Warm Weather Essentials: The Boat Shoe (With Our Picks)

Warm Weather Essentials: The Boat Shoe (With Our Picks)
The boat shoe is the well-dressed man's flip flop. It will easily take you to the beach, the pool, the boardwalk, plus a million places a flip flop shouldn't go. It pairs with shorts in a way few leather shoes can, and looks equally sharp with a pair of jeans, corduroys, or chinos.

The boat shoe is the well-dressed man's flip flop. It will easily take you to the beach, the pool, the boardwalk, plus a million places a flip flop shouldn't go. It pairs with shorts in a way few leather shoes can, and looks equally sharp with a pair of jeans, corduroys, or chinos.

Some guys have trouble with boat shoes. They think they can't pull them off, they're too preppy, or too "old man." The only reason for this is because we never really wear them as kids, but when you get to a certain age, flip flops and sandals just don't feel appropriate in a lot of the situations we find ourselves in as adults.

I'm not going to wear a pair of Havaianas to my boss's barbeque, and I'm definitely not going to sport shorts with a pair of sneakers and atheletic socks. Few things in style may seem simple, but when it comes to which shoe you should pair with your shorts and chinos in the warmer months, it couldn't be simpler.

The best part is they're super comfortable too. I always wear mine sockless if I'm going with shorts. It may feel unusual at first, but you get used to it pretty quickly. Be sure to keep a can of shoe doederant spray on hand to keep the funk down. I like to spray my feet before wearing them, and then the inside of the shoes when I take them off.

A majority of the boat shoes you'll encounter come from one of the two founding brands: Sperry and Sebago. Both have a full collection of styles and colors, and most run in the $75-$90 range. A pair from either of the brands won't let you down, but the design is pretty universal and you won't have any problems if you pick up a cheaper pair from a different brand. I've had a pair from Lands' End for a couple years now. I wear the hell out of them and they still look great.

Trying to figure out what to wear with your boat shoes and shorts? Check out Primer's Complete Visual Guide to Shorts.


Timberland, $67.50

Andrew is the founder and editor of Primer. He's a graduate of American University and currently lives in Los Angeles. Read more about Primer on our About page. On Instagram: @andrewsnavely and @primermagazine.

  • Ethan

    Awesome stuff Andrew. Very helpful. With pants, would you wear socks with these? Or just stick to a different shoe if you were wearing pants?

    • http://www.primermagazine.com Andrew

      Ethan, Glad you like it! I wear mine with jeans and chinos all the time. I do wear socks, and normally opt for a striped or patterned pair.

  • James

    Those Sebago Campsides you posted at the bottom are technically blucher moccasins – not boat shoes. Boat shoes traditionally have 2 eyelets, as well as the lacing that goes around back of the heel (for pulling extra tight so they don’t fall off while you’re climbing around your boat). Boat shoes also have a special sole that remains grippy even while wet – this sole is often white so it doesn’t leave marks all over your boat, although the white sole is not a requirement (tan is another common color).

    The Campsides have none of these features that would make it a boat shoe. They’re a great shoe style nonetheless (I have a similar LL Bean pair), but they’re not boat shoes.

  • http://www.primermagazine.com Andrew

    James, That’s all true. I wanted to include an option that was less “preppy” than the others. I believe the sole is the same that they use on their boat shoes, and outside the side lacing and the extra eyelets it’s a comparable style for folks.

  • Apm

    Ethan: in the summer months, I always go sockless with boat shoes, even with chinos. Try rolling up the bottom of your trousers while wearing boat shoes, can look quite good with a slimmer pair.

    “Few things in style may seem simple, but when it comes to which shoe you should pair with your shorts and chinos in the warmer months, it couldn’t be simpler.”

    Completely agree, boat shoes always look great with shorts and chinos! I actually wear them 3 seasons a year.

  • http://www.mattsayar.com Matt Sayar

    OK cool, now which boat goes with these shoes?

  • Greg_s

    That sebago spinnaker is nails. Wow. If only I hadn’t just bought blue suede boat shoes….

  • Jonathan

    I just bought some Sperry’s on Sunday but I must ask, I would love to wear them sockless but how do you all wear them without socks and not have your feet get either really hot or smell bad?

  • Brandon M

    I know I will probably get roasted for this, but Crocs have come out with some attractive canvas and leather slip-ons. They make more than just the rubber gardening shoes you’ll see at the mall. I feel they’re noticeably more comfortable than Sperry’s while still looking good at a cook-out or summer festival.

