Summer Shoes: A Gentleman’s Guide

Summer outfits are distinctly different from fall/winter ensembles, and one aspect that is often overlooked is the choice of shoes. Therefore, this guide is all about summer shoes for men and the more casual styles every gentleman should have in his wardrobe.

The classic dress shoes such as Oxfords, Derbies and Bluchers aren’t seasonal and one way to give them a special pop in the summer months is by adding a little sprezzatura to them with colorful laces. However, unlike the standard dress shoes, there are a number of casual shoes men can adopt in the warmer months that look great with a variety of outfits.

Basic Summer Shoes For Men

Ace Marks Penny Loafers

Ace Marks Penny Loafer

Loafers

There are a number of different styles of loafers which give gentlemen a nice range to choose from based on their attire that day. Many men often misconstrue the loafer as being any slip-on shoe or driving moc, but in fact, they are in a league of their own.

The best thing about the loafer is that it provides a cool summer look that can work with both casual and business-appropriate apparel. This makes it one of the most versatile shoes in the summer collection and a must-have shoe for men. Available in both leather and in suede, there are a variety of styles such as the penny loafer, the Gucci loafer, and the tassel loafer, which is perfect for business attire.

A tassel or penny loafer pairs elegantly with a seersucker blazer and linen trousers, whereas a suede one will work marvelously with a pair of shorts and a polo shirt at the beach. Regardless of what you decide to wear with them, they always remain dashingly cool and sophisticatedly nonchalant as one struts around. Unlike the boat shoe or driving moc, wearing socks with loafers is standard practice so it is a perfect choice of footwear if you’ll be attending someone’s home where they encourage guests to take their shoes off upon entry. This way, you don’t have to walk around barefoot. However, one of the best parts of wearing loafers as a summer shoe is the ability to break the rules once you’ve mastered them. For more information about this shoe, explore our in-depth loafer guide.

Sperry TopSider Boat Shoes

Sperry TopSider Boat Shoes

Boat Shoes

Quintessentially preppy, the boat shoe is arguably one of the most prominently seen casual shoes in summer resort towns. Originally designed as practical footwear for sailing, they became a staple in the wealthier Northeastern beach communities before making their way across the United States and around the world. Today, boat shoes are found on the feet of gentlemen who parade down the boardwalk or streets in summer as a rakish flip of the bird to their usual business attire and the man — much as the Ivy Leaguers did in the 60s with clothing.

Worn generally without socks, boat shoes are typically made from leather, suede or even canvas, and they utilize a non-slip sole with water-resistant uppers and a unique lacing system.  Click here to learn more about boat shoes in our detailed guide and videoclick here to get the original boat shoe from Sperry, or take a look at our list of recommended pairs in our guide.

A great driving moc from Allen Edmonds

A great driving moc from Allen Edmonds

Driving Mocs

The most popular moccasin-style shoe, the Driving Moc is technically not a genuine moccasin but rather a new derivation by Diego Della Vale from Tod’s from Italy. Known by the knobs that peek through the sole of the shoe, driving mocs were often worn by men as a shoe kept in their car to keep the interior of the cabin free from dirt and debris that would collect on their outdoor shoes.

Today, these shoes are a summer shoe, worn barefoot with everything from shorts to casual trousers. Unlike the loafer, they are more casual and not very elegant or even well made. Therefore, they shouldn’t be worn with a business suit, but rather work best with casual wear for a stroll on the boardwalk or a day of shopping. Traditionally made from leather, they are another slip-on shoe that has become very popular as a way of introducing bright colors into a more traditional wardrobe. Although they do come in black and brown, invest in some fun colors such as green, blue or red suede for a summery look. Note that pastel tones are better than bright colors because they make you look supremely well dressed without looking ostentatious. For more information, a buying guide and style tips, click here.

A man wearing a driving moc in the summer

A man wearing a driving moc in the summer

Nice-to-Have Summer Shoes

A pair of distressed white bucks from the 1970s

A pair of distressed white bucks from the 1970s

White Bucks

The white buck emerged as part of the trad style, which formed as a more traditional take on the casual preppy and Ivy league style trends in the Northeastern, United States. Like much of today’s summer style for gentlemen, it originated from one of these three rebellious fashions which were originally a mode of “sticking it to the man.” The preppies love their boat shoes, the Ivy League style took on the loafer, and so for the more traditional gents attending university whose fathers wouldn’t dare let them step foot outside the house in boat shoes, the white buck was adopted as the shoe of choice. Today, bucks aren’t exactly popular, and most men about town opt for other footwear in their place. However, for the truly stylish gentleman, having at least one or two pairs of bucks is a testament to their sartorial prowess and an excellent example of a summer shoe that can be worn with a variety of outfits. At the very least, it will certainly get you noticed.

