The lead picture is boat shoes not on a boat.
Aristotle knew how to frame thinking. He wrote a book. Rhetoric. In Rhetoric he talked about the Rule of Three. That people remember things most easily in three’s. I have heard, but cannot verify, that that is why area codes and the first grouping of your phone number are three numbers. Of course, one could argue that if Aristotle really believed his own rhetoric (see what I did there?) he would have titled his book: Rhetoric By Aristotle.
The first pillar of the Great Boat Shoe Debate is no debate. Yes, wear boat shoes. Sometimes, you can get jammed up wearing them with a tie. NEVER wear boat shoes with a suit. ALWAYS wear a tie with a suit. I hope that clears things up a little.
The second pillar of the Great Boat Shoe Debate is socks or no socks. I have, as they say, evolved on the issue. If you are on the FB group, if you know me, or even if we have met, you know where I stand on socks. Ridiculous. But a thinking person can hold both sides of an argument in their head. For example, here’s an Ivy Paul Newman actually on a boat (and before you start riffing here, boat shoes can be canvas):
Those are socks. I ran through a lot of image searches. JFK. Socks. Steve McQueen (who, for an Ivy guy was conspicuously boat-avoidant) – socks. And so forth. There is precedent here, folks, for boat shoes with socks. As much as I don’t like it.
But you have to understand something. On a boat, the idea is to go barefoot as much as possible. You can start the morning in boat shoes, but as soon as possible, kick them off. And be barefoot. Unless you wear socks. If you wear just socks on a boat you either (a) have never been on a boat and never want to be asked again or (b) are begging to be tossed over.
I have a theory about the whole JFK – Ivy thing. You can’t trust pictures of JFK in casual clothes whilst he was President as Ivy touch points. He was the President who banged up hats, and he was, also, I am guessing, the President who rarely wore what he wanted to off duty because – television.
So yes, socks if you must. Cold fall day, you are gonna walk the dog with a cigar (for you, not the dog) and then amber-colored fluid in a glass by the fire – definitely socks with the boat shoes. Am I right?
Which raises the final pillar of the debate. Boat shoes if you are not on a boat.
There are, ahem, loftier-than-I fashion writers who say no. The argument is a sound one – authenticity. Boat shoes were designed for boats. It’s a cool story that is offered as to the origin. I am not so sure I buy it, but I can be convinced. Story goes that Paul Sperry saw his dog on the ice, running well on the ice actually, and then cut slits in his shoes for traction. I have a few problems with this story. First, I have seen dogs on ice. True story. One day I was on a frozen lake. In one hand I have my then 5 year old daughter, who was new to walking on ice. In the other hand I have a leash attached to my new English American Coonhound, who was new to both ice and the leash. Daughter sees a hole in the ice and goes to step in it. Dog sees a deer on the shore and lunges for it. At the same time. I do a split.
I, no kidding, tore my groin so bad that I almost needed surgery. But I still have the daughter and the dog.
How’d we get there? Dogs are by no means nimble on ice.
And that’s Exhibit A. Exhibit B would be common sense. Here is Paul Sperry, who looks like he spent a lot of time on the water, no?
Mr. Sperry clearly saw a lot of fish in his day, saw how well they breathe under water, and never thought to cut slits in the side of his, well, side. See where I’m going with this?
With the origin story in doubt, one can reasonably argue that we can relax the standard of authenticity about boat shoes in general. Yes, wear a tie in court. But don’t ONLY wear a tie in court.
But if you do wear a tie in court, do it with a suit, and no boat shoes.