A mainstay of the preppy wardrobe was invented in New Haven

Yesterday marked the 83rd anniversary of the patenting of the Sperry Top-Sider boat shoe. Hey fellow preppies from Connecticut, did you know a man from New Haven invented them?

I didn’t go to a former private school in Connecticut, I’m a Holy Cross-Waterbury alumnus, but my fashion choices were absolutely influenced by students from Taft, Hotchkiss, Kent, Salisbury, The Frederick Gunn School and Choate. The preppy subculture was born here in the Northeast, nurtured in our prep schools, then cemented into pop culture via Yale and the Ivy League.

I bought my first pair of Sperry Top-Siders in high school in the mid-80s. The preppy look wasn’t complete unless I had a pair of boat shoes and, for some reason, a piece of knotted leather. around the ankle. Yeah I did, I needed those boat shoes to stop slipping on the banks of the Naugatuck River.

I was years today when I found out that the Sperry in Sperry Top-Siders was Paul A. Sperry from New Haven, and he went to Taft in Watertown. Sperry invented the Top-Sider boat shoe out of frustration after falling off the slippery deck of his boat in Long Island Sound. He took a closer look at his dog’s paws and designed a non-slip sole with help from Converse. Sperry received a U.S. patent for his design on November 14, 1939. The following year, Sperry sold his design to the United States Rubber Company, and its Sperry Top-Siders went global.

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