Boat Shoe Guide – How To Wear Deck Shoes, Break Them In & Mistakes To Avoid

Boat Shoe Guide – How To Wear Deck Shoes, Break Them In & Mistakes To Avoid

Welcome back to the Gentleman’s Gazette! In
today’s video, we discuss Boat Shoes. I discuss different styles, how to wear them, what you
should buy, how to take care of them, and of course, history. In the early 1930’s, Paul Sperry looked at
his dog and was surprised that he had an amazing amount of grip on the ice. Upon closer inspection
of the dog’s pads on his feet, he realized that was a slight herringbone pattern. Intrigued
by this pattern, Paul started actually carving a herringbone pattern into his shoes and voila!,
he had more grip. Sperry was an ardent sailor and into boats so he needed a shoe that actually
had a good grip on wooden deck, even if it was wet. The process of getting the ridges
in your shoe soles is also known as siping. As you can see here, they’re very fine lines
in a herringbone or wave pattern which gives you that extra grip when you’re on a wet surface
that is very smooth. This concept is actually invented in 1923 by John F. Sipe and it was
named after him because of that. At first, Sperry used black soles but he quickly realized
that they would leave marks all over the boat deck which looked ugly, subsequently, he switched
to white soles because it didn’t leave any marks. In 1935, the first Sperry Topsider
boat shoe or deck shoe was introduced to the market and it was a mid-brown shoe with mid-brown
leather laces and that was the birth of the boat shoe as you know it today. Next, let’s talk about the characteristics
of the boat shoes. The traditional boat shoe came in brown, but today, you can find all
kinds of colors such as this one in Nantucket red, or in navy blue, green, you can also
find them in yellow, blue, and purple, and basically any other color under the sun. Traditionalists
stick with brown but personally, I like to mix it up and some fun colors for casual events
worn with my shorts. In terms of leather, usually, these boat shoes
or deck shoes are made with a water repellent finish such as the chromexcel from Horween
simply because the original purpose was to use it in a maritime setting. An important
feature of the traditional boat shoe is that it’s hand-sewn so you can see hand sewing
all along. In addition to that, it has the moccasin toe construction which is also sewn
by hand though today, sometimes, they’re sewn by machine. To learn more about moccasins
and driving mocs, their difference to deck shoes and boat shoes, please check out this
guide, here. Boat shoes, traditionally, feature a 360-degree
lacing system which means, that you have this white, leather shoelace go once all around.
In theory, it helps to tighten the shoe. In practice, it doesn’t really because it gets
a little loose and the leather also stretches. But, it’s simply a look and a characteristic
of a boat shoe. Most boat shoes in the market will feature two rows of aglet, sometimes
you find them with three. If you want to go for a pure experience, go with two. The original
laces were made in leather and the same color as the uppers. Today, they are often contrasting,
mostly yellow, sometimes in white, and it just adds this extra casual flair. Sometimes,
you will find something that looks like a boat shoe but it has a Vibram sole with a
strong profile and technically, it’s not a boat shoe anymore. In order for it to be a
boat shoe, it has to have white soles and it’s very classic and characteristic. Of course, fashion-forward people sometimes
go with yellow, blue, or red soles but they’re not very timeless and not very classic. In
terms of the sole profile, you will find brands like Sebago which have these thick ridges
and then others like Eastland that have these thin ridges. In theory, the thin ridges are
better for a deck and these are better for streetwear. In practice, I haven’t noticed
much difference between the thin ridges and the thick ridges. You’re probably more likely
to get a little piece of gravel in the thick ones but at the end of the day, it’s a matter
of choice. For everyday wear, boat shoes can basically replace your sneakers and they’re
particularly popular in summer, in the kind of sea or lake setting. Subject of heated
debate is whether you should wear boat shoes with or without socks. I want to settle that,
right now. Most people wear them barefoot especially when you’re in a setting on a deck
or a boat simply because you have a better grip and it suits the original style. of course,
when it’s a little cooler outside and you’re not in that setting, you can wear socks with
them. Personally, I prefer to wear them without socks. If you’re concerned that your feet
sweat too much when you’re barefoot, simply get a cotton insert or you can also go with
these socks that you don’t see and then you have the best of both worlds, you’ll get the
barefoot look but you don’t sweat as much. So, when should you wear boat shoes and when
should you avoid them? First of all, it is a summer shoe and therefore, you should not
wear it during the winter time. Boat shoes are best paired with slim jeans or pants,
khakis, chinos, or slacks. Because of the casual character, they often look good when
the jeans is kind of folded up so it looks like a turn-up or a cuff. I also like to wear
them with shorts, seersuckers, or Nantucket reds, because it can make a statement but
it’s a very casual one and a relaxed one. Boat shoes are a big step-up from sneakers,
and they also work well with denim and jeans in darker tones or also white. They look particularly
good at that setting if you combine them with a polo shirt. If you want to know more about
polo shirts, check out our guide, here. Or an Oxford cloth button-down shirt because
it just fits that whole east-coast type heritage of the shoe. Because of its casual heritage,
it’s not a good shoe to be worn with a suit, a blazer, or a sport coat. That being said,
you’ll find people wearing boat shoes with their blazer and if you can pull it off, good
for you. Overall, it’s a shoe that’s great for the
beach or the lake and any other casual setting. It’s not suited for the office or formal occasions.
It’s also a great shoe when you travel because you can easily take it on and off. When you
buy a new pair of boat shoes, sometimes the leather can be very hard and you have to break
them in. The easiest way to do that is to get into the shoe, tighten it, and then make
it really wet so the leather can conform to your foot and dry that way. If you don’t want
to do that, simply wear them a few times, but try not to wear for the first time, on
a long hike or long distance because you may end up with blisters. Keep it to short distances.
The leather can get softer over time and once they’re broken in, they’re really comfortable. So, how do you take care of your boat shoes?
Ideally, use an emulsion based shoe polish, either in that color or in neutral, like the
one here. It’s important to use those because they soak into the leather. I find these turpentine
wax paste a little too much, I only use them very rarely because they add a layer of water
proofing but if you only use them, you see cracks and it’s simply too much for the leather
and the look is not as good. I use the emulsion polish, I use the canned turpentine wax polish
once. If you take care of your shoes, they’ll develop a nice patina, however, one of the
problems of boat shoes is that they have all of these ridges and the mocs construction
so if you’re in a dusty environment, they get dirty very quickly. In that case, I suggest
you use a toothbrush and some water and some saddle soap to clean the shoes. It will last
you longer and develop a nice patina, if you keep them dirt free. Once they’re wet, either
through rain or because you washed them, make sure to dry them but in a natural setting.
Do not put them on a radiator, do not use a hot air dryer, simply let them air dry naturally.
Don’t put them in the sun either. Just like any other shoe, you should use a shoe horn
to put them on, it will help you to keep the heel in shape. of course, this is a softer
shoe, you may also want to slip in without one and that’s okay too. Your shoe will last
longer if you use a shoe horn every time. If you get stains in your boat shoes, try
to use a little bit of vinegar and water and rub on it and then it should come off and
then apply some shoe polish afterwards. Now that you know how to treat your shoes,
what to pick, what to go for, the question arises of where to buy your boat shoes? Today,
you can find dozens of boat shoe makers in the market. You’ll find anything from made
in China with the cheapest materials to made in the US with US made leather. A high-end
boat shoe will cost around $300, low end, you can start at $25. I suggest you invest at least a $150 because
it gives you a better leather quality and if you want to learn what brands we recommend
specifically, please check out our full guide here. For even more information about classic
men’s style, please sign up to our email list here. See you next time!


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