: Loafers, Espadrilles, White Canvas Sneakers, Boat Shoes :
Rightfully so, as navigating the sheer amount of varied styles (plimsoll tassel loafer anyone?) and choices that are at one's creative disposal becomes increasingly complicated when taking into consideration the inevitable barrage of seasonal trends and social dress codes that are likely to enter and further muddle up the equation.
And while all those footwear options are surely sound (year-round) selections to be sure, sometimes a man just craves (nee demands) a warm-weather smart (or casual) alternative to his usual fare that not only properly befits the season but also retains his peculiar level of sartorial comfort and characteristic charm.
In other words, what this all means is that it is indeed never a poor idea to explore alternative options that extend beyond your comfort zone in due course of broadening your sartorial horizons and dressing more intelligently for the season.
As such, and in the case of summer footwear, what should be expected — by the style-conscious modern gentleman -- is a comfortable shoe that at first glance appears to be casually understated but harbours an underlying hint of classically styled sophistication that effortlessly elevates it to the next level; something that is a proven (not trendy) entity and backed by decades (or even centuries) of both practical and sartorial merit.
And that is why a gentleman simply has no other option but to seek out and call upon a dignified summer alternative to outfit his feet with all season long, a cultivated counterpoint of sorts to the aforementioned sandals and slides (ie. adolescent novelties). Which, as it were, is a necessity given that there are few things in life that are as reassuring and telling of a man's sartorial bravado (and his intent) then that of proper pair of grown ups shoes that properly befit his refined nature, the occasion, and the season at hand.
For you see, dressing as many choose to eat (smart + seasonally that is) is a lifestyle doctrine that more men should honestly ascribe too and live by as it ensures that you will continually look properly kempt and stylishly appropriate no matter what month of the year or social occasion awaits before you.
With that in mind, what follows is a inspirational style guide detailing the four investment worthy summer footwear classics that can carry you well through this summer and those yet to come.
And kick-starting this whirlwind inspirational tour? The suave (chic) loafer followed by the humble (old-world) espadrille, the classic white canvas sneaker (which is the standard bearer of minimalist styling) and finally the near century old nautical king of the high seas, the boat shoe.
So, take a walk this way to become the footwear savant you always knew you could be…
When the sun is out in full force there is no shoe that is as charmingly genteel nor as stylish then that of a pair of exquisitely crafted loafers. Having been first fashioned (and invented) to satiate the avant-garde regal leisurewear desires and sartorial tastes of none other then King George VI himself, the historically lauded and renowned loafer has a truly storied legacy that has helped establish it as a certifiable footwear staple for the sartorially considered gent of the modern times.
Often likened to being the convertible sports car of the footwear domain, loafers are nevertheless fit to serve as a four-season wardrobing pillar, albeit one that truly reigns supreme come the dawn of summer where their (typically) streamlined styling and and clean yet elegant look are afforded the centre stage (and the weather) they deserve to shine.
Characteristically speaking, they bespeak of a man who has cultivated taste, stylish fortitude, and a peculiar joie de vivre in which he likes to express via a well put-together aesthetic that is seemingly effortless in execution.
An unquestionable smart staple that exudes an air of timeless elegance torn straight from the contemporary annals of the Italian Riviera, loafers represent superlative minimalist deign and quality at its finest — laceless, streamlined elegant styling, clean silhouettes, regal provenance — and can be dressed up or down with ease, teaming well with everything from your lightweight linen suits through your tailored swim shorts and cuffed polos in summer to your considered black-tie ensembles (tassel velvet slippers/loafers), date night ensembles (with white jeans), and business suiting (brown penny loafers with a navy two or three-piece suit looks smashing) all year round.
To the office or a lazy Sunday brunch, travelling or lounging, the loafer offers a winning combination of comfort and sophisticated charm that no other shoe can offer you…
As for where to invest, whether you opt for a rich brown calfskin (leather) penny loafer, asuede tassel loafer (with plaited tassels and leather piping), a hybrid tassel/kiltie Bass Weejun (which will work year-round), or a moc-toe driving shoe is a decision best left up to your personal discretion and demonstrates just how vast the loafer platter is. As for colourways, solid black, brown, grey and navy are all considered options as is a pair of white kiltie tassel loafers should you be of the more rakish disposition.
