A shoe that was massively popular in the 1980s was the “Sperry Top-Sider” or “Sperrys” for short. Fashion in the 1980s wasn’t necessarily all about bright neon fashion, there was a big “preppy movement” as well.
For those who wanted that preppy look in the early to mid-80s, one of the most popular shoes you could wear were Sperry Top-Siders.
These boating shoes became a very popular form of casual wear, and they embodied the preppy look that was pervasive through the 80s.
The History Of Sperry Top-Siders
The Sperry Top-Sider was originally invented back in 1935. Paul Sperry, the creator of the shoe had been sailing when he accidentally slipped and fell off his boat. After he had pulled himself back on board his sailboat, he had decided there was a need for slip-resistant boating shoes.
As he experimented with many different designs, he eventually settled on a unique pattern that was inspired by the paws of his beloved cocker spaniel. He noticed that his dog was able to run up and down icy hills without ever slipping, and so he shaped the sole of the Sperry Top-Sider to mimic this pattern.
Top-Siders And The U.S. Naval Academy
The boat shoe became an instant success and was proven to be very adept at providing traction even out at sea. The original design came in a canvas top with a herringbone tread. Later, a leather version of the Sperry Top-Sider would also be developed.
Everything changed in 1939 when the United States Navy sought to provide the shoe as part of the Naval Academy uniform. After heavy negotiations, the increase in production meant that Sperry would have to sell the Top-Sider to the US Rubber Company. The brand would later be purchased from the US Rubber Company, along with Keds by Stride Rite in 1979.
80s Sperry Top-Siders
Realizing the potential of the Sperry Top-Sider, Stride Rite wasted no time in marketing the shoe for casual wear. By 1985, advertisements for the Top-Sider began appearing in magazines around the country.
The advertisements typically displayed young and old, wearing khakis, a polo, a sweater tied over the shoulder, and a pair of Top-Siders.
Their ads in the 80s and their ads today typically featured the affluent or “elite preppy class” which has been their target audience for decades.
By the end of the 1980s, it wasn’t uncommon for people to have multiple pairs of Sperry shoes in their collection, in a variety of different colors. The shoes were fashionable, but they were also very comfortable as well. The shoe also could be worn with anything from casual to formal fashion, again adding to its popularity.
Sperry Top-Siders And Preppy Fashion
The Sperry Top-Sider goes hand in hand with 80s preppy fashion. The rich and affluent are always associated with boats and yachts, and the Sperry Top-Sider was the shoe of choice for this community. So naturally you found Sperry Top-Siders anywhere you found wealthy people (or people at least pretending to be).
Your standard “preppy outfit” included a polo shirt (usually Lacoste), khaki pants, and a pair of Sperry Top-Siders. If you wanted to go the extra mile, you added a sweater tied around the neck for good measure.
Sperry Top-Siders were a great choice anytime for anyone looking to create that “casual but wealthy” preppy look that was so en vogue in the 1980s.
Are Sperry Top-Siders Still Popular?
Despite the preppy look of the 1980s fading by the wayside, Perry Top-Siders still remain a fashionable shoe today. Though perhaps not as much as it was back then, these shoes still can be found everywhere from the yacht club to the mall.
The design of the Sperry Top-Sider is a timeless classic, and its comfort and function make it a fashion that appears to not be going anywhere anytime soon.