Maddman, the new documentary directed by Ben Patterson, asks the question, “Who the fuck is Steve Madden?” Steve Madden is lots of things: a Bruce Willis lookalike, a 31-month prison inmate, and designer of trendy footwear that you’ve had in your closet at one point or another.
The documentary explores all of this and more — and is now available for purchase on iTunes. Below, five things you may not know about the 60-year-old designer.
1 . This shoe defined the ’90s
Steve Madden’s platform slide, the Slinky, could be heard thwacking across pavement all around America in the ‘90s – pair it with a choker and piece-y, gelled hair flyaways and you were set. Celebrities from Britney Spears to the Spice Girls popularized the platform and made the rest of us lust after them with a vengeance. Last spring, much to the joy of nostalgic millennials, Steve Madden brought the stretchy, floppy, and surprisingly heavy platform back.
- Steve Madden going to prison
One thing you might not know about Steve Madden is that he spent some time in prison. His childhood friend from Long Island, Danny Porush, was one of the founders of Stratton Oakmont, the same Stratton Oakmont popularized in The Wolf of Wall Street. He needed cash to grow his label and ended up manipulating the 1993 IPO of his company along with Porush and Jordan Belfort. He ended up spending 31 months of a 41-month prison sentence because he refused to testify against his friends.
- Steve Madden in The Wolf of Wall Street aka “Steeeeeve Maddennnnn” – Jonah Hill
In a truly defining moment for Scorcese’s Wolf of Wall Street, Jonah Hill, high on Quaaludes, slurs “Steeeeeeeeve Maaaaaadden!” to Leo DiCaprio as Leo pinches his cheeks. DiCaprio, aka Jordan Belfort, tells a room full of rabid stockbrokers to “ram Steve Madden stock down your clients’ throats till they fucking choke on it.” As The Cut notes, in real life, they made $22 million in three hours.
- Steve Madden’s Mary Lou shoe
“With only $1,100 in the bank, Madden designed a Western clog called the Marilyn,” wrote Johanna Berkman in New York magazine’s 2001 profile. “He used credit to have 500 pairs manufactured and charm to convince his doorman to pose as his chauffeur while he sold samples from the trunk of his car.” That was the beginning. The Madden explosion is thanks to the Mary Lou, a patent-leather Mary Jane that was a rounded bump toe (“I started getting calls from mothers all over the tri-state area,” Madden told Berkman.) The style is so ubiquitous (and so ‘90s) but they’re hard to track down these days. A few photos bounce around the internet, but they seem to have faded mostly into obscurity now.
- Steve Madden democratized trendy footwear
Before Madden, it was hard to find affordable footwear that was also hip. In Maddman, former Sassy fashion editor Andrea Lee Linett says, “Steve Madden was the first person to democratize on-trend shoes.” If you’re like me and have rarely spent over $150 for a pair of shoes, Steve Madden is/was your life force. Sometimes cute, sometimes sexy, pretty much always chunky — Madden may not be a Louboutin or Manolo, but he’s a designer of the people.