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Whether you just became a legal adult or you’re heading into your prime golden years as a man, you’ve probably had at least one pair of boat shoes in your lifetime. That’s because boat shoes are stylish, easy to wear and just downright comfortable, making them one of the best slip-on shoes for men. Plus, the loafer-style shoe is affordably priced, unlike some footwear options. Aside from that, boat shoes also serve as the perfect spring/summer shoe.
Origins of the Boat Shoes
When you think about boat shoes, you instantly think of Sperry’s. The reason for this is that the brand single-handedly ignited the boat shoe trend. In 1935, Paul Sperry invented the first boat shoe after he observed how his dog never seemed to slip whenever running over ice. Of course, this is since dogs have grooves in their paws.
Sperry then recreated the feature on his shoe soles by using a knife to improve the overall reaction of his footing when tackling slippery terrain. This noble act served as the blueprint for one of the most popular boat shoe brands, Sperry (Top-Sider).
How Should You Wear Boat Shoes?
Boat shoes are the epitome of summerwear. Obviously, given the name, boat shoes were initially a go-to shoe to wear for boating, but they’ve become very stylish in the men’s fashion space. Now, you might think it doesn’t make sense to wear boat shoes in the cold weather, but guys do it all the time because these shoes are so comfortable, plus they can be dressed up or down. They’re versatile enough for the office or a date but casual enough to wear on weekends in the city or on the boardwalk. Not to mention, you can wear them with or without socks.
However, it’s important to note that if you’re actually wearing them for boating, they do have to meet certain standards. Specifically, you’ll need to ensure that the soles are non-marking.
With so many boat shoes on the market, it can be tough trying to settle on the best pair for yourself. That’s where we can help. We’ve gathered some of the best boat shoes online here in one list. We’re familiar with and have owned shoes from all of these brands and they will all deliver the stylish boat shoe you’re looking for with their own twists on the classic style.
The Best Sperry Boat Shoes
Since Sperry started the boat shoe trend and craze, it’s only right that we lead off the roundup with some styles from the brand. Of course, given the variety of Sperry’s boat shoe offerings, it’s an impossible task to pick just one great pair. That’s why we went through Sperry’s more than 130 styles and picked multiple styles that it seems only Sperry could make.
1. Sperry Gold Cup Handcrafted in Maine Tri-Tone Boat Shoe
For our first pick, we wanted something strong for the best boat shoes. Scrolling through the Sperry website, there was one shoe that stood out among all others: the Men’s Gold Cup Handcrafted in Maine Authentic Original Tri-Tone Boat Shoe. The “Handcrafted in Maine” part of the name indicates this is Sperry’s premium line of shoes and this shoe absolutely delivers.
It uses leather from the Horween Leather Company, one of the best and oldest continuously running tanneries in the US. The shoes are hand punctured and stitched and incorporate Vibram soles for traction and top-quality perforated leather linings for supreme softness, breathability and comfort. But what really brings these shoes together is the tri-tone color scheme of red, ivory and navy. Nothing’s more awesome or more American or more boat shoe than handmade shoes in America in the good old red, white and blue.
2. Sperry Billfish 3-Eye Boat Shoe
If you want to go for a pair of Sperry’s that are a bit more casual and can be worn anywhere, you can’t go wrong with the Billfish 3-Eye Boat Shoe. The shoe uses full-grain leather uppers and has full-length cushioning providing comfort to your feet all day. Its rubber outsoles feature wave-siping that gives you increased traction on slippery and dry surfaces to prevent slides. Not to mention, it comes with perforated side panels for increased breathability. The boat shoes come in a gorgeous dark and light tan color, perfect for when you want to dress down with a classic polo and a pair of jeans.
3. Sperry Gold Cup Handcrafted in Maine Authentic Original Boat Shoe
So you want premium Sperry boat shoes, but perhaps you’re not feeling the red, white and blue leather? That’s cool, just go for the identical Men’s Gold Cup Handcrafted in Maine Authentic Original Boat Shoe. These boast all the same high-quality materials and come in far more traditional colorways like brown, blue and natural.
4. Sperry Bahama II Sneaker
Part boat shoe, part sneaker, these canvas shoes from Sperry are a decidedly more casual alternative to the traditional leather boat shoe. The flat rubber sole and canvas upper make them feel look like your Vans, while the lacing system and moccasin toe bear the unmistakable look of a boat shoe. There are a variety of color options, but clean and classic white is hard to beat.
5. Sperry Outer Banks 2-Eye Washed Boat Shoe
Sperry boat shoes are plenty preppy as it is, but can they be laid back, too? Well, it turns out that the answer is yes. The Outer Banks Boat shoe strips away any signs of preppiness by removing its laces and taking on a vintage construction. This pair of shoes have a washed denim design giving them a more relaxed feel for hitting the streets. They feature a non-marking sole with wave-siping for better traction. And if you aren’t feeling the blue colorway, you can pick up these cool shoes in gray, white, or red.
6. Sperry Authentic Original Float Boat Shoe
We’ve given you some of Sperry’s absolute best, most premium options, but what about something a little more directly useful for water?
The new Sperry Men’s Authentic Original Float Boat Shoe is a boat shoe designed to, yup, float in water, and it’s perfect for beaches and general spring and summer weather. These boat shoes are made from an EVA material, so they’re super light, buoyant and waterproof. Size down a half size for the best fit and never lose your shoes on the water or deal with soaked steps again. Try wearing it on beach days for summer 2022 — you won’t regret it.
