For years, sales of Hush Puppies—those sensible, squishy-soled, my-mother-made-me-buy-them clodhoppers—have been about as frisky as the company's hangdog mascot on a humid day. Now, thanks to the vagaries of fashion, the once-dweeby Puppies are making a comeback, as fans including Jim Carrey, Sharon Stone and Sylvester Stallone help bring the shoes back from Boot Hill. "The demand is out of control," says Joel Fitzpatrick, owner of Pleasure Swell, a Los Angeles boutique where Ellen DeGeneres, David Bowie and Sarah Jessica Parker pick up their Pups. "They're the shoes of the moment."
Swept along by the current nostalgia for preppiness and casual dressing, the suede footwear resurfaced last year after Tom Hanks slipped into a pair of Hush Puppies for Forrest Gump. But it wasn't until hip designers Anna Sui and John Bartlett featured them in recent shows that they became as good as Guccis—without the hefty price tag. (On average, a pair costs $70.) Now with Barney's and Bloomingdale's fighting to keep them in stock, 400,000 pairs are expected to be sold this year, nearly seven times more than last. "They're comfortable yet cool," says Hollywood stylist Phillip Bloch, whose clients include DeGeneres and Friends' Matt LeBlanc. And the old dog has some new tricks: The traditional laceups and loafers are now sold in 26 hues in addition to the original gray, taupe and black. "They have the sickest colors, like acid green and Pepto-Bismol pink—our viewers love them," says Alisa Bellettini, producer of MTV's House of Style. All of which still surprises Hush Puppies' president of wholesale, Louis Dubrow, who tried in recent years to modernize the company's styles. Said Dubrow: ."We spent millions trying to make people forget what Hush Puppies looked like."