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Hush Puppies

Hush Puppies is an international brand of contemporary, casual footwear for men, women and children. The shoes have been described as "the classic American brushed-suede shoes with the lightweight crepe sole".[1] A division of Wolverine Worldwide, Hush Puppies is headquartered in Rockford, Michigan. Wolverine markets or licenses the Hush Puppies name for footwear in over 120 countries throughout the world. In addition, the Hush Puppies name is licensed for non-footwear fashion categories, including clothing, eyewear and plush toys.

Hush Puppies uses a Basset Hound as its logo.

History

The Hush Puppies brand was founded in 1958 following extensive work by Wolverine to develop a practical method of pigskin tanning for the US military. (Pigskin is considered one of the most durable leathers and the government was interested in its use in gloves and other protective materials for soldiers.) Chairman Victor Krause developed the concept of a "casual" pigskin shoe to appeal to the then-growing post-war suburbia in the United States. The brand became instantly recognizable as a leisure casual staple of late 1950s and 1960s American life.

The Hush Puppies name and mascot were coined by the brand's first sales manager, James Gaylord Muir. Initially, the company's advertising agency recommended naming the product "Lasers". Then, on a selling trip to the southeastern United States, Muir dined with one of his regional salesmen and the meal included hush puppies, traditional fried southern cornballs. When Muir asked about the origin of the name, he was told that farmers threw hush puppies at the hounds to "quiet their barking dogs." Muir saw a connection to his new product. "Barking dogs" in the vernacular of the day was an idiom for sore feet. Muir surmised his new shoes were so comfortable that they could "quiet barking dogs."[2]

Hush Puppies claims that it was their rubber soles that saved the life of Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards when he accidentally touched his guitar against an ungrounded microphone at a 1965 concert in Sacramento, California. Richards was knocked unconscious, but medics believed that the crepe soled Hush Puppies shoes he was wearing insulated him and saved his life.[2]

In 1994, when sales of Hush Puppies were down to 30,000 pairs a year, and Wolverine was considering phasing out the brand, Hush Puppies suddenly became "hip" in the clubs and bars of downtown Manhattan, where young people were "buying them up" at small shoe stores.[3] In the fall of 1995, fashion designers John Bartlett, Anna Sui, and Joel Fitzpatrick began featuring them in their collections. Depending on word of mouth, Wolverine sold 430,000 pairs of the shoes, and four times that the following year.[4] Hush Puppies won the prize for best accessory at the Council of Fashion Designers awards dinner in 1996. The '90s resurgence was featured as a prominent example in Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point.[5]

References

  1. ^ Gladwell, Malcolm (2000). The tipping point: How little things can make a big difference. Boston, Mass.: Little, Brown and Company. p. 3. ISBN 0-316-34662-4.  
  2. ^ a b Hush Puppies Timeline
  3. ^ Gladwell, p. 3
  4. ^ Gladwell, p. 4
  5. ^ Gladwell, p. 3-4

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