7. Sperry Plushwave Boat Shoe
We wanted something from Sperry that prioritized comfort above all else because hey, no matter what any shoe manufacturer says, any leather shoe can get uncomfortable after a day of walking. That’s what Sperry set out to fix with its Men’s Authentic Original Plushwave Boat Shoe. You get the full-grain leather and laces you expect from Sperry, but this shoe uses what Sperry calls Plushwave technology, an ultra-light, cushiony, bouncy sole to keep your foot from getting tired while footing it around the city. We think the tan color will give you the most versatility, but honestly, the brown, navy and oatmeal colors will work with a million outfits too.
The Best Alternative Boat Shoe Brands
While we lead with Sperry, you shouldn’t think they’re the only name in boat shoes. They may be the standard but trust us, there are plenty of incredible brands out there making worthwhile Sperry contenders.
Don’t believe us? Take a look through the rest of our list of the best boat shoes for men below!
8. Reef Cushion Coast TX
For the guys looking for a pair of boat shoes that don’t have the traditional preppy style, we would recommend going with Reef’s Cushion Coast. The shoe is the perfect hybrid of a sandal and sneaker as it offers great ventilation to keep your feet breathable but durable enough to tackle the terrain. They feature soft cushioning with bounce energy to keep your feet comfortable. Plus, the shoes have great arch support for anyone prone to tired, achy feet.
9. Florsheim Edge Boat Shoe
We can’t stress this enough, stop sleeping on Amazon when it comes to finding stylish and affordable footwear. This shoe is constructed with a canvas upper that is more durable than leather, which is found on most boat shoes. Its fabric is super breathable, preventing your feet from overheating, plus the fabric is moisture-wicking, which will come in handy if you ever wear these out on the boat.
10. St. John’s Bay Cedar Boat Shoe
You’re probably thinking that most boat shoes look similar to one another, and you’re right, but you won’t find a better-priced pair than these Cedar Boat shoes from JCPenney. The shoes are made of a polyurethane upper and lining with a thermoplastic-rubber outsole. They feature a memory foam insole for added comfort. While you might not garner the most attention while wearing these shoes, you will definitely have some pretty durable boat shoes that won’t break the bank.
11. Toms Claremont Boat Shoe
If you’re obsessed with wearing your espadrilles from Toms, then you’ll love their boat shoes. The canvas loafers pack plenty of comfort and are very easy to break-in. They come equipped with a Toms CloudBound sole that delivers a premium cushion for your feet and provides great traction on slippery surfaces. You’ll also find the shoes to be quite breathable thanks to their Ortholite insoles that are hand washable to keep fresh longer. And if that doesn’t sell you, then maybe hearing that the shoes’ sleek and minimal design allows them to pair well with just about any outfit.
12. Quoddy Classic Boat Shoe
Can’t seem to find the perfect boat shoe for your style? Well, how about designing your own pair? One of Quoddy’s unique offerings is a design-your-own boat shoe option where you can pick every aspect of the brand’s Classic Boat Shoe. The overall design process includes customizing the upper leather color, the color of the sole, the thread color, the hardware color for the three eyelets, the lace color, and the lining color. Of course, if you aren’t into being a makeshift shoe designer, you can always just opt for a pair of Quoddy’s stocked footwear options.
13. Dockers Vargas Boat Shoe
Dockers has proved itself to be quite the brand over the years, creating timeless garments for men of all ages. So to see their collection offer boat shoes is a win for everyone. The loafer-style shoe is made of genuine leather that will age beautifully. They have a cushioned EVA footbed with molded EVA heel cups that will support your feet over the course of a long day.
14. Olukai Moku Pae
These may look like a pair of ordinary sneakers, but trust us, they’re a modern take on the classic boat shoe. Olukai has changed the game with this option being constructed of a lightweight and breathable mesh upper and welded accents that allow it to offer a seamless fit. The shoes feature a Dual-density anatomical PU footbed with gel inserts that provides substantial support and cushioning all day long. With those same inserts being removable and washable, keeping your kicks fresh is made easy. If you find yourself in a rush and can’t slip into the shoe, utilize the drop-in heel for a slide experience.
15. Tommy Hilfiger Brazen Boat Shoe
These leather-made boat shoes are some of the most gorgeous we’ve ever seen. Full-throttle head-turners. They’re covered in dark-brown leather that will make you drip in finesse and have a 360-degree lacing system that keeps your feet snug.
16. L.L. Bean Casco Boat Shoe
If you haven’t picked up on a trend yet, Maine makes the best boat shoes in the world. L.L. Bean is both an inheritor and a carrier of that tradition, and its Men’s Casco Bay Boat Mocs are top-notch. The Casco Bay Boat Mocs are, as the name implies, a true cross between boat shoes and moccasins. They’ll handle boating and fishing, but are comfortable enough for hanging in the backyard too. An all-leather upper and leather lining keep things durable and comfortable, while a siped rubber outsole keeps sliding on wet surfaces to a minimum.
17. Ralph Lauren Keaton Leather Boat Shoe
For years, Ralph Lauren has been cooking up stylish and functional polo attire, so how could we possibly leave out a pair of boat shoes from the brand? They have a vulcanized rubber sole giving these shoes ample traction and a modernized look. The uppers are made of durable full-grain leather that should only look better with time.