Sperry Top-Sider: Made in the USA. | A Continuous Lean.

Sperry Top-Sider: Made in the USA.

May 17th, 2013 | Categories: Footwear, Made in the USA | by Michael Williams

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I wore Sperry Top-Siders every summer on Cape Cod as a kid. (to be precise, I wore the Authentic Original which is pictured above.) Over the years I have continued to wear them and love the brand because of those great memories growing up. I love all of the associations that Top-Siders embody: preppy, summer, clam bakes, sail boats, beaches, vacations and so much more. I love that the laces won’t stay tied until you get them wet and I love the history. With all of that said, in 2004 I stopped wearing Top-Siders altogether.

That summer I needed a new pair and I went to the store to see if there were any original Top-Siders that were actually made in the USA. I knew they would cost more, but I just felt like the shoes I had been wearing didn’t age all that well, and more than that I really wanted something more authentic. After a long search I couldn’t find any Sperry Top-Siders that were made domestically. I wasn’t really surprised, but I was disappointed so I just stopped purchasing shoes from the brand.

The other day, after a long time of not even really even considering the brand as an option, I went to Sperry’s website and there it was: Sperry Top-Sider Made in Maine collection. I was pretty astonished, and pretty happy to see that the thing that I had hoped for so long ago had actually come true. I just discovered this collection the other day on the company website (oddly, this was sent to me last year but I completely missed it — maybe its because I wrote them off? Looks like the same thing happened to James Fox last year) not in a magazine and I didn’t catch any word of this other places.

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Sperry re-released the original Top-Siders in the classic colors and they are all made in Maine. I have not tried them on yet (can’t decide which color to buy, I honestly want them all), but it appears that the shoes are made from the Sperry lasts to make sure the shoes are the traditional Sperry boat shoe shape / proportion. Just looking at them in the photos you can see they look much more hand made than the imported Top-Sider. Obviously there’s a huge price difference, so I would expect to see this and expect higher quality leather. I will report back on this more when I get my pair. (If any of you have seen these in person, please report back).

When I started ACL, it was my hope that companies would at least give consumers the option to buy U.S. made versions of their products, as opposed to only offering imported goods. This is exactly what I had hoped to see and I hope people vote with their wallet and show Sperry that it has made the right decision. [SPERRY TOP-SIDER MADE IN MAINE]

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Sperry also produced this video about the Made in Maine collection. It’s a nice little video (which could have probably been cut down by about four minutes) which speaks to what went into making this collection. The factory where these shoes are produced also makes several other hand-sewn shoes that shall remain nameless, though you all would know them.

Comments: 29

29 Comments to “Sperry Top-Sider: Made in the USA.”

  1. Nat
    on May 17th, 2013
    @ 8:26 AM

    Yet another appealing Made-in-America collection not offered in my size. Not that I’m bitter or anything (I am).

  2. Mr. X
    on May 17th, 2013
    @ 8:31 AM

    I could never understand why these Made in Maine shoes cost $300 to $350 when better shoes from Oak Street Bootmakers or Rancourt cost less. Also, Collective Brands was the owner of Sperry Top-sider until last year when it was purchased by Wolverine Worldwide. The primary brand Collective Brands owned was Payless ShoeSource and you can bet that many of the cost cutting tactics used for Payless were applied to Sperry and its sisters (Keds, Saucony, and Stride Rite) such as sharing low-bid Chinese factories and possibly bulk materials purchases. I hope that Wolverine turns that around now that Sperry is no longer associated with Payless and has new stablemates Sebago and Merrell. I have some navy Authentic Originals boat shoes and a pair of AO chukkas that are both missing the qualities I would expect in a shoe at their price levels. I won’t gamble on the Made in Maine to be significantly better.

  3. Lance
    on May 17th, 2013
    @ 8:43 AM

    Michael, I received a pair of the Tan Leather 2 colorway for Christmas this past year and have been wearing them most of the spring. I have three other pair of AO (canvas, wool and leather) all Chinese made. Those shoes have seen heavy rotation because, for the reasons you mentioned, I’m a big Sperry fan. The Made in Maine pair is by far the most comfortable and best wearing. I put on my old leather AOs for the first time this year last night and I was struck how crappy they were in comparison (last summer I would have sworn they were pedi-ambrosia).

    The leather and construction on the MiMs is clearly of a higher quality and I think will break in quite nice. They are definately worth a purchase, even if the price is high. I will certainly be getting another pair. The one question I’ve been trying to figure the answer to is if they will offer any recrafting, whcih would ease that bite.

  4. Morgan
    on May 17th, 2013
    @ 8:50 AM

    I bought a navy pair of the bottom-rung, Made In Slobovia Top Siders a few months back. I loved them. For a week. Until I had constant problems with the darn insoles’ glue coming unstuck.

    Very hard for me to give these guys another shot, wherever they’re made.

    Just felt incredibly used, by a company overselling the history of the brand, and brazenly underdelivering on quality. I’m sorry, even at the $90 “cheap” price point, your kicks should hold together for longer than 168 hours.

