Men’s Boat Shoes and Socks: The Eternal Debate

Man wearing red and green socks in the sand


There may be no article of fashion as capable of sparking truly vicious debates as a humble pair of socks and specifically men’s boat shoes and socks. Many consider the mixing of socks and sandals to be among the worst crimes that any human can commit. Because of this, we get constant requests for guidance on the topic of the difficult question “can I wear boat shoes with socks?” 

As makers of some of the best boat shoes out there, we feel it’s our responsibility to wade into this deadly quagmire of a topic. Hopefully, if you’re the proud owner of a pair of men’s boat shoes, we can let you rest easy tonight.

The Origin 

As the name suggests, boat shoes were first designed to be worn on boats. Their creator, Paul Sperry, of sperry boat shoes, designed the shoe to help him avoid slipping off the deck of his boat while sailing. And no, these original boaters would not have worn socks with their boat shoes - socks would have only gotten soaked on the deck of a boat. So that’s case closed right?  Leather boat shoes and socks just don’t mix, according to nautical tradition. And who are we to dispute the laws of the sea?

Not So Fast!

Thankfully, in this day and age, boat shoes aren’t just restricted to the decks of New England docks. We sell our men’s boat shoes all across the globe, even to people who don’t know a spar from a splice. So there’s no real reason that landlubbers need to adhere to the ancient no-sock laws of the sea. 

On top of this, there are a variety of new designs of boat shoes out there, made from a variety of different materials. And for anyone who has worn leather boat shoes without socks, you know that for many people, foot sweat can be a huge issue. Trying to avoid this is a major reason to go for the socks.

Here’s the truth - no matter what kind of men’s boat shoes you are wearing, the choice of socks or no socks is up to you. You are an individual and have the freedom to choose your style. However, while there is no right answer between socks or no socks, there are some right answers about how to rock either option, and it is worth mentioning that moisture wicking and quick drying boat shoes are also available on the market, such as a pair of Froats. 

Going Sockless

As mentioned, a major issue with many men’s boat shoes is foot sweat. This can lead to discomfort and some truly memorable smells (if you’ve worn boat shoes in your childhood, you know what we’re talking about). Thankfully, a lot of these issues can be easily resolved simply by getting the best boat shoes. Good men’s boat shoes should have an antimicrobial insole, which will help cut down on the smell. They’ll also be made out of material that is “sweat-wicking” - the idea being that the shoe can properly absorb and then evaporate sweat, rather than leave you swimming in it.

If you’re often going sockless, you’ll want to remember to take especially good care of your boat shoes. You can thankfully find a lot of guides on this topic. Still, if you’re mainly going to be wearing boat shoes on the beach or on a boat, ditching the socks may be for the best.

Embracing the Sock

Of course, not all of us have the luxury of working on a boat or a beach. Some of us need to take our boat shoes around the city, or even to work. And in this case, going totally sockless may be a bit too casual - and sweaty. So how do you wear socks with leather boat shoes, without having to constantly dodge the fashion police on this men’s classic?

With boat shoes, the secret to socks is to be as discreet as possible. No-show socks are going to be a lifesaver. There are a lot of different kinds of no-show socks that pair well with boat shoes. If you don’t know where to start, try out one of our favorite brands, Mast/Steiner

Get the Right Boat Shoe For You

Many of our customers want to go sockless, but the threat of sweat keeps them away from going foot-commando. As mentioned, getting a breathable shoe with good sweat wicking properties is the key to being able to abandon socks with confidence. For this, we’d recommend our Sharks and Minnows shoe, as well as the Nubuck Collection. Of course, all our men’s boat shoes in our shop look great regardless of how you wear them. Your fashion choice is your fashion choice, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Unless it's socks and sandals at the beach, of course. 

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