Monday, May 25, 2009

The Magic Boat Shoes

Your eyes crossing at the idea of magical boat shoes? Ah, but you don't have the pair I do ...they're khaki suede with a moccasin toe and white rope bow.

Boat shoes are the epitome of East Coast preppy dressing to me. Their aura is ivy-covered university walls, the beaches of Montauk, the rocky coast of Maine ... of yachts, sails snapping in the winds off of Connecticut ... casual lobster barbecues on the club patio..

When I slide into my boat shoes, the old fat lady (me) disappears. In her stead is a taller, leaner woman wearing a navy and white French sailor's tee, chino calf-length pants; one arm looped casually around the main mast of a 38 ft. sailboat, blonde hair being tossed insouciantly by the breeze. I'm toasting the waves with a glass of champagne. Admiring males are roaring at my bon mots ... it's a very pleasant world that I enter every time I put on my magic boat shoes.

And their history is, you ask? A guy named Paul Sperry was out with his cocker spaniel "Prince" one nasty winter day in 1935. He noticed that the dog ran easily over the frozen muck and slick spots of ice. He wondered why, but by the time they got home again he'd figured it out -- the dog's paws gave him traction. He sat himself down with an old pair of sneakers, bits of leather and a razor blade. He used the blade to cut grooves in the rubber sole (for traction on wet decks.) He oiled the leather uppers (to make them water resistant.) He marketed the finished product as "Sperry Top Siders" which is still the leading brand for boat shoes. Indeed, boat shoes are part of the U.S. Naval Academy's casual uniform.

But I bought the magic pair. And they were on sale! How magical is that?

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