Meet Our Crew: Happy Birthday Paul Sperry

Meet the man behind the original boat shoe.

December 4, 2017
in Since 1935

December 4th marks Paul Sperry’s birthday, so we’re celebrating him this week in our Meet Our Crew Monday series. Born in 1895 (happy 122nd!), Paul Sperry was comfortable on more than just a boat. Motorcyclist, photographer, businessman and entrepreneur — the man was passionate. And unafraid to experiment.

Paul Sperry Sailing

Paul Sperry was curious and relentless – a driven and capable man who was excited about the world and the people he shared it with.


Kicked out of Dartmouth after a year, Sperry lived life spontaneously and found ways to embrace the unexpected and defy convention. He was excited about the world around him and brought a contagious spirit to everything that came his way. Strong sea legs ran in his family, so he made the most of it in the naval reserve. He later opened a print shop and also produced duck decoys (some of the first!) in the early 1920s. From printmaking to hunting, sailing to skiing, Sperry explored with gusto. He knew how to live.


Paul Sperry CVO

A Sperry ad from the archives featuring one of Paul Sperry’s original icons – the CVO.

How did Sperry’s iconic boat shoe come to be? One day while out sailing, he fell overboard. After his fall, Sperry noticed that his dog, Prince, never lost his footing, even when running on ice. That was his lightbulb moment. Cutting patterned grooves, modeled after the texture he saw on Prince’s footpads, into rubber shoe soles (what we now call Wave SipingTM), Sperry developed the world’s first non-slip boat shoe. It’s also known as the “Authentic/Original” we now all know and love.


While we’re all carving our own legacies, Paul Sperry’s spirit inspires us to be fearless, to create, and to embrace the sometimes twisty path ideas (and life) take us down. The boat shoes he invented always keep us grounded on and off the water. They’re something we can count on. So, here’s to you, Paul. Happy birthday.

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