What do boat decks and college campuses around the nation have in common? Fashion! Depending on who you ask, there is one shoe whose usefulness and fashion-driven charm have merged the bridge across different cultural groups.
As a boat owner, your closet would be out of regulations if you didn’t own a pair of boat shoes. Boat shoes serve the purpose of keeping you safe from sliding around the wet surface of your boat’s deck.
This article will cover various fashion styles that you may enjoy with your boat shoes and debunk the myth that you should not wear socks with this shoe style.
Table of Contents
What Is A Boat Shoe?
Once upon a time, there was a sailor and a dog on a boat. The sailor man would slip and fall on the slippery deck of his boat. The dog would not. And this is the story of how the boat shoe came about.
The man in the story, Paul Sperry, was an avid outdoorsman and sailor who turned shoemaker and businessman. His inspiration all along came from Prince (not the singer), his loyal and loving Cocker Spaniel.
Paul noticed Prince’s ability to remain on his paws given any condition. Was this dog just sure-footed, or was there something more to it?
Well, after closer inspection, Paul noticed a natural groove pattern beneath Prince’s footpads on his paws. So in 1935, the first pair of Sperry’s hit the market with a leather shoe featuring a rubber sole with penknife cut grooves that aimed to copy the pattern of what would turn into the ‘gold-mine paw.’
In short, the purpose of a boat shoe is to prevent you from slipping on the slippery wet deck of your boat. From trusted official Navy footwear (Top-Siders) to Olympian Sailing Teams, the Sperry name continues to leave a non-skid footprint in the sports, industrial, and leisure fashion sector.
Top 10 Boat Shoe Brands
Whether you prefer an upper designed from leather, canvas, suede, hemp, mesh, or some blend thereof, I am sure you will find the boat shoe of your dreams from one of the manufacturers listed below:
Who Wears Boat Shoes
Boat shoes are worn by men, women, and children worldwide. Therefore, these shoes do not belong to one group of people- instead, they belong to everyone.
Though officially endorsed by Lisa Birnbach as an official ‘preppy‘ must-have in the 1980s, the appeal of the boat shoe has been in the public’s eye since even before former President John F. Kennedy rocked them back in the 1960s.
So whether you are a passionate sailor, college student, traveler, beach-bum, 9-5 office worker, or anyone in between, there is a comfy and practical boat shoe for you.
Can I Wear Socks With My Boat Shoes?
Before we slide into some fashionista-approved looks, I want to remind you that you are unique and special, so feel free to wear your pair of boat shoes however you feel most comfortable.
Now, I would not wear a pair of high-knee socks with my pair of Sperry’s- but that’s just me. Especially during summer use, the boat shoe look will generally bring attention to those sexy ankles supporting.
So to your question about socks, I would say that most deck shoe lovers sport the look bare feet or wear a pair of no-show socks. The sockless look is an all-time favorite for people who enjoy that laid-back look with a more refreshing feeling.
But do not be so quick to throw your pair of boat shoes to the back of the closet come winter. Your boat shoes are not strictly for warmer weather- you can use them year-round.
So, come cooler weather, feel free to wear a thicker and longer style sock to keep your feet and lower legs warm while still taking advantage of that hard-to-knock boat-shoe style.
Best No-Show Socks For Boat Shoes
Believe it or not, the no-show sock is not a girly thing. On the contrary, the no-show sock has revolutionized the sporting and leisure industry from sailors, golf players, and even basketball superstars like Michael Jordan.
But, you have to make sure that you find a good pair of no-show socks so that you do not experience some of the troubles I had when I first retired my crew, and mid-calf socks to the back of the wardrobe repurposed them into car-cleaning rags.
I never liked how my mid-calf socks would shimmy their way down my leg and bunch up around the top of my shoe. It was uncomfortable and just threw my lower legs out of proportion.
But when I made the switch, I found that my first half-a-dozen no-show sock trials would often fall off the back of my heel, slide down my foot, or would leave an uncomfortable red mark across the top of my large instep.
