Who doesn't want that iconic boat sporting weekend look?
Nothing is more classic than the men's boat shoe.
From casual through and through walks within your neighborhood block to semi-formal events, boat shoes are probably the most versatile and most stylish footwear any man can ever have.
As you'll soon find out...
Boat shoes are an eternal classic in the huge arsenal of men's footwear.
Below are my hottest picks on the most fashionable yet functional boat shoes for men.
Top men's deck shoes
Can't wait to hit the beach with a new pair of deck shoes? Checkout my top picks.
But before anything else, keep on reading and learn why these boat shoes have made it onto the hot list:
What are boat shoes?
Also known as "deck shoes", boat shoes are a special type of footwear originally developed for the use of sailors, yacht owners, and boating enthusiasts alike.
The main characteristics of a boat shoe is its non-slip rubber sole to help the wearer avoid slipping on a wet deck.
Wrapped with a hand-sewn top design with side lacing details, boat shoes have become a popular choice not just by boaters and beach goers, but by anyone looking for a comfortable warm weather shoe.
Did you know...?
Boat shoes were invented by sailor "Paul Sperry" way back in 1935.
The outer sole of the first set of boat shoes was inspired by the grooves of a dog's paw when Sperry was amazed by how his dog "Prince" was able to move with ease over the ice.
The sailor's invention proved effective and was later adopted by the U.S. Navy.
In 1939, the naval warfare service branch of the United States of America signed a contract with Paul Sperry to mass manufacture boat shoes / "Top-Siders" for its sailors.
And it didn't take long for the deck shoes to be among the most loved types of footwear of today.
The anatomy of boat shoes
Boat shoes are originally intended for use in warmer climates and around the ocean.
As discussed earlier, this special type of footwear was first intended to provide sailors with deck shoes that help them move around the deck of their ships without slipping.
The top part of the shoes or the "uppers" are usually made of canvas or leather moccasin material.
This part of the shoe is usually oil treated to deliver the footwear's water repelling capability.
Its overall top design features hand-sewn lacing system that runs in a 360 degree pattern. Typically, boat shoes have two pairs of eyelets for a clean archetypal look.
Traditional deck shoes usually have light brown tops with white contrasting soles.
Nowadays, this versatile type of footwear comes with a variety of colors and styles for almost any type of outdoor activities.
Given their nature and original purpose, boat shoes are almost always stiff at first.
If you have just bought yourself a new pair of boat shoes, bear in mind that it is normal to experience a little limping in the first few weeks of use.
Breaking into your new pair of deck shoes can take a while, (1-2 weeks to be exact).
Put on a pair of liners and wear around the house for the first few days before wearing them outdoors to help break them in quicker.
Choosing the right boat shoes for you
Unlike before, deck shoes nowadays come in hundreds of different styles and color combinations, which make it quite difficult to find a pair that would best fit your personal preferences. But landing on an ideal pair of deck shoes doesn't have to be so complicated.
Here are a few tips that will help you find the best boat shoes for your feet:
The fit of the shoes should be your top most priority.
Basically, the ability of the deck shoes to provide a snug fit comfort can be directly based on it design and material. It is best to try the shoes on before you buy them. Upon trying them on, make sure that your big toe has enough breathing space like at least an inch from the tip (point) of the shoe. Also make sure that the shoes are wide enough so that the balls of your foot rests comfortably on the bottom part. And just like when you are trying other types of shoes on, have a short walk around with it.
Design and style
Although deck shoes almost look alike, their uppers now come in a wide variety of contrasting colors to deliver that unique look. Choose a style that best matches the nature of the outdoor activity that you plan on using it with. Popular boat shoe shades are brown, navy, and black with bright accents.
Leather vs Canvas
Generally, uppers of deck shoes are either made of canvas or leather moccasin. Traditional boat shoes are made of leather. The material makes the shoes more durable and easier to clean. Canvas deck shoes, however, are much cooler to wear compared to a pair made of leather, but they're harder to keep clean and wear out faster.
How to wear your boat shoes
Although boat shoes are considered to be the most versatile and fashionable type of footwear, there are still some rules that needs to be observed so that you don't end up looking uncool with your supposedly cool summer loafers.
- Wear your boat shoes with denim jeans. Cuff them on its hems to deliver a cool laid back impression while emphasizing the look of the most important part of your outfit - your deck shoes.
- You can also wear your shoes with shorts which is an ideal outfit combo during summer. Go for plain and well tailored shorts. Choose a color that would provide a pleasing contrast with your footwear.
