The Ultimate Guide to Boat Shoes
Boat shoes, also known as deck shoes and top-siders are not only a classic footwear style, but also are the must-wear shoe for any style-conscious seafarer.
To celebrate this timeless shoe and our sister site’s current competition in association with Chatham UK, we’ve put together the ultimate guide to the boat shoe.
Although perhaps most famous as an fundamental part of the Preppy style after featuring in The Official Preppy Handbook by Lisa Birnbach in 1980, the invention of modern boat shoe is attributed to Paul Sperry in the early 1930s.
(The Official Preppy Handbook. Image Source: Thrift Store Preppy)
Sperry was a keen boater who often struggled to maneuver around his boat when the deck was wet. The design for the Sperry Top-Sider came to him one winter in Connecticut whilst noticing how his cocker spaniel, Prince was able to run across ice with ease. After analyzing Prince’s paws, he decided to design a shoe with a leather top and a sole with herringbone pattern grooves.
The Authentic Original Sperry Top-Sider was first introduced into the market in 1935 and offered far superior traction to most other shoes available. Offering boaters the ability to walk more easily on a slippery deck, and also make no marks due to its white sole, the shoe was an instant hit.
Sperry sold his business to the U.S. Rubber Co. after securing a deal with the U.S. Navy, which resulted in the shoes global popularity.
The Complete Look
Traditionally boat shoes are meant for the summer when on the water and often paired with khaki trousers, slim jeans or shorts. Madras and seersucker patterned fabrics are also popular accompaniments. The typical casual Preppy style is usually topped off with an Oxford cloth button-down shirt or polo shirt. Boat shoes also work in a more formal look with a blazer or suit jacket.
With or Without Socks?
Originally, boat shoes would be worn without socks, only for practicality while on the water, but many believe that off the water, socks are a must. It remains a heated debate, but the choice is obviously yours.
(Image Source: worndownclogs)
Breaking Them In
It isn't uncommon leather boat shoes can be quite stiff when new. Luckily, the best way to soften them up for a more comfortable fit is to get them wet. Another alternative is rub oil into them, covering them and letting them dry naturally.
Making Them Last
If you wear your boat shoes onboard a boat a lot, excess sun and water will take its toll eventually. On leather boat shoes, water-based cream shoe polish will stop them fading and protect them from the elements.
For suede boat shoes, there are many types of protection spray available, but a cheaper alternative is to rub cornflour into the suede, leaving overnight, then brushing down with a suede brush.
Canvas boat shoes can be cleaned with a simple soapy hand wash.
To win a pair of Chatham UK boat shoes, head over BoatsandOutboards.co.uk and enter the competition by filling out a quick form.
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Main Image Source: Chatham UK
Article by Jack Bartrop