Because of their name, you might think that boat shoes are simply for boating. However, there are countless looks, styles, and occasions where the boat shoe can be worn. From shorts to trousers, take a look at our definitive guide on how to wear the staple shoe.
With its short lace variations, rubber sole and tight stitching details, boat shoes have gained worldwide popularity with its unique and striking design. Being both presentable and sophisticated, this shoe offers the support and comfort of a trainer, while displaying a mature look to any outfit. The boat shoe can merge itself into various styles depending on what you match it with. Go for a casual look with shorts and a T-shirt, or something more formal with chinos and an Oxford shirt. This is a versatile shoe, so you can easily make it work in a number of ways depending on your personal style.
So what actually is the boat shoe? Well, the boat shoe, also known as the deck shoe, comprises of a soft rubber sole to perfectly support the foot. There’s simple lacing crisscrossing across the top of the shoe, with it then looping around the sides to create a decorative and unique addition to the design. These shoes are mainly made of either canvas or leather depending on the brand and style of the boat shoe. Canvas shoes are ideal for warmer weathers, whereas leather designs can be merged with a smarter casual outfit to create an alternative look.
Choosing Your Perfect Boat Shoe
Looking for the right pair of boat shoes can feel impossible at times, but luckily for you we’ve created a guide to help you find the perfect pair. There are four main factors to consider when choosing your boat shoe: the style, fit, colour and the material. So to start, let’s begin with the style. You can have chunky ones, thinner designs, ones that have a gripped sole or ones with a smooth rubber heel so the choice is entirely up to you and your personal style. When it comes to the fit, this is probably the most important aspect as comfort is key. With the shoes standard rubber sole and easy slip on shape, the boat shoe sometimes isn’t always so easy on the foot. With the rubber feeling stiff and the slip on design rubbing on your heel, you need to fit to be perfect. A few things to remember when picking out your boat shoes:
- Make sure there’s half an inch of space between your big toe and the top of the shoe when you’re standing up.
- The ball of your foot should fit neatly into the widest part of the shoe.
- Have a quick walk around when you first try on the shoe to see if there’s any gaps or tightness.
- The back of the shoe shouldn’t move around when you’re walking as this can cause blisters.
Finally, we come to the colour. Boat shoes come in a wide range of colours and variations from neutrals to navy, black, brown and nude. You can also get them in bright, vibrant colours and patterns, although these probably aren’t going to be the most timeless shoe in your wardrobe. Finally we come to the decision about the material. Do you want leather or canvas? If you want chunky then go for leather, if you want lighter shoes then canvas will be best. It’s as simple as that!
What are the Best Boat Shoes?
Brown Boat Shoes
Brown boat shoes are definitely one of the more popular styles when it comes to men’s deck shoes. They’re so widely in demand that there’s a pair for every pocket. For that reason, finding a cheap pair of men’s boat shoes will never be a problem. The reason why brown is such a popular colour is due to its ability to be worn with near enough every outfit. Whether you’re in navy, tan or even brown, the brown boat shoe will go. It’s also easy to wear both casually and smart, meaning it’s a great investment piece.
Navy Blue Boat Shoes
Boat shoes in navy blue are extremely versatile and just about go with most colours and pieces of clothing. However, they’re probably at their best when paired with light colours such as grey or a dusky burgundy. They’re also perfect if you want to achieve the full sailor look. To do that, all you need is a pair of navy chino shorts and a navy and white stripe T-shirt – an easy, quick summer outfit that’ll keep you cool and stylish.
Break Your Boat Shoes In
Now that you’ve chosen a pair of boat shoes, it is vital to break them in because you don’t want to find yourself with massive blisters every time you whip them out. Plus once they’ve been broken in you can wear them anytime with maximum comfort. So to break in your boat shoes, slowly work yourself into wearing them for a small amount of time each day. Walk around your house wearing them in or wear them to simply run a quick errand. The one thing to remember is to only wear them for a short time at first – an hour or two will do the trick. After this you’ll be able to start wearing them more without any blistered feet or uncomfortable toes.
Boat Shoe Socks
We now come to the question of do you wear socks with the boat shoe? As the design is fairly open and you’d be able to see any ankle and trainer socks, then we’d say no to these, go sockless. But, in today’s day and age, we have alternatives to sweaty, smelly feet in your sock-less shoes. You can buy small, ‘invisible’ socks that don’t show when you wear shoes like boat shoes and loafers etc.
