Pandemic Winter Book Review: The Cobbler

I recently finished The Cobbler: How I Disrupted an Industry, Fell From Grace, and Came Back Stronger Than Ever by Steve Madden. I ran across this book on a library shelf. I was familiar with the brand and owned some of the product but I had never thought of Steve Madden as a person. This book is Steve Madden’s life story. For the most part it is an interesting read and I would recommend it.

First off, I enjoyed the conversational tone of the book. The language was very direct and blunt. Madden is from New York and this book was written the way New Yorkers tend to talk. The author did not try to be deep, woke or intellectual. Reading this story was like talking to a person in a bar.

The Cobbler is fairly short but it touches on a few different subjects. I’ll start with what the book is not. The book is not primarily about fashion, design and trends. Those things are discussed but it’s not the focus of the book so if that’s what you’re looking for this book isn’t for you.

This book touches on family ties, addiction, business, a possible personality disorder the stock market, marriage, divorce, parenthood, incarceration and social injustices. There is a lot going on which can probably be said for all of our lives.

Steve Madden’s story starts in Long Island, NY with his mother, father and two brothers. He talks a bit about his family dynamic and childhood. In his teen years he begins his career as a retail sales person in, you guessed it. A shoe store. He expanded his career in the shoe business as a young adult as a designer, manufacturer and sales representative in New York City.

Steve started his shoe company with $1,100 in 1990. The company did relatively well but he knew the company couldn’t grow without additional cash flow. Steve had a childhood friend named Danny that lent him money to to take his company private. It was a part of a scheme to flip stocks.

Danny worked with a man named Jordan who inflated and sold stocks. The deal was that Steve had to sell his stocks after they were inflated. This deal was depicted in the Leonardo DiCaprio movie Wolves of Wall Street. Steve served about two and a half years for stock manipulation, money laundering and securities fraud.

Steve Madden’s incarceration is the most interesting part of the book. If you enjoy programs like Lockup or Locked Up Abroad you may enjoy The Cobbler. Steve describes prison life and some of the characters he might while locked up. Incarceration gave Steve an understanding of inequities in society and how racist and inhumane the American prison system is.

Steve employed several people that he met while he was incarcerated. He knew that he was fortunate to have a business to return to while other inmates had no opportunities. I really appreciate the author did not get sappy and all kumbaya (which is getting on my nerves) while discussing these matters. He was very matter of fact. Steve Madden supports a non profit organization that helps ex prisoners and homeless people.

Steve got engaged in prison which was cute. He married one of his employees that was with him since the early days of his company once he was released. After his incarceration Steve Madden returned to work and his company grew and became a global juggernaut.

This is an interesting book and inspiration can be gained from it in many different ways. It’s a short read and a little slow in parts but it picks up in the middle. There are heartwarming parts of the book as well as some laugh out loud moments. Overall, would recommend it if you have the time.

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