Boat shoes have become one of the most classic casual shoe trends in the menswear world. As the name suggests, they were originally made for sailors and boaters who needed a shoe that would prevent them from slipping on the boat deck. It didn’t take long, however, for people outside of the boating world to notice the perks of these shoes. It was their practical non-slip rubber sole and unique hand-sewn upper design that drew in attention from every kind of shoe wearer.
Today, they are commonly used by boaters and non-boaters alike, both for functional and aesthetic reasons. We want you to look your best when wearing these shoes, and there are definitely some things to keep in mind so you look more “yacht owner” and less “reliving college.” To help you master this look, here’s a list of do’s and don’ts when it comes to how to style boat shoes.
When to Wear
- Wear them to the beach: Boat shoes were made for maritime activities. Look like a local at your next beach trip by rocking your favorite pair.
- Wear them when you travel: Once you’ve broken them in, boat shoes are arguably the most comfortable shoes out there. They’re easy to get on and off and make those long treks with your luggage feel like an easy stroll.
- Wear them to the office: As long as you work in a business casual environment, boat shoes are more than appropriate. They add some style to your outfit without going overboard.
- Wear them on a date: Wearing a pair of boat shoes is not only a great conversation starter, but will show your lady a bit of your personality. They will also make you a shoo-in for another date (granted your personality lives up to that of your outfit, that is).
- Wear them in the winter: Not only do you risk them getting wet, but they will look out of place. Save them for the warmer environment they were made for.
- Wear them for a fancy occasion: Boat shoes are not meant for black tie affairs. Restrict their usage to more casual and laid-back events.
How to Wear
- Wear them with jeans: Boat shoes look great with denim. For a more effortless, nautical look, try cuffing the hems of your jeans, too. It complements the look and also draws attention to the most important part of your outfit: the boat shoes, of course
- Wear them with colorful chinos: Colorful trousers and boat shoes are a great combo, but it has to be done thoughtfully. Make sure the color of your pants contrasts the color of your boat shoes to balance things out. For example, if you’re going bold with red or green chinos, go with a more neutral color for your shoes, like brown.
- Wear them with shorts: This is a perfect combo for summertime. Again, make sure they balance each other out—a detailed, attention-grabbing boat shoe should be paired with shorts on the more tailored, plainer side so the look isn’t overkill.
- Wear them with visible socks: A big no-no when it comes to boat shoes is to wear them with visible socks. It ruins the look and makes you look like a newbie when it comes to having a sense of style. There is, however, an exception to this rule: no show socks allow you to keep the comfort of having socks without actually seeing them.
- Wear them with suits: Like we said before, boat shoes just don’t fit this more formal look. If you’re trying to dress yours up a little, opt instead for dark wash denim and a blazer for an interesting twist on business casual.
Casual shoes still deserve proper care, of course. If you are a fan of wearing boat shoes sans sock, you’re probably familiar with the consequences. Luckily, getting rid of the odor is easy. Just use baby powder, kitty litter, tea bags, or dryer sheets in your shoes overnight, and they will be smelling as good as new in the morning. If you ever get a stain on your shoes, it is best to use a dry brush to get it off (no water or stain remover). When doing this, make sure you brush in one direction to avoid scratching the shoe more. As a preventative method, you can use a protective spray on your shoes. We recommend this for leather boat shoes and letting them dry for 24 hours after spraying. Lastly, try to keep your boat shoes out of direct sunlight when not in use and don’t let them get drenched with water because that can cause discoloration or a change in texture. Take these preventative measures and you’re guaranteed to have boat shoes that are fresh and clean for years to come.
It’s safe to say that boat shoes are not just for boaters anymore. They are great for many different occasions and offer you tons of flexibility in terms of style and comfort. Whether you’re spending your summer on the boat or at the beach (or even just—sadly—at your desk), a pair of boat shoes will serve as a great alternative to your dress shoes and flip-flops.
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