My recommendation: A pair of blue (navy) suede shoes in the vein of the King of Rock ’n ’roll himself — granted you live in a locale beset with sparse precipitation levels (seeing as suede and water are certainly not compatible bedfellows)
Offering a suave yet breezy aura (and air) of distinguished polish, loafers are not merely stylish but also functionally practical and impart upon their wearer a truly elevated and effortless touch of casual (yet smart) nonchalance that many actively seek but rarely find.
As such, the loafer — and its family of varied silhouettes — is a sound summer footwear investment that is arguably unrivalled in the smart-casual arena.
The loafer is, after all, an iconic shoe without question — a footwear staple for the ages and ageless.
An evergreen summer footwear stalwart hailing from the Mediterranean (Spain) and now omnipresent worldwide from Australia to California, the real selling points of espadrilles lay in their laid back charm, distinctive construction and general ease of wear (which is why I have featured them extensively upon my humble blog in the past).
Understated, albeit in a traditionally simplified yet modernly refined manner — they were, after all, originally a peasant’s shoe — the espadrille has been worn for what is a near three centuries by everyone one from intellects and Hollywood icons to famed artists (like Salvador Dali) and the average gent alike as they all but guarantee to keep a man looking both cool and well put-together whether he be vacationing upon a luxury resort, exploring the town on a lazy summer afternoon, or flexing his artistic muscles in his studio.
Pronounced ess-puh-drill, these are often regarded as the grown man’s more pronounced alternative to the sandal, the most seasonal (i.e. summer only) of the four footwear choices lain before you, and an understated statement making piece that is representative of the epitome of high-low warm weather casual footwear styling (and comfort) — sandals, slides, flip-flops and the like cannot hold a candle to them.
Extremely lightweight and (much like every other style in this feature) versatile, espadrilles can be (and are) worn with anything from lightweight casual tailoring (tan suits; short suits, blazers, etc.) to beach and warm-weather essentials such as floral button-ups (see above), tailored swim trunks, t-shirts, striped jumpers, knit cardigans (again above), and polos; from the city to the countryside, whether on the homestead, vacation resort, or leisurely as you see fit.
Having said that, they should never (and that is without exception of any sort) be worn with socks (much like the boat shoes that follow below) lest you want to cut an even more stylishly challenged figure then that of the much maligned stereotypical tourist wearing socks with sandals and a fanny pack
On that note, you will likely chance upon a multitude of textured variations ranging from woven leather and laced-up mesh to cap-toed canvas, but for your money's worth I'd advise settling with a traditional pair of hand-crafted canvas (cotton) jute espadrilles in a solid or Breton-striped design seeing as neither will truly never go out of style and can (granted they survive beyond a few seasons; they are quite brittle and prone to wear-and-tear) be worn for years to come (and replaced at a small pittance should they deteriorate).
Pattern wise, your options are once again quite vast with everything from tribal prints and florals to Breton-stripes and those with two-tone colour blocking being readily available from nearly every brand ranging from the high street to Savile Row itself.
Which, in that statement itself, proves just how far these “peasant” shoes with humble Spanish roots have come on route to becoming what some deem a modern menswear summer staple worldwide (some 250 some odd years after making their debut).
Truly a unique rags-to-riches (style) journey — from bottom-up rather then from the top-down — if there ever was one.
Providing transitional versatility — seeing as they are an appropriate four-season menswear staple that nearly every man owns — that may well be beyond equal measure, the all-white canvas (tennis) low-top sneaker has (long ago) shaken off its associative country club connotations (i.e. East Coast Ivy-League WASPs establishment) and became the quintessential modern man’s casual footwear trump card, a safety net that he can cast knowing that he can comfortably slip into them at a moment’s notice and always look good (aside from a few occasions that is: strict formal affairs, professional business offices and most weddings).
An under-the-radar classic for good reason, its stark minimalist design — rounded toe, pliable rubber sole, laced-up fastening, canvas upper — and solid white colour palette (sans branding) make it a blank canvas that is both easy to wear and style in a multitude of ways (in particular alongside bold prints and patterns).
Not to be lost in the shuffle are its flexible composition and featherweight (i.e. lack thereof) structuring, welcomed features that keep you feeling properly spry and secure without that unburdened feeling that is caused by the additional bulk that can often found on other more pronounced (high tops + varied textured/leather) sneakers.
A sound investment worthy staple (and an affordable mind you; sub $100 in most instances), the white canvas sneaker is as democratic as they come and looks good on men of all walks of life and with (arguably) any menswear piece imaginable — from tailored suits right through jeans, leather jackets and crewneck t-shirts too one's quintessential sporting and festival wears (shorts, polos, etc).