  5. P Didddy
    on May 17th, 2013
    @ 9:05 AM

    5 shoe companies in one city! My word!

  6. Lucas
    on May 17th, 2013
    @ 9:20 AM

    With everybody throwing their name into the boat shoe hat, anybody looked at the Frye offering? Believe it’s the Sully. Can’t understand they are $150 to Sperry’s $100(offshore production too) Frye certainly has the colors and leathers to make a good competitive run, but at 50% markup? Me thinks something smells here and it’s not the bait bucket on deck….

  7. jiheison
    on May 17th, 2013
    @ 9:34 AM

    In the pictures, the “Red Leather”, “Navy Leather” and “Natural Leather” versions appear to have an additional layer of leather between the upper and the outsole.

  8. Lim
    on May 17th, 2013
    @ 10:10 AM

    Mr.X …. Totally agree. I just don’t understand why Mr. Lean would post this. The company is just taking advantage of the “Made in America” movement just like others. Support classic American Made companies not this junk.

  9. Ash
    on May 17th, 2013
    @ 10:11 AM

    Never been a huge fan of boat shoes (probably because I am never around boats) and feel embarrassed for men who wear them with trousers … but Red Wing has teamed with Rancourt and is manufacturing a hand sewn (in Maine) moccasin with boat shoe-styling that I will wear … but only with shorts.

  10. BlueTrain
    on May 17th, 2013
    @ 11:07 AM

    Well, I don’t know if Russell Moccasin makes boat shoes or not and nothing they make is either cheap or inexpensive. In any case, it’s worth a look-see.

    I often observe in conversations like that that, becaue I don’t live in Maine, it would still be an imported produce for me.

  11. Ray Hull
    on May 17th, 2013
    @ 11:10 AM

    Made in Maine is not Naugatuk, CT but you can’t have everything. What is REALLY needed is their KUDU (oiled) leather model (ca. 1970s-80s). Much more substantial in body and sole and darker brown to begin with, with much better salt-water life. They were about double the regular TS price but well worth it.

  12. Michael Williams
    on May 17th, 2013
    @ 11:47 AM

    @Lim These are made in the same place as some of the stuff Mr.X name drops. You guys don’t seem biased, you seem uninformed. Think also about companies that wholesale products and those that don’t. Okay, now think about how that affects pricing. Also, think about big companies that are selling a lot of imported goods with high profit margins (not a good thin, but it is a thing) and think about how that impacts pricing on domestic goods that are made by a contractor. Now think about pricing again.

  13. Spencer Howard
    on May 17th, 2013
    @ 11:53 AM

    Everyone that I know in Houston that has the foreign Sperry’s gets severe foot rashes requiring several visits to the doctor and months to clear up. Must be the humidity here reacting with the rubber soles. Not worth the money to try their American made unless they come with a warning label.

  14. Mike
    on May 17th, 2013
    @ 6:46 PM

    I got the MiM AO’s in classic brown last year and wore them all summer. They broke in quickly and are with domestic materials I suspect the leather is from Horween. Soles held up and they have held up much better than the overseas shoes. The last has a much more pointed toe than the overseas model. I also have some Quoddy moccasins and I rate the quality to be similar. I would like to see Sperry offer a resole service but I have no doubt that B Nelson or others will be able to resole when the time comes.

  15. Bebe
    on May 17th, 2013
    @ 8:12 PM

    MW, it’s good you found something you like. Sad to say the last time I checked them out at the local Sperry retail shop, the leather wasn’t as thick and the soles weren’t the same as the company used to sell. For “Authentic Original” I expect EXACTLY the same as the product was. Of course, I suspect most of the persons who run Sperry were born when Jimmy Carter was POTUS, so they simply don’t know how things were. The most disgusting shoe Sperry makes is the Captain’s Oxford. Definitely Made In China, the shoe’s toe box is the wrong shape, the sole is the wrong color, and the dye itself is avocado green, not the mustard-green-grey of the old shoe. The young girl at the shop actually told me that the company which made the old dye in the States went out of business. Yes, Sperry was pretty much its only customer- when Sperry stopped making the Oxford, they went out of business. So, when the company wanted to “re-issue” the shoe, they went to China, and the dye lots came out in that nasty guacamole color. Who could possibly know the Chinese would have no idea what color to use (refer to the Carter Presidency). The Sperry store I went to is in the California coastal town I grew up and is well-known for sailing, so, when I wrinkled my nose at the Oxfords, she sighed and shook her head, saying that most of the customers who were from town didn’t like the shoe either. I wear my 30-year old pair on sunny days only, but I might buy another pair and dye them the dark brown that used to be made. Good luck with your own “Authentic Original” Top-Siders.

  16. chris
    on May 18th, 2013
    @ 1:20 AM

    Sebago make an infinitely better constructed deck shoe, sadly not made in USA any longer but the quality is still there IMO

  17. Doug Richardson
    on May 18th, 2013
    @ 3:18 AM

    Like you, I grew up in Sperry topsiders. But $300 for a pair of knockaround casuals is obscene.

