6 ESSENTIAL MEN’S SUMMER SHOES
UPDATED MONDAY 17 JULY The mercury is rising, and summer is here. The season’s essentials include streetwise kicks that look and feel cool. Feet trapped in sweaty shoes are bad for everyone. Here are six fashionable and comfortable shoes for summer.
When it comes to ranking footwear in terms of comfort, running shoes are generally at the top of any list. The athletic shoe category is a broad one, and what we say now applies equally to cross-trainers and to walking shoes.
It isn’t a good idea to wear your running or work-out footwear for everyday wear as well — here are some of the reasons why. But the right sports shoe compliments summer-casual, especially if you stick to more neutral tones and lighter colors. Perhaps the best thing about wearing athletic shoes outside the gym and off the track is that, should you need to step-up the pace, your footwear will be an asset rather than a liability. (Ever jog in wingtips?) If your day-to-day is marked by the occasional sprint (back to the office, across the zebra-crossing), you’ll be glad you’re wearing pair of athletic shoes.
A classic-style pair of lace-up sneakers can take the edge off sartorial seriousness, and keep a costume smart without dragging it down. In the summer we prefer canvas to leather or suede. Superior breathability is one reason, but an equally important reason is textural parity. If you’ve migrated from heavier wools and tweeds to linen and chambray, traditional-style canvas sneakers are more on-point. White, cream, beige, and navy are the easiest colors with which to work, and it’s no accident that canvas lace-ups are available in the these and other basic colors. Avoid black, and stick to pairs with white soles.
The early years
The plimsoll shoe—a rubber outsole with a canvas upper—has graced tennis courts ever since the 1800s. In 1839, Charles Goodyear began to develop vulcanized rubber, a chemically-altered version of rubber that is more stable and more resistant to heat. Other companies followed suit and soon the vulcanized rubber was being combined with canvas to create the first foray into athletic shoes. Various options of shoes started to take off in the early 1900s. The United States Rubber Company (later Uniroyal) introduced Keds in 1916, the first popular shoe used in tennis. Converse hit the market in 1917 with the All-Star. Adidas marketed the first shoe specifically for tennis in 1931.
Tim Newcomb, Sports Illustrated
Old fashioned plimsolls and tennis shoes pair particularly well with khaki chinos and navy blazers — and hopefully you knew that already. They’re fine with jeans, but we’d not say they’re the best choice for them.
What makes a brogue a brogue (rather than an Oxford) are the holes running throughout the upper. Nowadays these are decorative, but they used to be there for a reason — here’s a dandy little biography of the brogan. For special occasions and whenever you are expected not to be in causal mode, this is the safest style of shoe to wear. We recommend lighter shades of brown, including British tan. Olive plays very well with many of the colors in your summer palette.
Don’t save them for special occasions. If you feel bold enough to wear them with confidence, treat yourself to a pair of spectator shoes — as long as they do not have pointy toes. A clean but well-traveled and slightly tatty pair of spectator shoes (two-tone wingtips) or saddle shoes can turn a safe, by-the-numbers look into something divine. As long as the top half of our outfit is not a t-shirt only, here’s almost no wrong way to wear leather and linen spectators. They look fab with jeans, chino shorts, and lighter-color tropical-weight wool suits.
Boat Shoes/Deck Shoes
If there’s a shoe that says “summer,” this is it. They’re known both as boat shoes and deck shoes, while in Cape Cod they’re more generally known as “topsiders” — read this. Choices of colors for this style now abound, and you can enjoy deciding whether to go trad or rad. We’re not huge fans of canvas models (see below), and whichever color you choose we recommend sticking to leather. You’ll also want to pause to ponder the sole. Currently there are some unusual modern variations of the traditional (or classic) sole, and we’re not in love with them. If you’re buying your first pair, do it right: buy Sperry. If you’ve already got a pair, try our favorite moccasin variant: the blucher, perhaps done most beautifully by Alden.
While not quite as refined as a boat shoe, summer slip-ons can be stylish. Principles, here, are on par with those for canvas lace-up sneakers, with this option best suiting those who will slip in and out of different shoes over the course of the day. When they are clean and in good nick, traditional styles in solid colors might be workplace-appropriate on casual days. We prefer them in canvas, and are partial to navy blue — a color which tends to weather well and fade beautifully. Wear without socks, or with some no-shows. We’re not sure that Vans are the best use of money. Spend on nice hand-sewn blucher moccasins, and get your blue canvas slip-ons at Walmart.
What started as a practical variant of a moccasin tuned-up for driving has evolved into a statement shoe. Driving shoes are often leather or suede moccasins with rubber grommet soles for additional grip. Since they’re a little on the bolder side, we recommend deep colors, like maroon or navy. We understand these to have been designed to be worn without socks, so wear them that way. True enough, these are great for driving, and the range extends from the elegant to the everyman. We do not recommend them for extensive walking, especially for those with lower-back issues. The soles (and heels) were designed for drivers. They are thin, and there’s not a lot of cushion with these shoes. Comfortable on the feet? Yes. We love ours, but we sideline them when we know we have a day of walking ahead of us.
Sneakers go back a long way. In the late 18th century, people wore rubber soled shoes called plimsolls, but they were pretty crude—for one thing, there was no right foot or left foot. Around 1892, the U.S. Rubber Company came up with more comfortable rubber sneakers with canvas tops, called Keds. By 1917, these sneakers began to be mass produced. (They got the nickname sneakers because they were so quiet, a person wearing them could sneak up on someone.) https://www.factmonster.com/cool-stuff/fashion-and-dress/history-sneakers
Read Clifford Chen’s article on how to wear white sneakers.
Eve Waites contributed to the edited version of this article.