- As much as boat shoes look good in semi-formal occasions, they're a big No-No with suits. Deck shoes just don't match well with suits and ties. If unavoidable, match your boat shoes with denim topped with a blazer for a stunning, business casual look.
- Do not wear your deck shoes with visible socks. Traditional deck shoe wearers prefer a sockless look. Nowadays, you can use no show socks (See my top no show sock picks here!) to add comfort while still expressing that sockless look.
- Boat shoes are a common fashion staple on the beach or in any place around the ocean. You can also wear them while travelling since they are easy to put on and take off. Just make sure you follow the earlier rules on what to wear them with.
- Boat shoes also present a nice and professional look in the office. You can also wear them on dates for they present a sense of sophistication and can mirror your personality.
Taking care of your boat shoes
Although deck shoes have been specially treated to withstand continuous exposure to water, they still need to be well taken care of so that you will be able to enjoy its promised longevity and functionality.
If you are fond of wearing them without socks, chances are that your deck shoes will most likely produce a lingering nasty smell.
It would be better if you have at least an extra pair or two so that you can use them alternatively, especially on hot summer days.
You can also use baby powder or tea bags and put them inside your shoes overnight to eliminate the smell.
To remove stains, it is not recommended to use soap and water. As much as possible, remove those stains using only a dry brush and observe a single direction with your strokes.
Avoid sun roasting your deck shoes by gently treating them after a long beach weekend or prolonged sun exposure.
Watch this video to learn how to easily clean and treat your boat shoes so that they'll last:
My top picks!
Now that I've covered some of the basics, let's get into some of my favorite products.
What better way to own a pair of boat shoes than to buy it straight from the ones who started it all? Sperry claims that they are the makers of the first ever boat shoes. It is no wonder why the company has some of the best looking and most reliable deck shoes of today. Sperry Top-Sider Men's A/O Boat Shoes are the classic two-eyelet moccasin stitched type. It comes in a wide variety of colors with remarkable contrasts.
Another famous name in the deck shoes manufacturing industry, Timberland is also a proud maker of top class footwear such hiking boots, sneakers, and oxfords. Timberland Men's Iconic Three-Eye Classic Shoe has full grain leather upper which is well treated with a special type of oil. So if ever you find your shoes with some wear and tear scratches, Timberland claims that you can effortlessly push those markings away.
Sperry is among the best and trusted makers of boat shoes which is no wonder why I have another pair from them in this list. The 3-Eye Billfish Boat Shoe is a combo of leather and textile for its upper. Its design makes it possible to be used as a typical casual boat shoe and as a low cut sneaker at the same time.
One common but unavoidable problem about boat shoes is the tendency of its leather upper to trap heat from inside. Sebago Men's Clovehitch II Oxford deals with this problem with a breathable mesh design on both sides of the vamp and quarter. They also come in various hues that creatively match different outdoor activities or occasions.
Same with Sperry, Timberland has earned its place as among the trusted makers of quality and fashionable boat shoes. The brand's Earthekeepers Kiawah Bay Boat Shoe is a typical deck shoe with rubber sole and leather upper. Timberland however, uses a special type of leather for this pair of boat shoes - premium material from LWG silver rated tannery ensuring superior comfort and durability.
The Final Word
Finding a reliable pair of boat shoes is quite a challenging task considering the variations being made by today's top deck shoe makers. Depending on how and where you plan on using your boat shoes, you may want to consider looking carefully at specific details of the shoe.
In this review, I'd highly recommend Sperry Top-Sider Men's A/O Boat Shoe because it projects that classic deck shoe style most deck shoe enthusiasts are looking for these days. It's simple in design but a guaranteed game changer when talking about comfort and longevity.
Written by Robert Ordway
Raised in the small mill town of Lake Station, Indiana, Robert’s blue collar upbringing exposed him to little if any of the clothing industry. Robert has been following the menswear industry for over a decade and has been significantly influenced by the book, Dressing the Man by Alan Flusser. From 2009-2012, he worked in retail sales at both Brooks Brothers and JCrew. In 2015, Robert received the Custom Clothier certification from the Custom Tailor and Designers Association (CTDA), the oldest continuously operating trade organization in the United States. He is the former owner of Rusted Oak, a men’s retail clothing store in Valparaiso, Indiana.
Today, Robert's mission is to teach men of all shapes and sizes about grooming care, general life style tips, and of course male fashion stemming from his deep career in the fashion industry.