  18. Paddy
    on May 18th, 2013
    @ 3:56 PM

    These casual shoes are great really like the last pair with the different color laces, but I agree a bit expensive for casuals…

  19. Guy
    on May 20th, 2013
    @ 8:12 PM

    Found a pair of NOS Sebago boat shoes at an estate sale. Considering the house and the folks who lived there they were from the late 70′s, maybe early 80′s. These were the canoe style mocs, and the leather is tough, great rich color and doesn’t seem to require anything. I think the bottom part is Kudu and the tops are tanned a bit different, they are mostly a rich dark brown with variations in the leather, and they just look better with wear. Have that darker boat sole that Sebago uses and yes,they say made in USA on the box and in the inside. My main point is that whatever is being produced today can’t compare, the stitching is incredible, all wax thread, the laces are tough waxed rawhide and the insoles are full leather lined. I use to wear Topsiders and in fact I wore an old pair when I was working on my roof last week. Made in Asia and they are just junk. SIde by side they are like a bad joke. Now I look for the American made ones everywhere I go.

  20. Jared
    on May 21st, 2013
    @ 4:29 AM

    I got a pair in April for my birthday. My sister-in-law’s boyfriend works at the Sperry store in Manhattan. My wife was there to pick them out and she said the employees were pretty excited to have a pair go out the door. I guess the price point, being so different from the rest of the line, is a barrier for most of the folks going into the store.

    Being from, and living in Maine, I am pretty psyched to have a pair of these. I’m very proud of the manufacturing heritage in my home state and tell people about my Top-Siders whenever they comment on them.

  21. Aaron
    on May 21st, 2013
    @ 8:05 AM

    I like these; if only they came in my size! I spent years making do with a longer shoe to fit my width and paid for it.

    I’m surprised more companies with US factories don’t have more wide offerings – we wider-footed people are used to paying more.

  22. Grendel
    on May 21st, 2013
    @ 11:23 AM

    I think it’s hilarious that people are bitching about the quality of the new shoes made in China and the price of these that are made in the USA in the same post. If you want good quality, you pay for it. If these are made by Rancourt as said above (and they look it) then these will be of the very best quality construction and materials and will meet or exceed your expectations from the vintage made in the USA Sperry’s.

    If you want an intermediate step, I saw that Sebago has some that are made of Horween leather but made in the DR for around $125-150.

  23. Professor
    on May 24th, 2013
    @ 7:43 AM

    I doubt the price of leather, whether offshore made or U.S. made is that vastly different for the manufacturer. It’s strictly the labor costs of America vs. Asia. Now, do I think labor cost should drive the shoe to 200% markup? Hell no!

  24. C. Pivik
    on May 26th, 2013
    @ 10:35 PM

    I love your blog but the fetishizing (is that a word?) of “made in America” has become a source of consternation for me. Retailers are cashing in on people, mostly on the younger side of 40 or so, who are trying to recreate a past that is long gone.

    Paying a premium price for what were originally reasonably priced items serves an empty promise that has more to do with the damaged self regard of a generation that came of age in the shadow of Reagan and Bush the First than the reality of a truly global culture and economy that we should be embracing. Denying that the world has changed doesn’t change the fact that it has. You can’t buy the past. You should be glad it’s dead and gone.

  25. jiheison
    on May 28th, 2013
    @ 9:19 AM

    The “reality of (our) truly global culture” is, to my eyes, a reality of exploitation, manipulation and wastefulness. Change doesn’t need to be a one way street.

    Granted, if enough people like wear out $300 worth of poorly made, ill-fitting, slave-labor produced shoes over the same period that they could wear a pair of well-made, well-fitting shoes made workers who earn both a decent living and respect from their employers, then those people will have their market.

    That doesn’t mean that the rest of us can’t nurture our own market.

  26. Dirk T
    on May 28th, 2013
    @ 11:46 AM

    It is Red Wing all the way for me. I finally wised up after throwing the 12th pair of “poorly made, ill-fitting, slave-labor produced” and should I add “glued together” boots into the rubbish after they fell apart. Yeah, maybe C Pivik is on to something about “buying the past” but my pair of $250 Red Wing Heritage Men’s Handsewn Crepe Sole Moccasins and $300 Red Wing Iron Rangers not only will be with me for years to come, that money goes into the pockets of hard-working Americans who care enough to produce quality footwear.

  27. Damian Moon
    on May 28th, 2013
    @ 8:56 PM

    I believe we need to make more in the US for our economy and sell more overseas. The trend is coming!!!!!

  28. Rob stein
    on Jun 4th, 2013
    @ 6:31 PM

    Sherry is just a brand now…try some Sebagos or LL Beans!

  29. Peter
    on Jun 4th, 2013
    @ 10:22 PM

    Bottom line is more manufacturing jobs/work in the US. I can get behind that. Now, I do think the price is a little high, especially for a big company that can absorb smaller margins than, say, Quoddy or OSB.

    As a side note, I live in Paris, and Sperry/Sebago boat shoes are ridiculously popular. Even the sales clerks at APC wear them. Personally boat shoes are like seafood: the closer to the shore you are, the better…