Reviewed & updated: October 19, 2022 by Jamie Wilson BA
Struggling to update your wardrobe and scrap the formal shoes? Boat shoes are a great switch. Here’s the complete guide to boat shoes so you can mix up your shoe collection.
Originally used by boaters and sailors, the boat shoe has come a long way from its ocean days. You can wear them for anything. Any event, any reason, any formality. Even if you want to just nip to the shop.
And with such a range of options and brands, you’ll have a collection in no time. You can mix up the colour, the sole colour, the fabric, the laces. The possibilities are endless. And thanks to their neutral colour palette, it’s incredibly easy to style and adapt them to your wardrobe.
The Best Boat Shoes for Men
The best thing about boat shoes is that they are available in a range of colours, most abiding by the neutral rule, meaning it matches more clothes and can be worn with a variety of outfits. You probably won’t be wearing them on a boat so can mix up the sole colour with tan or even black. You can even decide on the number of lace holes, changing the whole appearance of the shoe. The best advice? Always aim for footwear/sneakers that provide you comfort.
How to Wear Boat Shoes
How to Wear Boat Shoes Formally
Boat shoes can easily be teamed with a suit and are a great alternative to the classic brogue or loafer. Just stick to a darker colour such as navy or black and you’re good to go. You can match them to any colour suit and still look formal ready.
You’ll be looking to impress on your first date but won’t want to look like you tried too hard. Pair your boat shoes with turned-up jeans, a white tee, and a shirt, and top off with a leather bomber for a chilled-out vibe. Your shoes will dress the outfit right up, bringing it back to date sophisticated. You can also opt for suede since women love to see it on you.
How to Wear Boat Shoes Casually
You’ll most probably be wearing your boat shoes in warmer weather, so sticking to that theme, why not team yours with some stone shorts and a plain white tee for the ultimate chilled vibe. You can mix up both the short and t-shirt colours and won’t have to worry about a thing as your shoes will always match them. You can even swap the tee for a shirt if you want something a bit less casual. These boots will offer breathability while being a staple in your wardrobe.
Boat Shoes with Socks
You’ve probably seen it on a hot Summer’s day when there’s that one person who insists on wearing boat shoes with socks. This gentlemen is something that you should never do. Socks with boat shoes just look wrong and you don’t know what you’re doing. However, there are a few loopholes to this – by wearing a pair of invisible socks i.e. the ones that are cut lower so they can’t be seen once a shoe is slipped on they can’t be seen. Go for floats whenever encountering wet surfaces, you will want something moisture-wicking.
Boat shoe socks are easy to get hold of as you can pick them up in most high street shops. If you really want to make sure that they aren’t seen, then take extra care in making sure the top part is cut particularly low on the foot.
The History of Boat Shoes
In the early 1930s, Paul Sperry, a passionate sailor, and boater were struggling to maintain a firm foothold on the slippery decks of his boat. An issue all sailors were dealing with. One winter day in Connecticut he took his dog, a cocker spaniel named Prince, and was amazed by Prince’s grip when running across the ice.
The traction he managed to generate on the slippery surface intrigued him and figured that it had something to do with the pads of Prince’s feet. Upon closer examination, he realised the cracks and grooves on Prince’s feet formed a herringbone-like pattern that gave him a grip. Sperry then came up with the idea of cutting similar patterns on the soles of the shoes he used while boating.
However, Sperry’s discover already had a name, as the concept of splitting or siping the sole of a shoe had already been invented and patented in 1923 by John F. Sipe. Paul used the same process and his design was successful in increasing the traction of shoes on a boat’s surface. Unfortunately, his black-soled boat shoes left marks on the boats’ deck.
Paul quickly realized that white shoe soles don’t leave any visible marks. So in 1935, he introduced the Sperry Top-Sider shoe with mid to dark-brown leather uppers and a white rubber sole, still cut in a herringbone pattern.
After this adjustment, his shoes became quite popular among sailors and boaters but remained a niche product — they wouldn’t catch on with the general public until much later. In 1939, the U.S. Navy recognised the benefit of the new shoes, and negotiated a deal to manufacture Top-Siders for its sailors. Eventually, Paul Sperry sold his business to the U.S. Rubber Company, which started to market Sperry Top-Siders throughout the U.S.
How to Wear Boat Shoes
- Boats shoes work perfectly with a formal look with a classic shirt and trousers.
- Pair with a simple raw or selvedge denim jean and a plain T-shirt for the ultimate summer casual look.
- For those warmer months, team a pair of boat shoes with some shorts and a plain T-shirt or button down for the ultimate in casual.
1. Are Crocs Considered Boat Shoes?
If you want to keep your feet dry, avoid wearing crocs. They are quite popular for the summer and beach time, but you shouldn’t wear them on luxurious trips. Most guys opt for sandals and a traditional boat shoe in this case. In the end, it comes down to your fashion and OOTD, as well as your headed event.
2. What Shoes Are Best For Boats?
Are you aiming for style or durability? When it comes to wearing cool shoes for long days or hours, it comes down to investing in high-quality kinds. For most guys an authentic original shoe is:
- Timberland classic boat shoes
- Leather boat shoe
- Polo Ralph Lauren
Nowadays, the choice is endless, and you can find a ton of different cool and authentic looks online. If you’re quite picky yourself and don’t know what to throw on your ankles, consider some of these ideas.
3. When To Wear Boat Shoes?
Although their name is boat shoes, you can still wear them however & whenever you want. The main point is that the rubber outsole is thick and durable and that your heel is comfy to walk on. Most guys prefer to wear these deck shoes for summer night-outs and when by the beach. You can wear them and pair them along with your favorite lightweight chinos when on a boat to get that luxurious vibe. Comfy, stylish & proper men’s boat shoe can look good on anyone!
On That Note
It’s crazy to think that this shoe was solely used for nautical purposes and now we can find it in almost every guy’s wardrobe (maybe even your Dad’s). They’re simple shoes, in the sense that you can just easily slip them on, and they literally suit everything because of their simple design. They’re now even seen as formal attire, which is always a plus.
The variety of colours and styles will leave you with endless possibilities, with both styling and formality. Opt for more laces if you want more casual, or a brighter shade. Stick to basics and a white sole if you’re after formal. And there you have the ultimate guide on the selection of boat shoes.