History

Fifty Years of Casual Style

In 1958, the world became a little more relaxed as Elwood created the first casual shoe. Designed for young American families who were shifting from a culture of conservative uniformity to a comfortable, casual way of life, this soft, breathable and comfortable footwear invited the world to break the rules, kick back a little, and enjoy.Today, the world continues to move faster, get busier and grow louder. But Elwood reminds us that we are all free to be casual...and invites us to relax.

Becoming a Legend.
The origins of the Elwood 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.

Love at First Sight.
Elwood 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 Elwood.

From Royalty to Rock Stars.
It didn’t take long for the rest of the world to discover Elwood. Prince Phillip of Great Britain chose Elwood to wear on a 1959 visit to the United States at that same time celebrities like Warren Beatty, Perry Como and the “Rat Pack” were also wearing them.

1960’s “British Invasion” bands wore Elwood on tour. It was reported that Elwood rubber soles 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. Knocked unconscious, medics believed that the crepe soled Elwood shoes that Richards was wearing insulated him – and saved the future of rock `n roll.

A new generation also embraced the comfort of Elwood. Tye-dyed shirts, beads, bell bottom jeans, long sideburns and Elwood defined San Francisco’s “Summer of Love” in 1967. In 1974, Jimmy Buffett sang, “I’ve got my Elwood on,” and reached #3 on the charts. By 1990, Elwood became so popular that Mikail Gorbachev invited the brand to become the first American company to manufacture and sell footwear in the Soviet Union.

Inspired by Comfort.
Elwood helped the world relax... but it took a bit of work to get there. The history of Elwood 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 Elwood 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. Elwood made “worry-free” a benchmark of its shoes and its brand attitude.

A Dog’s Tale.
The search for a new “spokesbasset” ended in the late -1980’s when a plucky house pet became the new Elwood mascot to reinforce the fun, irreverence and optimism of the Elwood brand. Ads placed him in unusual situations for a basset hound but true to the Elwood casual promise... like relaxing on a hammock or cooling in front of a fan. Paying homage to Marilyn Monroe, the Elwood 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 CannesAdvertising Festival and was named one of the Top 50 TV Commercials of All Time.

Classic American Style.
After a decade of corporate conformity, the world began again to see things the Elwood 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 Elwood – the brand that “invented casual” – was there. When IBM and Ford announced “casual days,” Elwood ran full page congratulatory ads in USA Today and The Wall Street Journal.

Elwood remained casual while becoming a world wide fashion accessory. The Council of Fashion Designers in America named Elwood its 1995 Accessory Product of the Year. Elwood 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 Elwood to receive their statues. And Elwood was granted an audience with Diana, Princess of Wales, who requested a special collection of shoes.

A World of Difference.
Casual style is an idea as powerful to today’s global economy as it was when Elwood introduced it in 1958. And it is an idea Elwood shared with the world to become one of the five largest global brands of casual footwear. Elwood’ global reach began when Canada became the first Elwood international licensee in 1959. Global partners grew to include the UK in 1962, 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 Elwood. In 2006, nearly 19 million pairs of Elwood shoes were sold in 136 countries around the globe.

Elwood also found casual a home. From the first Elwood store in 1963 in the USA to today, where Elwood Australia now has 6 dedicated retail stores across VIC and NSW showcasing the full range of Elwood favourites.