To save you from this, here are some recommendations for great no-show socks that you can confidently wear with your pair of boat shoes:
- Saucony Mesh-Ventilating Comfort-Fit Performance No-Show Socks
- Balega Hidden Comfort No-Show Socks
- Nike Everyday Lightweight Footie Socks
- IDEGG Low Cut Anti-Slid Casual Socks
- Seesily No Show Socks
The Boat Shoe Look
We all have a fashion sense unique to our personality, but you should know some definite dos and don’ts for wearing a boat shoe. A boat shoe is casual and looks best when paired with a simple outfit for starters.
As a sailor would never don a suit and tie heading out to sea, I would not recommend slipping on your pair of boat shoes to a formal affair; however, you could pull it off with the right amount of finesse.
Most people reserve their boat shoes for more relaxed events or everyday use. However, if you are open to some wardrobe suggestions, I will share some great looks for boat shoes with you.
I love summertime mornings because getting dressed is simply a breeze. As a very active father of two boys, my go-to is a tank top, pair of mesh or cargo shorts, and a rugged pair of sandals like my LUNA Leadville Trails that I primarily use for trail running.
But when I’m feeling fancy, I turn to an all-time favorite combination- a polo shirt or collarless button-up, chino shorts, no-show socks, and my pair of Clarks Ferius Creek boat shoes.
During the summer, women can enjoy their pair of boat shoes with a skirt, khakis, shorts, or a cuffed pair of jeans.
The Classy Collegian
The preppy look associated with the more affluent subculture of the nation’s most elite colleges and universities has filtered out to most colleges around the country.
No doubt about it, collegians love to accent their straight-cut pants or pretty blouses with a pair of traditional two-eye boat shoes.
For an even classier look, men could do that tie-a-v-neck-sweater-around-the-neck trick or opt to throw a blazer over their polo shirt.
On the other hand, ladies may wear a slouchy sweater with their favorite wrap or flutter skirt to show off those boat shoes.
Mister or Miss Formal (or the Beach-Wedding Goer)
After a childhood of being told what to wear, I’m all about staying comfy and casual. So even when I attend a formal event like a wedding, business meeting, or celebratory dinner, I like my feet to be comfortable.
For semi-formal and formal occasions, be sure that there is a way to pair your boat shoes with a suit or unique dress. For example, you may like to wear a light neutral-colored shirt with a solid color suit, and finally match my tie to the color of my leather boat shoes.
Women have a secret power behind designing great outfits. For instance, my wife likes to create her outfits on the bed first, and then she takes selfies in each outfit for closer inspection before wearing something out in public.
Women looking for a more elegant look can wear their boat shoes with a classy pair of business-style leggings or cut pants. Women may also like trying on their boat shoes with their favorite halter, bodycon, empire waist, or peplum type of dress.
How To Take Care Of Your Boat Shoes
Please remember to keep your boat shoes cleaned and protected if you would like to enjoy them for years to come. Refer to this list of items you should have available for preserving your boat shoes material:
- Microfiber cloths
- 4-Way Leather Suede and Nubuck Shoe Brush
- Horsehair Leather Shoe Brush and Applicator Brushes
- Leather Cleaning Product such as Sperry’s Signature Cleaner & Conditioner
- Finishing Wax or Oil specific to the uppers material
Pro-Tip: You can dampen a clean rag with white vinegar to clean heavier stains for suede shoes.
The Importance of Socks
Socks do lots of amazing things for our feet, including:
- Absorbing moisture
- Preventing rubbing
- Providing cushion
- Keeping our feet warm
If you don’t have a pair already, you should consider adding at least one pair of boat shoes to your closet. And, no matter the style, please be sure to always wear a pair of socks for your feet’ overall health and hygiene.
If you have any particular fashion or function-oriented questions regarding boat shoes or socks, please do not hesitate to mention them in the comment section below.
Joseph Fabiano is a writer, nature enthusiast, and stay-at-home father of two wild and free boys. He enjoys starting his day with a good run, hot mug of coffee, and a jump in the Ionian Sea, no matter the weather. Currently based in the Apuglia region of southern Italy, he enjoys discovering the world with his best traveling buddies (his little monkey’s and beautiful wife) at every given opportunity. Every trip, long or far, should be made an adventure according to Joseph as he believes inspiration and creation is right in front of you.