Boat shoes have been regarded as sleek, debonair footwear since the very first moment they stepped onto the fashion scene back in the 1930’s.
As dapper casual wear, boat shoes prove that style doesn’t have to exist apart from functionality.
These days, boat shoes are still designed to be worn on docks and boats, but they are also widely accepted as fashion shoes.
Great for a day at the beach or a summertime wedding, a classic pair of boat shoes prove you don’t have to own a yacht to feel like a million bucks.
What Are Boat Shoes
Despite their name, there’s no law stating boat shoes can be owned only by those who own or operate boats.
In fact, plenty of men in landlocked locations who have never owned or maybe even set foot on a boat have been known to rock boat shoes for their fashionable, comfortable qualities.
Basically, what defines a boat shoe in today’s day and age is the shoe style.
Boat shoes are similar to loafers, but generally have a set of laces that run through two to four eyelets.
These shoes traditionally have a thicker, rubber sole that lifts the shoe off the ground just slightly.
Originally intended to reduce water seepage in wet situations on soggy docks, these shoes still serve well in light rain and puddles.
Benefits of Wearing the Best Boat Shoes
Ideal for long, lazy weekends, these shoes are the emblem of summer.
They’re great for a beach walk, having lunch on the harbor, or even Monday morning at the office.
In short, boat shoes can be worn when you’re actually on a boat, or just busy wishing you were on a boat during your company’s 8 AM meeting.
From fashion to functionality, there’s a whole boatload of benefits to purchasing your own pair.
For those seeking a summertime shoe that can dress up a pair of jeans or even be worn to the beach with a pair of swim trunks, there’s no better option.
Boat shoes are the epitome of flexible footwear. You’d never wear your tennis shoes to a fancy July luncheon, but you might consider dressing up a pair of leather boat shoes for a breezy, summertime look.
This makes them easily one of the most versatile shoes on the market.
Sure, they’re stylish, but for the most part they’re actually very functional as well.
From the shoe’s thick heel design to the fabric choice and sole, boat shoes are designed with summertime in mind.
Their non-slip, gripping bottoms are great for wet surfaces, and their exposed-top, breathable designs help keep your feet both cool and protected.
Style and class with comfortability. Additionally, from classic leather models to canvas variations, there’s a boat being made in almost every material, design and color.
In short, these shoes allow more room for the expression of your personality, which is the entire purpose of fashion, anyway.
Unlike the many styles of unforgiving dress shoes with narrow insteps, pointed toes, and hard soles, boat shoes are designed with comfort in mind.
Though they are considerably more fashionable than tennis shoes or other athletic shoes, they have many of the same comfort qualities: padded soles, a more ergonomic shape, and breathable materials.
How To Choose The Best Boat Shoes
So you’re sold on owning a pair of boat shoes, but you don’t know where to start.
Which shoe fits you is going to depend mostly on your individual lifestyle, needs, and intended purpose.
Will you actually be wearing these out on a boat, or just for summertime strolls?
Are you a revolutionary rule-breaker who wants a style that pops, or a classic man looking for an elegant, nautical touch?
Here are a few of the differentiating factors in boat shoe styles, and what you’ll want to consider in order to walk out of the shoe store with your new favorite footwear.
Leather is one of the most common materials for boat shoes, followed closely by canvas.
However, because of these shoes multi-panel designs, it’s not unusual to find styles that use both leather and canvas or some variation of several materials.
Other common materials used to craft boat shoes include faux denim, mesh, leather hybrids, suede, and faux leather.
When purchasing your first pair, the material is perhaps the most important aspect to consider.
Most leather boat shoes are treated to be water resistant, but will still hold up poorly when exposed to high levels of moisture.
In contrast, canvas tends to fair the best in wet situations but can wear down quickly in comparison to competitors.
Meanwhile, suede options are primarily for those looking to make a fashion statement, as suede and water are lifelong enemies in a war that, unfortunately for the shoes, will always be won by the lake.
Boat shoes range from utilitarian to sleek and stylish, and from dressy to casual.
