear News. Retrieved 2016-12-08.

External links[edit]