Wolverine World Wide
Hush Puppies is an American legend. In 1958 Hush Puppies created the world’s first casual shoe, signaling the beginning of today‘s relaxed style. By utilizing supple suede in combination with lightweight crepe soles, Hush Puppies created a soft, breathable and very comfortable shoe—an innovation that would ultimately change the kind of shoes we wear. In an era when footwear choices were limited, Hush Puppies provided the world with a new alternative. A modern shoe embraced for its authentic style and casual flair.
Relaxed and classic in design, Hush Puppies has always defined what it means to be modern and casual. Today, Hush Puppies continues to innovate, bringing technical excellence and genuine style to over 120 countries.
A revolutionary idea—born fifty-two years ago—continues to inspire us today.
Hush Puppies is a division of Wolverine World Wide, the world's leading maker of casual, work, and outdoor footwear. Hush Puppies is headquartered in Rockford, Michigan.
The origins of the Hush Puppies name are decidedly low-tech. A company sales manager sat with a friend for a dinner of catfish and deep fried corn fritters called “hush puppys.” Intrigued by the name, the salesman discovered that farmers also used these hush puppys to quiet barking dogs. At the time, tired feet were known as “barking dogs” and the salesman reasoned that his soft, lightweight comfortable shoes could quiet them, too. The rest is history. The Hush Puppies trademark was registered on July 1, 1958 and soon after, the company purchased, for just $50, the photograph of a soft-eyed basset hound that would become its logo and grace millions of shoes, boxes, ads and displays.
Hush Puppies were introduced to the industry at the National Shoe Fair in Chicago in October 1957. Reaction was immediate and overwhelming. Retailers flocked to the booth, intrigued by the casual lifestyle positioning, innovative styling, brushed suede uppers and lightweight crepe soles. By mid-1959 the company had produced its first million pairs and by 1963 one-in-ten adults in the United States owned a pair of Hush Puppies.
It didn’t take long for the rest of the world to discover Hush Puppies. Celebrities like Warren Beatty, Perry Como and the “Rat Pack” found them as early as 1959. Hush Puppies became the look for the swingin’ set and were advertised on the Tonight Show with its new host, Johnny Carson.
Prince Phillip of Great Britain chose Hush Puppies to wear on a 1959 visit to the United States. (It would be another two years before Hush Puppies offered a women’s line for Queen Elizabeth.) Future US president Gerald Ford presented a pair of Hush Puppies golf shoes to President Dwight Eisenhower. And Hush Puppies was the official dress footwear of the 1960 Summer and Winter games in Rome and Innsbruck.
Hush Puppies were a hit from Capitol Hill to the Hollywood Hills and from royalty to rock `n roll. 1960’s “British Invasion” bands wore Hush Puppies on tour.
A new generation also embraced the comfort of Hush Puppies. Tye-dyed shirts, beads, bell bottom jeans, long sideburns and Hush Puppies defined San Francisco’s “Summer of Love” in 1967. In 1974, Jimmy Buffett sang, “I’ve got my Hush Puppies on,” and reached #3 on the charts. By 1990, Hush Puppies became so popular that Mikail Gorbachev invited the brand to become the first American company to manufacture and sell footwear in the Soviet Union.
Hush Puppies helped the world relax... but it took a bit of work to get there. The history of Hush Puppies is rooted in comfort innovation – from the first casual shoe with Worry-Free Suede® to the many patented technologies that make shoes more comfortable and lightweight. From the beginning, the revolutionary use of Scotchgard® leather protector, added during the tanning process, made Hush Puppies leather scuff, stain and water resistant and changed suede footwear forever. Water beaded up and rolled away, leaving feet dry and the suede soft, supple and looking like new. Hush Puppies made “worryfree” a benchmark of its shoes and its brand attitude. In the 1980’s, Hush Puppies combined “computer modeling, biomechanical design and state of the art shoe crafting” to introduce the Hush Puppies “Body Shoe®” and ushered in the walking shoe era. With dual-density soles and “memory foam” insoles, they “fit like your footprint in the sand.” Hush Puppies again helped “make walking easier” in 1990 with the introduction of Bounce® technology. Working with the Michigan State University Biomechanics Evaluation Laboratory, the patented Bounce outsole “absorbed the shock of walking impact while gently moving you forward through your step.” Bounce Technology remains a cornerstone of Hush Puppies product development.