The shoe’s design brings into question the pattern, color, eyelet number, cut, and overall shape of the shoe.
Traditionally, boat shoes have a two-eyelet design, in which the laces overlap neatly just over the shoes upper quarter, rather than extending further down towards the toe as tennis shoes do.
What varies the most is color. Browns, grays, and other neutral colors are the popular, classic choice.
Meanwhile, those wishing to make a statement might go with bold patterns, stripes, or vibrant colors.
Traditionally, boat shoes are cut like loafers to expose the top of the foot.
However, alternative designs include hybrids between boat shoes and chukka boots, which has all of the design elements of a nautical shoe, but the extended ankle and shape of a boot.
These boat shoe-boot hybrids also exist in other high-topped variation, similar to the footwear on this list of best chelsea boots, but with more design characteristics of a water-resistant shoe.
Whether you’re purchasing some as a functional pair of seafaring shoes, or simply aiming to make a nautical fashion statement, you probably want your new shoes to be as comfortable as possible.
Though they may never be as cushy as any of these home slippers for men, there’s still probably a model on the market which is going to make your feet happy.
For added comfort, look for ventilated inserts, padded heels, highly breathable fabric, and impact-resistant rubber soles.
When it comes to footwear, so much of the comfortability rests in the sole, so look for ones are constructed out of quality materials that appropriately support and cradle your foot.
Grip and Traction
These are boat shoes, not water shoes, so you’re probably aiming to stay on land.
Unfortunately, if your shoes lack traction and grip, you can count on falling in.
Even if your boat shoes never meet the sea, you probably want a pair of kicks that aren’t going to let you slip.
That’s why grip and traction are so incredibly important. This refers not just to the shoes outside, but also the interior.
Because boat shoes are traditionally worn without socks, they’re prone to slippage on the interior due to sweat.
To combat this, you want an outer sole material that grips your foot and doesn’t let it slide, even if the shoe itself is wet or sweaty.
Additionally, you want a shoe bottom that’s molded and slip-resistant, to help you keep both feet firmly on the ground regardless of what any choppy water might throw at you.
How To Wear Boat Shoes
Boat shoes are understood to fall somewhere between casual and smart on the scale of formality, but it all depends on how you wear them and pair them with other clothing items.
Here are a couple pointers on how to sport your boat shoes and what to complete the ensemble with:
Generally speaking, stay away from wearing visible socks with your boat shoes.
Men’s jeans are traditionally acceptable to wear with boat shoes. They can be worn with light wash denim for a casual, breezy summertime look, or with darker wash jeans for a slightly more posh approach.
Chinos are other acceptable pants option to be paired with boat shoes.
As a slightly smarter alternative to jeans, a nice pair of chinos combined with boat shoes are excellent for occasions such as more casual summertime weddings or perhaps a rooftop bar party.
For a more daring look that pops, you can try pairing your boat shoes with a pair of colored pants or pastel chinos.
Boat shoes can be worn with knee-length shorts to elongate your legs and make you appear taller.
Because of their summertime, beachy look, boat shoes can also be dressed down and worn to the beach with your trusty pair of swim trunks.
For a more posh, golf-course look, you can try pairing your boat shoes with an Oxford shirt. Some popular shades include pastel colors, which are great for warm weather.
How To Clean and Maintain Boat Shoes
Because these are traditionally worn sockless, they can get a little funky.
While a few brands of boat shoes do include machine-washable insoles, not all styles are so easy to clean.
Which method you take to clean and maintain your shoes will depend mostly on how they are constructed.
For Leather Boat Shoes
First and foremost, any leather boat shoes you purchase should be pre-treated to be water resistant.
While leather shoes do hold up ok to water, waxed leather is your best bet for long-term durability.
However, if you’ve gone ahead and purchased a pair that isn’t waxed, you can still treat them to be water resistant, you just need to purchase and apply a product like dubbing wax, which is also useful in protecting all types of wallets made out of leather.
To clean leather boat shoes, follow these steps:
Remove all loose dirt. This can be done using a soft brush in combination with a clean, dry cloth.
