The Boat Shoe, Spring 2013’s Shoe Of The Season


Last fall we declared the camp moccasin the shoe of the season. No idea if we were right, but making the call was fun.

This season our trendwatch antennae have received enough signals for us to call spring 2013 the season of the boat shoe. Brooks Brothers has unveiled the epic patch-madras shoes above, which will be tough to beat.

Ralph Lauren made this pitch on its website:


And J. Crew recently sent out this mailer with a fleet of boat-shoe variations:


I wear classic Sperrys myself, but the brand has a plethora of options, such as these:


At a recent Allen Edmonds presentation, the brand was showing its hefty Port Washington boat shoe, which a spokesperson describes thusly:

It’s a sturdier sole than most boat shoes. As you know, most guys that are wearing boat shoes are not in fact on a boat. These are ones you could wear all summer long and not have sore feet after blocks of walking.


Bass substitutes tassels for laces:


For those who’d like to gently mock the trend, there are these boat-shoe shorts from Brooks Brothers. Wear any shoe you like with them, just as long as it’s not a boat shoe:


We’ll conclude with a vote. Bon voyage. — CC

[yop_poll id=”18″]

44 Comments on "The Boat Shoe, Spring 2013’s Shoe Of The Season"

  1. Orgastic Future | April 10, 2013 at 10:59 am |

    Ooooh, the patchworks are downright awesome!. I love the seersuckers as well! My preppy senses are indeed tingling!

  2. Checkout Category 5 Boat Shoes. New company from Cape Cod that got started by 5 College Best Friends.They make custom embossed hand sewn Boat Shoes with your boat logo, country club, yacht club, you name it.

  3. Jeff Jarmuth | April 10, 2013 at 2:34 pm |

    I’m not much for boat shoes, but those BB boat shoe shorts are totally out-of-the-ballpark cool…

  4. for once I am ahead of the curve!
    The bass tassle loafers are crazy.

  5. What’s not to like?! As for me, trad brown

  6. So I actually like the Polos–very old-school design and great colors. The Allen Edmonds have the sole of a nurse’s sneaker. The seersuckers and madras are just too much for me.

  7. The tassel boat shoes are surprisingly good-looking.

    The less said about patch madras anything, the better. Those of you who love it may wear my share, too.

  8. For some reason I only like brown leather in the topsider design yet think anything goes with the CVO type deck shoes. Even owned a pair in Blackwatch madras once.

  9. Reactionary Trad | April 10, 2013 at 8:47 pm |

    If this goes on, 10-20 years from now, it will be impossible to find OCBDs in white or blue, blazers in navy (they’ll probably be pink), or khaki-colored chinos (they’ll be lavender, I guess). The Rape of Ivy will eventually lead to the Death of Ivy.

  10. Cycles, RT, cycles. In ten or twenty years, the only place selling madras might be O’Connell’s. After all, Ivy was close to death in the 1970s, and was saved, in large part, by a nice Jewish boy named Ralph Lifshitz.

  11. @Henry

    I would argue that Ivy was saved by Lands’ End. Through the depths of the darkest years, they continued to provide chinos, OCBDS, tweed jackets, and navy blazers.

  12. There is little worse than fashion-y, reinterpreted ‘boat shoes’ – this is more of the Castleberry-ization of classic clothing. Not only are most of the styles above ugly, they almost all look poorly constructed. I’m not going to claim I only wear my boat shoes on a boat – but, I do keep mine classic and functional…..

  13. The fall of Ivy has more to do with the end of the masses pursuing the look, not it’s death. If one’s postman was capable of delivering Land’s End catalogues, surely he could deliver Brook’s brothers’, Cablecar, Chip’s, J. Press’, O’connell’s, Etc., even Harold’s out of Norman, Okla., Mister Guy out of Kansas City or Woody’s out of Manhattan, Ks.

  14. Lafcadio:

    Maybe Land’s End was only riding RL’s coattails.

  15. TradThrifter | April 11, 2013 at 9:23 am |

    “Castberry-ization” haha, that is a perfect description. Personally I wouldn’t be caught dead in anything but brown boat shoes. Those colorful ones are crossing the line. I leave my touch of personal flare to ties, watch bands or belts.

  16. @Tabor Kid

    Lands’ End was flying the Ivy flag (without calling it Ivy or Preppy) before we even heard of Ralph Lauren. They continue to offer purist ivy items.

  17. For example?

  18. @Tabor Kid – Lands’ End predates RL as a company by about 5 years, so I think any coattail riding was happening the other way around….

    And, while Lands’ End has had it’s quality and ownership issues, it has – more or less – remained commited to selling straight forward classics…..while RL was launching/selling/buying back/selling again/shuttering the messes which were Chaps, Polo Sport, RLX, Rugby, couture cowboy gear, and so on, Lands’ End has kept on selling basics at fair prices. I don’t own much Lands’ End or RL, but history, origins, and brand development matter in this context.

