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How to: Wear boat shoes

How to: Wear boat shoes

Ah, the boat shoe. That old summer standby that goes as well with jeans as with chino shorts, that looks equally at home on the beach and in your garden, and that recalls the polished prep of JFK and American Ivy League students. Arguably the best, most versatile summer shoes for men, boat shoes still come with some caveats.

Here, Thread stylist Luke McDonald shares the four essential tips to wearing boat shoes well. For the best ones for you, see your tailored summer essentials. 

Boat shoe tip 1. Save them for spring and summer

"Boat shoes are lightweight and leave a lot of your foot exposed, which is great in summer because they're cool and comfortable," says Luke. "This also means they're not resilient enough to withstand wind and rain in autumn and winter."

Boat shoe tip 2. Avoid (visible) socks

"Boat shoes have a low cut on the foot, and it looks weird to have that much sock on show," Luke explains. "Plus they were meant to be worn on boat decks, without socks, so that's how they look best and most natural." If you can't abide socklessness, invest in some invisible socks ... or wear your boat shoes with trousers and plain black socks. 

Boat shoe tip 3. Make sure you can see the whole shoe (and consider a cuff)

"When boat shoes are covered by trousers, you can't see the shoes' main details—the stitching around the foot, and the tie at the front—so they look odd, like a moccasin or slipper," Luke says. "Boat shoes look best with tapered trousers or straight-leg trousers that are shorter or rolled up. These trousers show the whole shoe and play to its casual summer heritage."

Boat shoe tip 4. Wear them instead of trainers

"Boat shoes are smarter than trainers, but they're not smart-casual," Luke says. "When you're wearing an outfit that you'd usually wear with trainers—for instance, a t-shirt and jeans, or a shirt and shorts—swap in boat shoes and you'll look slightly smarter. Chinos, especially, look great with boat shoes."