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The summer footwear guide

The summer footwear guide

Men who live in truly hot climates, whose summers are long and guaranteed sunny, rather than just surprisingly so for the odd week, understand the importance of shoes built for warm weather. To us, it can seem unimportant; if you’ve swapped the jeans for shorts, you feet can survive in the trainers you wore all winter. But that ignores both the pleasure of ventilated feet, and the practicalities of how much they swell and sweat as they start to cook.

“Seasonality is a huge part of dressing well,” says Thread stylist Luke McDonald. This applies equally to what you put on your body and what shoes you slip into. “Footwear can make or break an outfit and that doesn’t change in the summer. With the right shoes, you can quickly ruin or perfect a look.”

The style that’s right depends on your outfit, but whatever you choose, they need to be breathable. “You want something light,” says Luke. “Lighter fabrics, lighter colours. Something that is relaxed, easy to slip on, less formal and more fun.”

One big footwear mistake is thinking that one pair of summer shoes will work anywhere, any time the sun’s out. But your sandals are not suitable at work, weddings, or a host of places in between. Like in winter, you need to suit style to occasion. “Suede is the dream for anything more dressed up, it’s lighter and more relaxed than leather but looks great in warm weather,” says Luke. Here’s five styles to add to your warm-weather inventory.


Photographed (clockwise from top): Teva Olive Green Sandals (£69)Birkenstock Beige ‘Arizona’ Sandals (£69)Pier One Light Brown Leather Mules (£23)River Island Brown Double Strap Sandals (£30)Paul Smith Navy Webbing Sandals (£110)Oliver Sweeney Dark Brown Leather Sandals (£119)

Why they work in summer: “The closest you can get to going barefoot while actually wearing shoes," says Luke. "They’re cool, practical and a smart leather style can be really elegant.”

Key features: An open toe with straps that go over the foot, attaching the sole to the top. They can be leather, canvas, bright colours or neutrals.

How to wear them: “The easiest way is with shorts and a t-shirt or a short-sleeve shirt. For a twist on smart-casual, a slim suit with leather sandals and a t-shirt looks great.” Just please, not with socks.

Ankle boots

Photographed (from l-r): MVP Dark Brown Suede Desert Boots (£55)Selected Homme Light Brown Suede Royce Boots (£55)Grenson Navy Marcus Boots (£220); Paul Smith Beige Suede Mott Boots (£275)Oliver Sweeney Dark Brown Fowey Leather Boots (£249); Clarks Originals Neutral Desert Boots (£95)

Why they work in summer: Desert boots were designed to be worn by soldiers in the desert, so were literally made for hot weather. Ideal when you want something smart, but still lightweight and breathable.

Key features: Either in leather or suede, the desert boot is ankle height and lightweight, with a slight heel and thick, sturdy sole.

How to wear them: “They look great with chinos or dark denim. The military history gives then a real heritage feel, so they’re perfect with something like a chambray or check shirt. They’re a perfect smart-casual summer shoe.”

Light trainers

Photographed (clockwise from top): Stepney Workers Club Dellow Pink Canvas Sneakers (£59)Toms Beige Hi-Top Sneakers (£80); Spalwart Marathon Trail Blue and White Runners (£209)adidas Gazelle Trainers (£75); Converse Olive Green Chuck Taylor 1970 Hi-Tops (£69)Paul Smith Light Blue Knitted Runners (£150)

Why they work in summer: Trainers work year round, but summer’s inspired a glut of specific designs, from skate shoes to tennis sneakers.

Key features: The key summer update is the fabric – you want something breathable, like mesh, suede or canvas. Then, tweak the colour. When the weather’s nice, white won’t stain. But it’s also a perfect time for bright shades like yellow or even lavender.

How to wear them: “The ultimate in casual, they’ll work with anything from shorts and a t-shirt to chinos and a bright camp collar shirt. If you fancy the no-sock look, opt for an invisible sock instead.”

Boat shoes

Photographed (from l-r): Sperry Topsider Dark Brown Boat Shoes (£89)Hammond & Co Pink Boat Shoes (£52)Sperry Topsider Navy Boat Shoes (£89); Red Herring Khaki Suede Boat Shoes (£36)GH Bass Light Blue Suede Boat Shoes (£110); Joules Tan Boat Shoes (£70)

Why they work in summer: “A nautical classic worn by sailors since the 1930s, they’re no longer reserved for anyone braving the high seas. Smart and preppy but not too formal.”

Key features: Typically canvas or leather with stitching around the shoe. They have a non-slip sole and are designed to get wet and dry out quickly – ideal for the deck of a boat, or a spot of paddling.

How to wear them: “They work best in preppy looks; think a pale sweatshirt with a solid coloured polo and tan chinos. Look to JFK for inspiration.”


Photographed (from l-r): Zign Beige Espadrilles (£30)Orlebar Brown Light Blue Sutton Espadrilles (£95)Oliver Sweeney Khaki Espadrilles (£99);Pier One Light Blue Espadrilles (£20); Joules Ahoy Navy Espadrilles (£59)YourTurn Red and White Stripe Espadrilles (£12)

Why they work in summer: They’re the lightest shoe you can have without resorting to a sandal, good enough for Salvador Dali and Miami Vice’s Sonny Crockett. Perfect if you want something cooling, but like to keep your toes covered.

Key features: A rope or jute sole and canvas top. Colours and patterns will vary but if it’s not canvas, and it doesn’t have a woven sole, it’s not an espadrille.

How to wear them: “Always without socks. If you really can’t forgo the sock, make it invisible. It’s a relaxed shoe so looks great with wider fitting chinos or linen trousers.”

Words: Nadia Balame-Price