Today, Hush Puppies continues to innovate through technological advancement. From lightweight Zero G® styles to reverse action WaveReflex® technology to the environmentally friendly Harmony™ initiative, Hush Puppies world-renowned comfort continually evolves.
The search for a new “spokesbasset” ended in the late -1980’s when a plucky house pet became the new Hush Puppies mascot to reinforce the fun, irreverence and optimism of the Hush Puppies brand. Ads placed him in unusual situations for a basset hound but true to the Hush Puppies casual promise... like relaxing on a hammock or cooling in front of a fan. Paying homage to Marilyn Monroe, the Hush Puppies basset posed on a subway grate as air from the train below blew his ears over his head. The spot won the Golden Lion award at the 1989 Cannes Advertising Festival and was named one of the Top 50 TV Commercials of All Time.
Movies from Forrest Gump to Austin Powers featured Hush Puppies product cameos. As Hush Puppies became topical, articles ran above the mastheads of major world newspapers, in magazines and on television. From 1992 through 1997, over three billion Hush Puppies consumer impressions were made.
After a decade of corporate conformity, the world began again to see things the Hush Puppies way in the mid-1990’s. A relaxing of corporate dress standards led to the creation of “casual” work days and “business casual” attire. And Hush Puppies – the brand that “invented casual” – was there. When IBM and Ford announced “casual days,” Hush Puppies ran full page congratulatory ads in USA Today and The Wall Street Journal.
Classic American style re-emerged with fashion designers interpreting the easy-going suburban sophistication of mid-century America. Tailored European design gave way to a more relaxed, casual and Western-influenced attitude. Fashion trend spotters noticed that kids in New York’s East Village were scouring thrift shops looking for classic, vintage Hush Puppies patterns.
The influential young designer, John Bartlett, asked Hush Puppies to recreate its signature classic patterns in bright, optimistic colors for his February 1995 NY Fashion Week show. Later, so many editors were seen wearing Hush Puppies that photographer Bill Cunningham featured the trend in his regular New York Times column “On The Street”.
Hush Puppies remained casual while becoming a world wide fashion accessory. The Council of Fashion Designers in America named Hush Puppies its 1995 Accessory Product of the Year. Hush Puppies was named Company and Brand of the Year in the US and UK by trade magazines. 1996 Academy Award® winners Nicholas Cage and Kevin Spacey wore Hush Puppies to receive their statues. And Hush Puppies was granted an audience with Diana, Princess of Wales, who requested a special collection of shoes.
What makes a product an icon? A powerful idea that touches the lives and imaginations of people everywhere. A compelling product that meets needs and wants. A strong identity that resonates with values and aspirations. And a vision that will allow it to grow.
Casual style is an idea as powerful to today’s global economy as it was when Hush Puppies introduced it in 1958. And it is an idea Hush Puppies shared with the world to become one of the five largest global brands of casual footwear. Hush Puppies’ global reach began when Canada became the first Hush Puppies international licensee in 1959. Global partners grew to include the UK in1962, South Africa in 1963, Australia in 1964, and Japan in 1965. By 1980, the brand was established throughout South and Central America. Year by year, country by country, the world grew more casual with Hush Puppies. In 2006, nearly 19 million pairs of Hush Puppies shoes were sold in 136 countries around the globe.
Hush Puppies also found casual a home. From the first Hush Puppies store in 1963 to today, where Hush Puppies are sold in over 365 concept stores, 654 shop-in-shops and some of the world’s best retailers like Harrods, Macy’s, and Takashimaya. The Hush Puppies family has also grown to include relaxed apparel and accessories with the same easy going style that made Hush Puppies a global icon.
Casual style. An original idea, born fifty years ago, continues to inspire the world today.