Shoe executive Steve Madden’s memoir is not the first expose about a successful guy who came back from the depths of addiction. Nor is he the only one to rise from an unstable childhood and undiagnosed learning disability. Nor the first to serve time for white collar crime, portrayed in the blockbuster movie “The Wolf of Wall Street.” He is certainly not the first to resurface as a fashion genius. He may indeed be the first to have experienced all of the above and more.
The 12 chapters of “The Cobbler” are cleverly labeled for shoe parts such as Outsole, Vamp, Heel, Throat, Upper, Shank, which have practical, yet esoteric definitions that may or may not relate to the subject matter. There are the photos of Madden with celebs Cardi B (Atlanta’s new resident), Katy Perry, and the Jenner girls with him at Nordstrom, and him cleaning the first Steve Madden store in 1993.
“The Cobbler” is a good read, mostly because you can hear Madden’s voice as if he was in the same room. Pain, triumph, pain, triumph. Self-discovery, Jewish drive.
Best of all, even in childhood, Madden was a team player deferring credit to others with no ulterior motive. Even in prison, he strove to help fellow inmates and realized how fortunate he was to have a job awaiting his release.
He recently shared with the AJT some off-the-cuff observations.
AJT: What advice would you give to addicts?
Madden: Alcoholism is a disease. It’s not your fault; try to get help.
AJT: You are credited with a “unique business perspective.” How does that compute?
Madden: It doesn’t; you have to show up every day and do the best you can. Work hard. Choose partners smartly. Adapt to new circumstances. Evolve.
AJT: What’s the best advice you have given to your own three children?
Madden: Brush after eating.
AJT: You came from an interfaith household. What parts of Judaism do you carry?
Madden: My grandparents lived with me for years when I was 13. I learned to speak some Yiddish. Everyone says I have shpilkas! [impatience]
AJT: What are future fashion trends?
Madden: I believe we will have a real dress up run. People will be getting over the pandemic and putting on their party shoes.
AJT: Any thoughts about Atlanta?
Madden: I’ve been to big shoe shows there. Once this is over, I’ll be there to see you all.
Madden appeared virtually in the fall lineup of the Book Festival of the MJCCA at 8 p.m. on Oct. 15.