Decked Out: The Best Boat Shoes Brands For Summer 2023

Decked Out: The Best Boat Shoes Brands For Summer 2023

Summer can make things tricky where smart-casual footwear is concerned. Shorts season robs styles like derbies and chukkas of their versatility. After all, nobody wants to see bare legs and brogues or desert boots, but what choices are there outside of sneakers?

Espadrilles are an option, but they can feel a little too informal and beachy in some settings. What you need is something that at least implies that you’ve made an effort. This is where boat shoes (also known as deck shoes) really come into their own.

These laid-back moc-toe shoes are easy to slip on and off, low profile, go with everything (shorts included) and while nowhere close to even approaching ‘dressy’ they are a whole lot smarter than a pair of sneakers or plimsolls.

If you don’t already own a pair, it might be time to reconsider, and this guide will arm you with everything you need in order to make an informed purchase.

What Is A Boat Shoe?


The clue is in the name. Boat shoes were originally designed to be worn on deck, providing grip and traction on slippery wet surfaces. They have a low slip-on design, but also feature laces that can be adjusted to really dial the fit in.

The unique zig-zag grip pattern on the original boat shoes made by Paul A. Sperry in the 1930s had an unlikely source of inspiration. When Sperry saw his dog running around on ice, he noticed that the animal rarely slipped. After inspecting the dog’s paws, he modelled the tread pattern on them and the first boat shoe was born.

These days, boat shoes aren’t just for on deck. The simple design and classic looks have made them popular casual shoes, and many versions no longer use the original sole design. Shoes like Timberland’s iconic 3-Eye Lug trade the thin rubber for a chunky commando tread, which gives the shoe a more rugged, filled-out appearance.

Boat Shoe Buying Considerations



Traditionally boat shoes are made from leather, but this is by no means the only option when it comes to material. For added breathability, canvas is an excellent option that offers a more casual look.

You could also opt for suede, although it’s not that great in the wet, which is something to consider if you’re going to be using the shoes for their intended purpose at any point.



Classic boat shoes have thin, flat rubber soles with a zig-zag tread pattern for grip. It’s great on slippery decks, but not necessarily the most practical option when it comes to walking around on land as they can wear out quickly.

If you plan on walking around lots, it would pay to consider a slightly thicker, more robust sole.



Sperry’s Authentic Original shoe is to boat shoes what Chuck Taylor All Stars are to sneakers. A pair will set you back around £100, which is a good benchmark.

For premium versions from fancy labels using high-end materials, you can expect to pay north of this – anywhere up to the high hundreds for the most expensive options.

At the other end of the scale, it’s possible to pick up a budget version from a high-street shoe store for less than £30.

The Best Boat Shoes Brands


Direct-to-consumer brand Velasca is all about making the best possible shoes with the lowest possible price tag. All of the label’s shoes are handcrafted by highly skilled artisans in Italy’s shoemaking capital, Marche, including several styles of boat shoes.

The Capelèe is a classic deck shoe made in Italy using premium materials. It’s an elevated yet classic option that offers a step up from the usual go-to boat shoes.

There’s also the Gambaree, which offers a slightly smarter look, and the Giulietta, which has a slightly taller design that covers more of the ankle.

Shop now at Velasca


French workwear for your feet. How about that? We love a good bleu de travail jacket as much as the next person, so any brand that can bring the same strain of tasteful functionality to our shoe rack is a winner in our eyes.

Kleman has shod several public organisations – the French national railway, fire departments and police forces to name a few – but it also has a loyal civilian following, who rate the brand’s shoes for their quality and style.

Check out the Donato G VGT, which is a lovely sturdy option that’s handmade in France and features a nice chunky commando sole.

Shop now at Kleman


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Sperry single-handedly invented the boat shoe, so where better to buy a pair from? The American brand’s Authentic Original deck shoe is one of the best sellers in the category, remaining almost unchanged in just shy of 100 years. Why? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

For those looking for something a little more modern, there are plenty of contemporary variations on the style too, including rubber options with drainage holes for maximum practicality on deck.

Shop now at John Lewis


When discussing classic deck shoes, you might hear Sebago mentioned in the same breath as Sperry. This is another historic New England boat-shoe brand that has been doing its thing since the 1940s.

The Dockside is Sebago’s best-selling style, and fans argue that while they take longer to break in than Sperry’s alternatives, they ultimately end up being a more flexible, comfortable shoe. We’ll leave that to you to decide.

Shop now at Farfetch


Founded in Maine in the 1940s, Quoddy has been producing quality moccasins for decades, with a range that spans everything from ranger boots to boat shoes.

There are several boat shoe styles available to order from stock, or you can have Quoddy create a made-to-measure pair just for you.

Shop now at Quoddy


Timberland’s 3-Eye Lug is almost as iconic as its original 6” boot. The style has found its way around a number of niche subcultures and its preppy yet slightly rugged looks make it an excellent all rounder for casual and smart-casual wear.

If you need proof of its cool factor, look no further than the collaboration with brand of the moment Aimé Leon Dore, which saw the silhouette reimagined by contemporary tastemaker Teddy Santis.

Shop now at END.


French brand Paraboot is best known for its Michael Derby shoes, which have become something close to uniform for a certain breed of urban cool guy. But there’s more to Paraboot than this one style, including a selection of premium, handmade boat shoes that are well worth a look.

We’re big fans of the Malo, which features a classic boat-shoe upper stitched onto a chunky sole. It’s made in Spain and has a Blake-stitched construction for easy resoling.

Shop now at END.

Ralph Lauren

King of prep Ralph Lauren is no stranger to a deck shoe. This is one of the NYC label’s key footwear styles, tying in heavily with the overarching aesthetic of the brand.

There’s the Ranger Leather boat shoe, with a heavy commando sole and thick leather uppers, or the Merton, which is more of a classic flat-soled deck shoe. Both are great options, but the Merton is probably better suited to summer wear.

Shop now at Ralph Lauren


Japanese label Visvim is known for its unique brand of dishevelled Americana chic, drawing inspiration from workwear, military garments and Native American designs.

The Hockney is a staple footwear style for the brand, featuring a boat shoe-inspired upper sat atop a sneaker-like sole. There’s also the Wallace, which is a chunkier version reminiscent of Timberland’s 3-Eye Lug. Both are, of course, ludicrously expensive.

Shop now at MR PORTER

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