Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Sperry Topsider, A Shoe for all Reasons

The Sperry Topsider, suddenly, is everywhere—in the pages of fashion magazines, at Barney's, on the feet of young, trendy dudes and dudettes here in New York City...

Not bad for a boat shoe that, until recently, was associated mostly with sailors, yuppies and grandpas.

Like many of the old-is-new fashion trends of recent years, the Topsider’s resurgence is fueled by a number of factors: a timeless shape, which in the Topsider’s case has changed little since the shoe was invented in 1935; perceived versatility and durability, which are less commonly attributed to unproven fashions; and, on at least some level, nostalgia and irony.

The Topsider's somewhat idiosyncratic look—loafer-ish body, with floppy leather laces and a low-profile rubber sole—is dictated by its function as a shoe for wet, slippery conditions. That makes the Topsider great for boating. But for the average, non-seafaring citizen, form and function add up to a shoe that's distinct, looks good with jeans or shorts, and lets you walk in the rain without falling on your head.

That people would choose the Topsider for nostalgic or ironic reasons, though, has more to do with preconceived notions about who would wear it. There's a certain comfort in wearing something familiar, something you remember from when you were younger. At the same time, there's ironic pleasure in reappropriating the preppy, fuddy-duddy Topsider.

Urban Outfitters, the popular clothing chain that sells thrift store styles at department store prices, began selling the shoe in 2007. Many of the store's products feed off of the same qualities that make the Topsider relevant now: a classic, sometimes quirky design, good functionality, nostalgia and irony. The national mood, it seems, is calling for products like the Topsider.

Maybe it's because technology is rapidly changing the world and we want to surround ourselves with the familiar. Or maybe it's because people just want a good, comfortable shoe.

2 comments:

bestgroceries said...

hi john - i have to say, i was a little skeptical of the re-emergence of the sperry topsider/boat shoe, but i have started to notice them more and more. the return of the tretorn is also on the rise. check out their store in soho: http://www.nitrolicious.com/blog/2008/07/11/tretorn-soho-new-york-shop-opening-july-15/.

FoxyRoxy said...

These are fabulous