The year was 1935. In New Haven, Connecticut a dog ran over ice, effortlessly, without slipping. As it just so happened, this dog's owner was Paul A. Sperry. Sperry made cuts in his rubber soles, which improved their traction, inspiring a shoe perfect for boating. Since then, boat shoes have come a long way. Throughout the history of these wet walkers, their uses have evolved with culture. In the 70’s, they became popular casual footwear in coastal areas. Throughout the 80’s, early 90’s, and late 2000’s, the shoe weaved in and out of popular culture as something to wear with everyday and dressy attire.
Today, boat shoes take many forms under many different brand names. Not only do boat shoes look good, but they’ll hold you sturdy in any slippery circumstance. Here’s a list of the best, modern boat shoes on the market today.
Boat Shoes Buying Guide
Sperry Top-Sider Men's Authentic Original 2-Eye Boat Shoes
They’ve sailed into fashion as the loafing shoe of choice for many high school and college students. Don’t be fooled though; this shoe is a working shoe. Its leather kisses your feet, it has excellent traction on boats, and most of all it’s durable. There’s a reason that Sperry’s are the brand that's top of mind when people think 'boat shoes.'
Quoddy Canoe Shoes
Sure, they’re a little bit pricey, but if you want control over what you’re wearing then the Quoddy is for you. No two pairs are alike—everything about the shoe is customizable down to the laces. You get to build it from the ground up so you can make sure that it matches everything about your boating style.
Tommy Hilfiger Men’s Bowman Boat Shoe
These are Sperry’s less popular cousin. With that said, these shoes certainly are no slouch. Tommy Hilfiger has translated his fashion prowess into the boating world. It sacrifices a little functionality of the Sperry for a more stylish and traditional look.
Sebago is a classic brand that was founded in the 1940s. Needless to say, you can never go wrong when you bring out something as timeless as these. Their Docksides line of shoes was pretty popular in the 80s, and for good reason. They’re pretty fresh. Sebago also has several other styles of shoe now, but all are suited for boating.
Margaritaville’s Dock Boat Shoe
This is probably the most casual shoe on this list. Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville is a place that many boaters wish to sail away to, and these shoes can help you feel like you’re already there. Forget the salt shaker, grab a margarita and find a place in the sand. There’s not much more you need to know, just know that these are always a good choice.
Generic Store-Brand Boat Shoes
You’ll see them sold at certain clothing stores like Target or Payless, often by the checkout aisle—and let’s just be completely honest, these shoes probably work fine. They might break after a little while, but they’re really inexpensive so you can’t blame them. The real issue with these shoes is that you don’t want one of your fellow yachties to notice that your shoes are store-brand... Nothing yells 'wanna-be' like wearing a pair of these.
No matter what boat shoe you decide to invest in, remember the cardinal rule of boat shoes: don’t have socks showing while you wear them—seriously, just don’t.