  19. @Christian/all – Lands’ End, unlike many other labels, can be counted on for:

    1. All cotton, non non-iron, non-logo oxfords:

    2. Genuine Harris Tweed sport coats:

    3. Plain front chinos in a range of colors (and fits):

    4. Repp, emblematic, tartan, etc. all silk ties in varied widths:

    5. Madras shirts, no logos:


    6. Non hideous boat shoes:

    They also sell chino shorts in 6/7″ inseam lengths, all wool fairisle style sweaters, traditional blue blazers, interesting socks, a range of non non-iron sport shirts in interesting fabrics (ginghams, tattersalls, etc.)…all at prices which are hard to beat and all mostly free of silly logos, fake vintage detailing, patches, fake paint, purposeful rips and tears, awkward “extra slim” fits, or forced affectations (e.g. superfluous grosgrain, 25 internal tags, locker loops, funny “washes”, contrast stitching for no reason, blogger collaborations, and so on…).

    As I said, I don’t own a lot of it – or any Sears stock – but folks frequently ask where to buy these sorts of basics as if RL and Gant Rugger are the only games in town…..

  20. As an alternative to boat shoes, how do you feel about Keds?
    The slip ons are a nice summer shoe:

  21. @Eric E. – those Keds are what I imagine Chinese factory workers are wearing as they make those very shoes (or, the free, ‘tough to kill yourself with them’ shoes state prisons hand out to new inmates)…..hideous, in my opinion.

  22. Land’s End was a sailing gear company out of Chicago starting in 1963, anyone know when they entered the mail-order Ivy trade? I never heard of Land’s End OCBDs till the the very late 70s, prior I had known them for canvas tote bags. On the other hand, I remember 1969 high school road trips to Harold’s in Columbia Mo. or Woody’s in Manhattan, Kansas just to see if they carried any POLO goods Mister Guy didn’t.
    I’m not bad mouthing LE, they serve a market, but it’s totally different than what RL has done. It’s easy to critique RL’s lines like Chaps, POLO University, Lauren, and Rugby, but their purpose was to serve a younger less expensive market.

  23. @MAC – Lands’ End always sold some (classic) clothes along with it’s boating gear. They shifted heavily towards clothing in the mid 1970s and I believe they launched their mail order catalogue business in the early 1970s….

    RL, on the other hand, didn’t expand beyond neckties until 1969-70…..and even then his offerings were limited. So, if you were hunting for Polo in MO in 1969, you were likely to find only ties and maybe a rare short sleeved “polo” shirt.

    Yes, it is easy to critique Chaps, Lauren, Rugby, Polo Sport, RLX, much of RRL, and Denim&Supply because the stuff those labels sell is either junk, wacky, defunct, or ugly.

  24. AEV

    You failed to mention RL’s “out of Africa”-“great white hunter”excursion. 😉

  25. @MAC – ha ha – you’re right….that slipped my mind. I’m also left wondering, “what the hell” with the current women’s couture line that has all the models dressed up like bullfighters……

  26. Mitchell S. | April 11, 2013 at 12:26 pm |

    As an impecunious shopper with high aspirations, I am so grateful for Lands’ End. I think of them as the poor man’s Polo. Occasionally, I will splurge on a Polo leather jacket, a Ralph Lauren necktie, or a pair of Polo shoes; but the lion’s share of my wardrobe is from Lands’ End.

  27. Boston Bean | April 11, 2013 at 1:36 pm |


    I was buying Ivy League clothing from Lands’ End’s catalog in the late 1960s.

    So glad to read AEV’s comment. I would add that today, unlike Brooks and Press, Lands’ End doesn’t offer items made for clowns.

  28. I meant coattails as in the survival of Land’s End may be due to the mainstream popularity of RL during the dark years. Just a suggestion though; this was before I was around.

  29. Great Poupon | April 11, 2013 at 8:11 pm |

    Tabor Kid,

    Do you really think that Ralph Lauren was/is more popular than Lands’ End?

  30. Here in Europe nobody’s ever heard of Land’s End and everybody’s familiar with RL. Simple as that. In fact I first knew aboy LE through this website and I’ve got a large RL collection.

  31. Aboy? I mean “about”. Bloody text corrector! 😉

  32. Dutch Uncle | April 12, 2013 at 1:25 pm |


    Lands’ End has websites ın the UK and in Germany, but “in Europe, nobody’s ever heard of Lands’ End”, even though LE is the major supplier of traditional American clothing to Europeans.

    My hope is that long after BB and JP have abandoned authentic Ivy style for Black Fleece and York Street nonsense, LE will continue to provide us with traditional, civilized basics.

  33. The vibe I’m getting from Tabor Kid is that success by any old or new Ivy/Prep clothing provider can only help others in the space. I believe it can and sometimes does. No uncommon in other businesses as well.

