Everything you need to know about Boat Shoes


The boat shoe is the answer for those who understand that life is not about extremes.

Fashion is functional. Fashion is not about only wearing top-drawer formal shoes like penny loafers and brogues. It is also not about only wearing flip-flops or sneakers. Fashion is about moderation with modernisation, and the humble boat shoe offers just that – the perfect balance – as the king of casual chic.

The boat shoe is for the person who wants to dress their shorts or chinos up, but doesn’t want to go all the way towards fancy footwear or compromise comfort in order to do so. As a timeless leather foot glove, the boat shoe is the perfect medium for all.

So let’s find out everything you need to know about the classic boat shoe.

The history

As far as shoes go, boat shoes are both veteran and contemporary, having been invented in 1935.

They were borne out of a need. An avid sailor needed extra traction on wet boat decks and cut sipes into the rubber soles of his shoes to provide this.

Those who spent a lot of time on boats soon took on this revolutionary shoe, but the next generation to take them up were the Ivy League university students. Where this might have given the shoe a ‘preppy’ reputation at the time, they have since been adopted by true fashionistas who saw their true value in making an ordinary outfit extraordinary.

Sebago holds a firm place in the history of stylish shoes, being established in 1946 by three New England natives and friends. Years later, the introduction of the Docksides and its colourful counterpart, the Spinnaker, were the must-have casual shoe for vacationers in the South of France.

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The makeup

Boat shoes are traditionally made from leather. And at Sebago, we use the finest, high-quality genuine leather for each and every pair, with options in full-grain, nubuck, waxy-finish and suede leather. Learn more about why we use each of these variants in our blog Know your Leather.

Often, the leather is oiled to ensure the longevity of the shoe and help repel water, which – on a boat – is pretty important.

A good signifier of a proper boat shoe is what is called the 360° lacing system. Our boat shoes use rawhide for these laces, and the system allows each shoe to use one lace which is threaded through the sides, around the back and out the facing eyelets in one go. What this offers is stability and a custom fit, as tight or loose as the wearer needs.

The other important characteristic is the non-marking, anti-slip siped rubber soles to offer a stable grip in all weather conditions – a characteristic which has remained from the first boat shoe ever made.

The toe box is reminiscent of a moccasin, with either matching or contrasting stitching all around. At Sebago, each pair is crafted by hand, especially to ensure that this stitching is strong and durable.

Sebago footwear also has a leather half-insole for extra comfort and to fight odours, considering that boat shoes were originally worn without socks. Today, we have the option of the no-show or secret sock to optimise this further.

The style

Boat shoes are generally worn in the warmer months, but they are versatile enough to go from dressing up your shorts to dressing up your jeans with ease and panache.

To make the most of the style value that comes with a pair of boat shoes, read our style guides for summer and winter:

With that and a pair of Sebago hand-sewn boat shoes, you can also sport the classic chic look every day.

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So if it’s endless style you’re after, get your pair of Sebago hand-sewn boat shoes today!