The Rules of Boat Shoes
By rules we don’t strictly mean rules. These are basic guidelines that we believe will make your boat shoe wearing days better.
- Avoid wearing your best boat shoes in the winter. Boat shoes are a wonderful choice for the spring and summer when the weather’s at its best, but once autumn and winter hit, the design doesn’t match too well with your winter wear.
- Avoid visible socks when wearing boat shoes – you can get away with going sock-less or go for the invisible sock.
- Know what works well with boat shoes. Casual attire that’s summer-based is the best option. So think T-shirts, chinos, maybe some light smart trousers, but no suits or overly formal wear, please.
When Should You Wear Boat Shoes?
While we all wish we could rock our boat shoes every day, the fact is there are some occasions where the design works and others where it doesn’t. It’s a fairly casual shoe, so knowing the best place to wear it is key. For instance, when travelling, boat shoes are a good option to go for. Waiting in long lines and shuffling luggage from tram to tram can be hard on your feet, and with the increase of security through airports it’s nice to have a shoe that can easily slip on and off. Choosing a pair of boat shoes in a nice tan or brown colour will keep your shoes maintaining that clean look, even if the airport or tram is filthy. Pair them with some simple jeans and T-shirt and you’ve got yourself a comfortable, casual outfit that’s perfect for travel.
To the Beach
This is what they’re designed for – the sun, sea and beaches. There’s nothing like spending a day at the beach. The warm sand between your toes and the sun beating down upon you. While walking on the hot pier, boat shoes are perfect for protecting your feet from burning and are cool enough not to overheat your feet. Pick a pair in a light colour to match with the summery vibe, and match with a pair of shorts and a light button up shirt. Timberland makes some of the best men’s boat shoes available as they’re sturdy, durable and stylish – perfect for a day out at the beach.
And if you’ve loved wearing your boat shoes to the beach, you could attempt to fit them into your office attire. It may be tricky, but when the weathers hot, what else is a man to do? Office outfits of course need to be kept business casual and professional. And although we’re not suggesting you should wear a full suit with a pair of boat shoes, you can still achieve a clean smart casual look. An all-black leather boat shoe is slick and suave for the office. The leather maintains a mature look while the all-black injects professionalism. Pair it with some straight leg trousers and a neat oxford shirt to keep things fresh. Not as casual as you may have initially thought, right?
Shorts and Boat Shoes
Boat shoes correspond well with shorts just as they do well with a trip to the beach. Often shorts and boat shoes are a fantastic match in the summer and on vacations. The best boat shoes for this pairing tend to contain a lighter feel and look to them. Avoid clunky and darker coloured boat shoes when pairing with shorts. The light and airy feel of the shorts and boat shoes complement one another and together create the perfect look for the summer and springtime, making them an ideal pairing for all things sunny.
A Little History
Boat shoes first appeared in 1935 and were invented by none other than Paul Sperry, the inventor of the popular Sperry Top-Sider brand. Sperry created boat shoes for sailors in order to prevent them from sliding about on the decks. His inspiration for the soles of the shoes came from his dog, Prince’s paws, with the textured grip helping him stay steady even on slippery surfaces. Now, over 80 years later, the boat shoes are no longer just for boats. They are a fashion statement that even city dwellers are getting their hands on. So with a history stemming all the way back to the 30’s, investing in a pair is a great idea.
How to Wear Boat Shoes
- There are four main factors to consider when choosing your boat shoe – the style, fit, colour and the material.
- Boat shoes can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion and colour choice of the shoe.
- Boat shoes are best for spring and summer as they can be paired with chinos and shorts. The lightness of these complement the boat shoe well.
- You can choose between either a canvas shoe or a leather version, all depending on your personal style.
- Ditch the socks when wearing boat shoes. Go sock-less or opt for the invisible sock. This will make the shoes a whole lot more stylish.
On That Note
So, break out your boat shoes and incorporate them into your everyday style. Boat shoes have evolved immensely since Paul Sperry originally invented them, from being simply just shoe for the boats to now being worn by more than just sailors. The boat shoe is a fashion evolution that will surely continue to update. The boat shoe works well for a variety of occasions and is extremely comfortable to wear on a daily basis. To implement the boat shoe into your own style, wait for a nice spring or summer day to pull them out for a casual sharp look.