Owning a boat, like owning an RV or a motorcycle, is a lifestyle. Set aside the constant care and many seasonal procedures involved with owning a boat and get down to the grinding surface of it all. When you own a boat, despite what it takes to maintain and manage the vessel, there is a quiet disposition connected with the lifestyle of being a boater. As if, on some level, you made a silent pact with the sea to not just respect her but to represent her. You see, there is a dress code for owning a boat and it goes polo tee, docker khakis and slick shades with stylish lanyards. Of course this is just a silly stereotype made from 80’s films about regatta races to save rec centers, but somewhere down the line that actually became a prominent design for the way a boater should dress. One accessory that a boater should wear regardless of how they feel about this style is boat shoes.
Boat shoes are literally designed for walking the wet decks of a boat, or ship, or yacht. Out of all the stylized fashion fads and popular trending attire that associates with such water themed brands as Nautica, Bass or Sebago, only the boat shoe is the clothing option that had any practical value to it. Yes, life-jackets are essential and should always be warn while on a boat, but that’s just proper safety, not necessarily an outfit option. You put your cloths on and then your life jacket, you’re not going to wear it on shore or to a party. Boat shoes, however, have been somewhat popularized since the 80’s. They look like leather moccasins spliced with dress shoes, but in a good way. Even if they do look silly to some, they have an actual, practical use to them; preventing the wearer from slipping when wet. How this works is actually somewhat simple.
The shoes are cut and laced together with leather to be resistant against water. While this is not a necessarily life changing feature, it is nice to note that boating shoes will keep your feet significantly more dry than sneakers or boats would. The true revolution of the shoes comes from the soles of the shoes. The soles are created in a siping pattern, which means they are carved with many small, ribbed strips running across. This is for extra traction on slippery or icy surfaces and what better place to apply this added quality than on a boat, where you’re surrounded with water. In 1935, the inventor of these shoes, Paul Sperry, had observed his dog’s ability to run easily on ice and graded his shoes to mimic the dog’s paw. Since then, boating shoes have become a smart option for the nautical enthusiastic out there.
Sneakers don’t provide enough surface in their often rigid and complex cut-out soles. With sandals or shoes that may be worn and have a tread-less sole will have too much flat surface. This makes it actually worst for slipping because smooth surfaces create less friction or resistance from one another. Add in some water for lubricating the exchange and you’re not just sliding or slipping or losing your balance, you’re going to be feet up and falling on your back before you realize what has happened. Granted most boat decks are layered with a spray on sandpaper sort of coating that works in a similar way to the soles of boat shoes, but having the shoes is reduces your risk of injury significantly and therefore is the only boat themed attire with any actual purpose. The shirts aren’t that bad though.
Tyler Baker; OSM Writer