For anyone who’s purchased and worn a pair of Hush Puppies shoes, chances are that you did so without much thought to the name; it’s just a staple in North American culture, and has been so since the 1950s. But when you stop to think about it for a minute, it is actually kind of bizzare. Why are these popular leather shoes named after a phrase that probably should have a comma in the middle, and probably should be referred to as a verb rather than a noun?
To understand the story, you must first know a little about the cuisine of the southern United States. Another meaning for the phrase Hush Puppy is a cornmeal-based ball-shaped snack popular as a side dish at seafood restaurants in the USA. They gained their name due to the various situations in which they were used to subdue angry barking dogs, such as by slaves escaping their owners or in the Civil War by Union soldiers wanting to subdue the barking of Confederate dogs.
The other important piece of background information is to do with the phrase ‘barking dogs’. Whereas to us nowadays it mostly only has its face meaning, in the 50’s, ‘barking dogs’ also was taken to mean sore, aching feet.
So where does this leave us with the connection between ‘Hush Puppies’ and leather shoes?
In 1958 when Hush Puppies were just being introduced, brand sales manager James Gaylord Muir had gone to visit one of his sales representatives in the southeastern United States and discuss the new product with him. During a dinner together, one side dish included in their meal was Hush Puppies, the deep-fried cornmeal-based snack. Upon inquiring about the origin of the name of the snack, Muir made the connection to his new leather shoes, and stated that they were so comfortable, they could ‘quiet barking dogs’.
Hush Puppies went on to be one of the most singularly popular shoes in North America, and some say their rubber soles even saved the life of Keith Richards, the guitarist of the Rolling Stones who was electrocuted by an ungrounded microphone at a concert. If you want a pair of comfortable shoes with protective soles and a lot of history, consider Hush Puppies Shoes for Men.