  34. Straight Arrow | April 12, 2013 at 8:36 pm |

    @M Arthur

    The “vibe” I’m getting is an unwiilingness on the part of many readers of this blog to take off their blinders and come to terms with the reality that ivy league style has survived not because it has a cult of loyal afficionados, but because its basic elements were so deeply rooted in the American Way of Life, that even a mainstream clothier like Lands’ End continues to meet the demand for OCBDs, chinos, etc. Look at an LE catalog, and you will find that they flirt with the absurdities of fashion to a far lesser extent than do Brooks or Press. The gap created by the disappearance of college stores in the late 60s was immediately filled by LL Bean and LE. Lands’ End may not have known where to put their apostrophe, but they knew where to put their money: they bet that a broad base of American consumers would continue to demand the basic components of traditional American clothing, whether they though of them as “ivy”, or not.

  35. Straight Arrow | April 12, 2013 at 8:37 pm |

    though = thought.

  36. Maiin Line Philly | April 12, 2013 at 10:11 pm |

    I have a sneaking suspicion that Straight Arrow and some other comment-leavers are not living in the US and hence are suffering from the false impression that the average American guy dresses in accordance with Purist Ivy/Trad norms, and selects his wardrobe items accordingly, be they from Brooks Brothers, Lands’ End, LL Bean, or J. Press. We Ivy afficionados here in the Land of the Slob know that this is most certainly not the case, and do our best to adhere to Trad standards and ignore the way the masses dress.

  37. Speechless | April 13, 2013 at 7:23 am |

    Slept late today and was catching up on some of my favorite blogs. After reading this post, I went to the BB website intending to take a closer look at the boat shoes. Unfortunately, I only made it as far as the homepage where there was a horrendous photo of what I assume was a jazz group promoting the no-hanger required suits, BrooksCool. The Models/Musicians appear to be wearing pants that are 3 to 4 inches too long and jackets that had they not been holding their instruments would have gone down past their fingertips. While I know many of your readers find this to be amusing and typical Brooks half-ass merchandising; it continues to baffle me as to what they are thinking of over there on 44th Street. I can’t wait to stop by the store next week and goof on my friend in the back office about this.

    PS: Never made it to the boat shoe page!

  38. Bold prediction.

  39. @ Straight Arrow

    Personally, I don’t consider LLB and LE mainstream. I consider them niche players. They satisfy a segment of the market that prefers such core traditional attire, which, as Main Line Philly points out, is not the majority of Americans.

  40. Lands’ End and LL Bean bring, to my mind, images of rack after rack of cheap-looking foreign-made fleeces, ugly patterned button-downs, and flimsy unattractive poly-blend “sports” wear. Not to mention having to sift through piles of crappy foreign-made shoes to get to the few still made in Maine. Maybe that’s me being a snob, but even as a youth I remember looking through those mail catalogues and hating the colors (a particular shade of greenish blue comes to mind). That’s not saying that I don’t find things I like and purchase at these stores, I’m just not sure from whence springs this lovefest…

    I also find their catologues boring, which I suppose is better than being horrified by a Brooks Brothers catalogue, but no one beats Ralph when it comes to seasonal catalogues. Even the ugly clothes look good.

    I’ve shared a certain lament with many older Brooks Brothers salespeople after they apologize for not having regular finish Garland, NC shirts in stock: “You can’t change what people ask for”, but this can work for good as well. Instead of writing off Brooks or Press as lost because they offer things I don’t like, I reward them by asking for and purchasing things I do like, putting my money where my complaint-filled mouth is.

  41. Ironchefsakai | April 14, 2013 at 7:37 am |

    @ Maiin Line Philly

    I just wanted to say that one of the main reasons I love Ivy style (little “s”) is because it enables me to maintain my slovenliness while still looking dressed up to the average American. Am I just so absent-minded and lazy that I forget to unbutton my OCBD collars before laundering and don’t bother ironing, or am I just that tied into the culture of the Ivy League in the heyday?

    In short, “Land of the Slob,” indeed!

  42. DCG
    I call that color, “(a particular shade of greenish blue comes to mind)”, seafoam green, it’s usually found with white and a shade of navy.

    Lands’ End serves a lower price point ivy /trad market and that’s a good thing. Have never purchased anything from Land’s End, but I have pressed one of their BD shirts for an out of town friend. He was very proud of the bargain shirtings he snagged from Lands’ End. I observed that the arms were narrower and the tails shorter than my POLOs and Gitmans. The fabric was fine for the price, but the fit reminded me of a Kenneth Gordon tab collar I’d bought decades ago on sale at Macys, beautiful fabric but confining.
    All that said, using the links provided by AEV many of the fancy BD shirtings are attractive, no doubt, but the chinos leave a lot to be desired. the fabric seems fine, but the construction is no better than Faded Glory khakis from Wal-mart or Sam’s club and probably Cosco. The Lands’ End advantage is custom inseam and cuffs, something Ralph’s wash pants don’t have, but the construction is similar, one piece waist and that welted seam running up the crack of one’s ass. I do like the flap rear pockets. If you are in the market for wash pants buy Lands’ End.

  43. I see no mention of Sebago , the quality leader since 1970. What gives?

  44. Slackers

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