  • Dave

    Jonathon, two tips. First, buy cheap, fairly thin insoles that you can put in the shoe without affecting the size. (My local drug store sells them for less than four dollars.) Replace the sole every month or so, depending on how often you go sockless. Second, a little baby powder or talcum powder goes a long way.

    By the way, I have a pair of Timberland boat shoes I’ve owned for two years. In the summer, I wear the crap out of them. Last year I even went on two pretty grueling hikes with them. A new cheap insole and a coat of polish, and they’re ready to rock again this year.

  • Ron

    The only thing I don’t like about (some of) them is the leather laces. Hard to tie and keep tied. any suggestions?

  • Matt

    @Jonathan, You don’t have to wear them without socks. Journey’s sells no-show socks that work great for boat shoes(they help with keeping the smell down). Also, I put odor eater insoles in mine, which help a lot, especially if you wear them without socks. You can get them at pretty much any pharmacy. Hope this helps!

  • Jonathan

    Matt & Dave,
    Thank you very much for the help, I will deffinetly try some of these suggestions!

  • http://www.primermagazine.com Andrew

    Popular post today, would you guys be down for more of these types of articles?

  • Tony

    Hey Andrew, always great stuff! I have a pair of Timberland slip on loafers, much like a venetian but with a boat shoe sole that is white that I like to wear with shorts. I like the clean, no laces look they have. What are your thoughts on a shoe of that style?

    • http://www.primermagazine.com Andrew

      Tony, I think those are like driving shoes right? Those work great with shorts also.

  • Tony

    Similar to the driving mocs with the exception of the sole being flat and not the rockered rubber like they have. Thanks again for all the great content!

  • Michael

    Andrew, I’m definitely interested in more of these articles. As a matter of fact, I’ve held off on buying a pair of boat shoes because picking a pair seemed daunting. This article helps a lot

  • Ethan

    Completely agree with Michael. The Get-Ups and articles like this are my primary reasons for visiting the site. I’d love to see more like this

  • http://www.primermagazine.com Andrew

    Thanks Ethan! Anything specific you’d like to see?

  • Pingback: Warm Weather Essentials: The Boat Shoe (With Our Picks) | Primer | Womens Boots On Sale()

  • Thomas

    I live in south-east Kansas, so the only boating that happens out here is on a fishing boat, so I find the boat shoe look is a bit too trendy, at least the way it’s worn out here. I prefer function to go along with style, and I feel like boat shoes in Kansas goes a bit too far. That said, the Sebago Campsides strike my fancy. They have a casual look without the nautical functionality. If it weren’t for an article like this, I might have missed a potential gem, but I’m glad to see a style that provides the same functionality as a boat shoe (in terms of casual summer footwear, not in terms of what to wear on a boat) without the accoutrements that turn me away from them. Thanks Andrew!

  • Ethan


    Articles like this regarding canvas shoes would be cool. Maybe more articles like the “Our Picks from the Land’s End Canvas” sale. Anything instructional really would be very helpful

  • desigooner

    I recently bought the LL Bean Casco Boat Shoes and they were a terrific deal at 50$ (after15% off) + 10$ Gift Card

  • Pingback: Sale: $15 Flat Front Shorts at Target in Lots of Colors | Primer()

  • http://www.jessydiamond.com Jessy Diamond

    The Sebago Spinnaker is my favorite. Love the colors!

  • Jake

    What does everyone think of these ones from American Eagle? http://www.ae.com/web/browse/product.jsp?productId=2212_6074_207&catId=cat4840024&bundleCatId=cat5480016
    I think they look pretty nice…and they’re a bit cheaper than Sperry’s.

    • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew

      Jake, I dig ’em. I like them better in the brown than the than. Not a fan of the cream colored sole on the the tan ones.

      • Jake

         Thanks! I actually like the tan ones better, though, haha…I’m not a big fan of the white soles on the brown ones…I walk a lot and it’s super dusty here so they would not be white for long.

  • Michael

    Andrew, what do you think of these boat shoes by Florsheim? I don’t know much about the quality of the brand, but they’re on sale for $60 and I like their look.


    • http://www.primermagazine.com Andrew

      Hey Michael, They’re a little modern for me, I prefer the classic boat shoe design. But Florsheim is a fine enough brand if you dig ’em, you should go for it.

  • http://www.themodestman.com The Modest Man

    Do you think dark brown leather is the best, most versatile style boat shoe?

  • vishal
  • Jeffrey the Barak

    No need for the aerosol chemicals. These shoes can and should be washed inside and out with soapy water and will usually dry in a room in an hour. Then all you will smell is clean new leather.