As such they are a low-risk, high reward option that can be styled however you see fit. Which means that your options are near-endless (I provided two such inspirational ensembles above to illustrate just such a statement) as the low-top minimalist white sneaker — from the classic Trethorn tennis sneaker and badminton-inspired Converse Jack Purcell’s to Adidas Stan Smith's — has been worn in every which way and to every sort of venue from the red carpet (with tailoring) and fashion runway to its more traditional stomping grounds in thesporting and leisurewear domains.
Simply put: Canvas sneakers can honestly be put on and forgotten about without any extra thought and are your (certifiable) 5-tool utility footwear all-stars (i.e. for doing everything from household chores to enjoying a touch of tennis in).
Generational fashion tides aside, a plain white canvas sneaker (above all other sneaker/trainer forms) has a timeless, carefree appeal that has (and always will) transcended time, subcultures, and the vicissitudes of seasonal trends alike (having initially originated and relevantly endured since the 1930’s). And that is something in which, if truth be told, will likely ever be said about Yeezy’s or any other high-end leather sneakers in but a few scant years once the inevitable trending tides turn over yet again.
Streamlined simplicity, after all, is something that is always effective and in style.
Game, set, and sartorial match indeed.
Once the sole preserve of the upper-echelon East coast establishment (boating + yachting set), boat shoes have shook off their innate nautical-only connotations in becoming a modern menswear staple that is fit for all-weather transitional wear whether one chooses to venture upon the high seas ( and beach) or into the concrete jungle itself (alongside casual weekend city wear).
Fundamentally trend-proof and buoyed by a storied sporting heritage (including sailings venerable America’s Cup) that spans the better part of the last century, they are a durable, water-repellent, non-slip smart alternative to either trainers or espadrilles that were designed to handle whatever the great outdoors — from land to sea — throws at them erstwhile becoming synonymous with carefree summer living itself in the process.
Naturally, they are most at home when styled alongside a variable assortment of nautical inspired menswear staples —cuffed chinos or shorts teamed with t-shirts, OCBD’s, or even Breton-stripe sweaters (amongst many others) — but for a completely unexpected look team a burnished pair of black leather boat shoes (as I demonstrate above) with a lightweight hopsack black sport coat, a white OCBD, tailored linen white shorts (for a hint of summer airiness), and a braided black belt for a sophisticated beach inspired take on the otherwise classically elegant black-and-white formal dress palette.
Beyond that, and as sporty as they may be in natural essence, they can also be called upon to serve in any casual scenario whether it be weekends spent running errands about town, summer picnic dates lounging in the park, or days spent on the open seas/lakes fulfilling their intended original use: sailing.
As for where to invest your top dollar, well a man can never go wrong when opting for a pair of tanned brown leather Sperry Top-siders (the original boat shoes) whereas those with a more peacockish disposition may be happy to know that boat shoes are also available in various multi-coloured schemes and embroidered forms (as evidenced above in the shopping edit widget) as well as with the option to design your own (bespoke) should you so desire something that is truly one-of-a-kind.
With your boat shoes in hand, now all you must ponder is the question of whether you intend to learn your port from your starboard (granted you envision hitting the open water in the near future in yours that is)…
Comfortable and stylish, classy yet undeniably casual, these four classic summer footwear staples can collectively transition you from town or country to the sea and back with relative ease whilst being properly considered alternatives to the average gent’s typical year-round rotation of oxfords (brogue, cap or plain-toe), Chelsea boots, and trainers come the laissez fair, halcyon days of summer.
And it is with that in mind that I hope that this feature (and my styling inspiration) can push you out of (what may well be) your preferred comfort zone and help you become a footwear savant of sorts.
: Further Inspiration :
But, should you be looking for an alternative to reinvigorate or refresh you summer wardrobe then you would be hard-pressed in finding something more readily prepared for the season then that of the styles provided above. Just remember to keep your signature styling in mind and proceed accordingly as the personal tastes of every man are bound to differ in one manner or another.
Which, as it were, is precisely why this guide is filled with options to fit most any style, from one end of the spectrum (the streetwear enthusiast) to the other (the continental gentleman). It simply lays out the options that will ensure you look both well put together and comfortably prepared for all that the season will readily throw your way whilst aiding in the process of helping you build a versatile and timeless footwear collection that you can return to with utter confidence from one year to the next.
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