[Rob Burden, Sperry Top-Sider ambassador and purveyor of all things unassumingly cool.]
So, I had to take the rudder on this post.
You see, Rob is still somewhat new to the Sperry phenomenon, and I consider myself the kindly steward. Now, Rob won’t wear anything he doesn’t like—he wanted these all on his own—but I like to think I showed him the light. I am, after all, a Wodehouse, and we’re a family of Sperry devotees. And as Sperry celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, we’re proud to be a part of what I consider to be an elite tradition.
Before Sperry’s ’07 collaboration with Band of Outsiders and later work with J.Crew and Modern Amusement, there were whole other generations making Top-Siders the best-selling men’s shoe in US department stores.
Beginning with my brother, avid sportsman, one-time model, and fisher of the flats, Charlie:
When we were interviewed for BeautifulStranger.tv, Rob was asked what his Spring must-have was: “Sperry Top-Siders?” he answered, and, inadvertently, his own Sperry story began. Although Rob doesn’t have the boating background I do, the way he loves and wears his pair is all his own—sometimes it’s with a vintage t-shirt, aviators, and jeans; other times it’s with a classic gingham shirt, Wayfarers, and khakis. But at the heart of why he chose them is the same reason people have been buying them for years.
[Sperry’s Men’s Authentic Original Canvas Boat Shoe in Navy, courtesy of the fine folks at Sperry.]
Rob’s not into form; he’s more into function, although he does appreciate the former. You could say this is the basis of the Sperry love affair [before a zillion of us watched this video and found a shiny new reason to love preppy chic]. And Sperry has been outfitting generations of complete badasses who needed shoes that would carry them through their well-bred adventures—from offshore squalls to country club wedding receptions—with efficiency and class. And all without leaving any scuff marks.
My entire family wore them, and they became a sort of uniform that began and ended on our Mako flats fishing boat, but went everywhere else in between.
[Clockwise: my mom in the Bahamas, my dad and me on the Ponte Vedra Club golfcourse, and my godmother Trish lording over Neptune and his many subjects with sea-sprayed golden locks, a fishing rod, and a pair of Top-Siders.]
When our families fused, Rob was unknowingly ushered into a grand tradition of Topsider-wearing men. Does it sound like I’m taking this a little too far? Because I promise I’m not…
My dad don’t doesn’t have much to say in the way of fashion, but when I mentioned this post to him over the phone while I was stirring myself some grog, he burst out laughing. Turns out, back at the University of Virginia in the early 70s, high up above Mad Bowl, Sperry’s were the ticket.
During Rush at St. Elmo Hall, the guys who had on an old, beat-up pair of Top-Siders were the guys who got through to the next round. Didn’t matter where you were from, how smart you were, who your family was, or how much money you had—if you had on a pair of Top-Siders, you were alright.
My dad and his buds wore them year-round—in the snow and sun—but never with socks. In fact, he still does—with sportcoats and tortoiseshell glasses.
[Rob paying homage to Sperry’s Charlottesvillian heritage.]
To me, the beauty of a man in Sperry’s is an impression that’s stuck with me for a lifetime: one of a man who’s been somewhere—an adventurer—someone who hasn’t seen his last journey, and is ready to go at a moment’s notice.
You can only hope that he will take you with him.
[Three of my favorite people: my godfather Barry, his brother D.G., and my dad—all sporting Sperry’s.]
“Captain, do I have permission to come aboard?”
“In those shoes, you do.”
-Carey + Rob