Sperry History 101


The Topsider motto is “a passion for the sea.”

The preppy footwear staple has evolved over time from functional boat shoes meant for serious sailors to the casual street footwear of summer- and fall/spring too! From classic boat shoes to wedges, to boots and performance athletic gear, the Sperry brand has always been a symbol of American prepdom.

The history of Sperry’s is appropriately classic. Paul Sperry, an avid sailor, found himself slipping and sliding all over the deck of his boat when one winter he noticed that his Cocker Spaniel, Prince, ran across the ice with no traction problems. Sperry examined Prince’s paws and found the pattern of grooves and cracks inspirational, and applied similar patterns to the soles of his shoes. The first pair of Sperry Topsiders was released in 1935, and became popular with boaters not just because of the traction it offered them on deck, but also because the white sole didn’t leave scuff marks on their boats. The company soon began to grow and quickly caught the attention of the U.S. Navy, who in 1939 negotiated the rights to manufacture the shoe for their sailors. Paul Sperry’s small company was purchased by U.S. Rubber CO., and demand and manufacturing exploded. Now that’s my kind of start up.

Obviously, Sperry’s are not just reserved for the nautically inclined. Today they’re everywhere- on college campuses, working young professionals, and even on babies! Yes, baby Sperrys exist. They’ve become a staple in casual dress for the preppy crowd. But the question remains: how the heck do you tie those tricky leather laces on your classic Topsiders?

Here, our three most common ways to tie the Sperry knot. And how appropriate, considering we know how sailor’s know their knots:

The Barrel/Eastland Knot: The classic sailor approach to tying these shoes, the barrel knot only gets tighter over time as the leather softens and molds together. The knot looks trickier than it actually takes to tie…here are some simple directions on how to do it!

The Classic Bow: Unless you’re still wearing velcro sneakers, we’ve all learned how to tie this knot. The trick with Sperrys is to get the leather laces wet before you tie, so that the material will bend and tie more easily. Don’t forget to double knot!

Lace-less: If you’re concerned about the excess lace getting in the way, many people opt to de-lace their shoes all together. If they fit correctly, unlaced Sperrys should give you a functional slip-on shoe without sacrificing your ability to walk properly. Running not recommended.

Whether you opt for the classic brown leather, the daring metallic, or perhaps a pleasing plaid, Sperry’s go with everything. A pair of skinny jeans, a summer sundress, or just the right attitude! Tell us, how do you rock your Sperry’s?


  • Share on:

1 Comment