Next, prepare the shoe for cleaning by removing the laces. This allows you to clean all surface areas of the shoe without difficulty.
Then, wipe the surface area of the shoe with a damp cloth and soap. Cover the whole body of the shoe, working the soap in very gently.
Finally, wipe the soap off with fresh water, massaging out any stains as you go.
Allow the shoes to air dry overnight or longer, if necessary.
Alternatively, if you’re concerned about taking soap and a wet cloth to your leather shoes or you’re not keen on drenching all of them, you can use baby wipes to spot clean each shoe.
For Canvas Boat Shoes
In some ways, canvas can take more abuse than leather and requires less gentleness to clean. In fact, some canvas shoes can even be machine washed.
However, always check the label and hand wash them if you’re not certain.
To hand wash a canvas shoe, follow these steps:
First, prepare a solution of warm water and liquid detergent.
As with the procedure for leather shoes, go ahead and remove the laces.
Next, get a soft bristled brush (though with canvas you can go a bit harder) and spritz the brush head with the solution.
Then, scrub the shoe, giving special effort to the stained areas. With canvas, it’s okay to scrub a little.
Finally, rinse in warm, clean water, trying to minimize saturation of the bottom of the shoe.
Always let shoes air dry, never in a machine.
Besides leather and canvas, other less-common boat shoe materials can be gently spot cleaned or wiped.
Additionally, to spruce up the rubber soles of shoes, mix water and vinegar together for a stronger cleaning solution, and scrub it with a cloth and/or brush.
How To Reduce Odor From Boat Shoes
Because they are traditionally worn without socks, boat shoes can get smelly fast.
To banish the nasty odor that might accumulate over a couple summers, utilize the natural properties of baking soda.
Simply fill the shoe with the powder, place it in a bag, and shake vigorously.
This works the odor-eliminating baking soda into every crease and corner of the shoe, giving it a chance to stomp out odor where it reeks the most.
The goal is to coat the interior of the show entirely in baking soda. Then, allow the shoes to sit overnight before cleaning them out.
To go the extra measure in fighting odor, you can also freeze the shoes to kill bacteria.
Simply place them in a ziplock bag and seal them in your freezer for two days or 48 hours.
Then, place in the sun or dry with a hairdryer, like one of these best hair dryers for men.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Can you wear socks with boat shoes?
While technically there are no federal or state laws on the stylings on boat shoe fashion, we recommend you try to stay away from wearing socks with boat shoes.
Besides the fact that socks can get soggy and uncomfortable, they also look a little goofy with the shoe’s abbreviated toe and exposed foot.
If you absolutely cannot stand the feeling of shoes on your bare feet, purchase a pair of socks for men which are ultra-no show socks which slip and secure just over the toes, keeping out of sight when the shoe is on.
Are boat shoes non-slip?
For your sake, we sure hope so! On both the outer sole of the shoe which comes in contact with the ground and the inner sole that cushions your foot, the ideal pair of boat shoes should be non-slip.
However, as this shoe style moves more and more away from functionality and steps towards a fashion piece, some styles have less or no grip.
Are boat shoes waterproof?
Although many boat shoes styles are water-resistant, they normally aren’t waterproof (and frankly shouldn’t need to be).
Afterall, these are boat shoes, not water shoes–the goal is to keep both feet firmly placed on land.
Therefore, the ideal pair of boat shoes are going to be water resistant and able to handle splashes, puddles and seaspray, but shouldn’t ever need to be submerged.
If you’re looking for kicks to take a swim in or wade through shallow lakes, you’ll want to invest in a pair of waterproof swim shoes instead.
Over the years, boat shoes have stepped onto the fashion scene and asserted themselves as a timeless classic.
Both functional and fun, perhaps the best thing about a pair of these is that they wear and age well.
Like a bottle of fine wine, boat shoes mold to your foot and wear into style.
Whether you’re out for a nautical jaunt or just looking to spice up your wardrobe, boat shoes are a great addition to your summertime shoe collection.
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- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)