COLUMN: Boat shoes remain hallmark of menswear

Mashable’s David Yi writes — in a blistering take down that might otherwise be considered an obituary — of the death of the Sperry Top Sider as a stylish staple in men’s closets across America.

Yi writes, ”a natural predilection toward boat shoes not only makes you a bro, but an ultimate basic bro,” because to him, the male that chooses the way of the boat shoe, “(is) completely unaware that his basic sense of style is so overtly basic that it’s completely 

To Yi’s credit, I might have agreed with him at one point. Surely in terms of authenticity there is something to be said about men embracing a shoe that can itself conjure images of a specific lifestyle.

It’s one thing to want to sport something JFK might have worn on the Cape, but it’s another if you’ve never been on a boat and you live nowhere near a body of water.

Sticking to this purely utilitarian, even patrician, view of how Sperrys should be worn misses the larger role boat shoes have played in men’s fashion.

It certainly misses the fact that — regardless of the high saturation of basic people that might wear them, or the ugly imitations of the Sperry Top Sider that might be made — the boat shoe has already secured its place in the 
pantheon of classic men’s shoes.

Put them next to Weejuns, Chukka boots or sneakers. Just lose the socks.

In one of the few times I will ever reference the site, Total Frat Move’s Alex Buscemi hits on some of the virtues and pitfalls of the Sperry.

He writes, “The look of the boat shoe is unlike any other piece of footwear ... Your feet are prepared to blow away an employer at a job interview, then fuck shit up at a house party afterwards.”

And while his uber-bro explanation of the shoe’s appeal might actually help David Yi’s argument, it’s a pretty succinct explanation of why just about every other college-age male owns a pair.

The modern middle age of fashion that was the 2000s brought with it plenty of 
horrible trends. Part of that legacy were ugly sneakers when the age of gangster rap and skateboarding had a strangle hold on men’s style.

Sperrys changed that by reintroducing the post-pubescent American male to dressier shoes that weren’t too much, but at the same time showed a tiny sliver of 
maturity — if not sophistication. One of Yi’s colleagues adds, ”Boat shoe offenders slap each other on the back and high five while they throw down beers. They support each other’s poor taste in shoes and only have 
themselves to blame.”

True, I have drank beer and slapped my buddies in many of the Sperrys that I keep on rotation.

But many of them have also been worn seamlessly on the lake, to lunch in Washington, D.C. or while on the streets of other countries.

So if dealing with humorless people who think Sperrys should only be worn on Martha’s Vineyard is what it takes to enjoy the ultimate starter shoe, I say so be it.

Popular Posts