So what does the ideal white buck look like?

Unfortunately, they are difficult to find off the rack. However, Shoepassion, offers model 471, which is perfect, and Allen Edmonds also offers them as a special order.

A canvas sneaker for summer is far better than athletic shoes

A canvas sneaker for summer is far better than athletic shoes

Canvas Casual Shoe

Unfortunately, sneakers and athletic shoes have become the norm in the summer. It seems that most men opt for a pair of Nike, Adidas or New Balance sneakers even if they wear a jacket.

However, athletic shoes are for athletics, and so a preferable alternative is a canvas shoe. You can wear them with or without socks, and they come in all sorts of colors. Classic colors include white and off-white, but they will stain more quickly. A pair of simple grey or royal blue canvas won’t stain as easily and when paired with white or light blue laces is a great choice for the young or young-at-heart gentleman who leads an active life. Perfect for a walk in the park, playing in the backyard with your kids or a quick commute to the store or to grab a bottle of wine for the barbecue. These shoes are undeniably casual and only work with the most casual attire you have in your wardrobe.

For a large selection in different colors, take a look at the Italian Superga canvas shoes. Alternatively, PF Flyers may be more to your taste. Of course, probably the most well-known canvas shoe is the Converse All Star Chuck Taylor, and while it is a very durable shoe it is so mainstream that you will certainly not stand out in any way.

Espadrilles

Once considered an inexpensive shoe for the common laborer, espadrilles originated in the Pyrenees, although they were also worn for decades in Mallorca, Spain. Today, they are a stylish summer shoe that has found its way from Spain to North America. A flat and flexible shoe, they are usually made from canvas or cotton upper with a defining sole made of jute rope. They really vary in style but are always very casual. Exceptionally popular in Europe, they first became mainstream in North America in the 1980s, their popularity due to being seen in Miami Vice. Today, many designers produce them, and they can be found for just a few dollars to upwards of thousands depending on the brand and craftsmanship.

Espadrilles are classic summer shoes in Europe

Espadrilles are classic summer shoes in Europe

When you buy a pair, make sure the fit is very snug, because the jute will give-in and make the shoe feel bigger after wearing them a few times. It’s also neither a very comfortable nor durable summer shoe, and hence it is not suited for long walks — they are much better for outings at the beach or lake. In any case, it is a casual shoe and should not be worn with jackets.

Woven Leather Shoes

Woven leather shoes are similar in breathability as perforated leather shoes. However, many find them more elegant. While it adds an elegant touch to an otherwise casual outfit, it also works well with seersucker ensembles. Note, some woven leather shoes have a regular leather lining, which limits the air-flow considerably. Hence, make sure the lining is either fabric such as linen or also perforated.

Scarosso Woven Leather Loafers

A pair of woven leather loafers from Scarosso.

Spectators

Of course, spectators have a very summery flair. For an in-depth guide about Spectator and Two-Toned ShoesTwo-Tone Shoes, click here.

khaki pants or off-white pants and spectators

Khaki pants and a Shadow Stripe Ribbed Socks Charcoal and Orange goes really well with the spectator

Style Tips for Summer

Whether you wear a traditional summer shoe or are looking to add some seasonality to a shoe worn year round, there are a number of ways to put some sprezzatura in your step.

Colorful Shoelaces

For men just starting a shoe collection or those with a modest budget, we recommend sticking with shoes you can wear year-round. Traditional captoe oxfords in black can be worn all year round, but they often look out of place with summer fabrics like seersucker, linen, or tropical. Hence brown or burgundy is often a better year-round investment.

Yellow Shoelaces on Brown Oxford

Brown oxfords in brogue with Yellow Shoelaces Flat Waxed Cotton from Fort Belvedere

In any case, with the quick addition of a colored shoelace, you can add some pep to any shoe in your closet and compliments will soon follow. The best part is, you can easily take them back out and add them to another pair, all while changing the look completely. A new pair of shoes was never so affordable.

Ace Marks Blue Brogued Oxfords

A bold pair of blue brogued oxfords from Ace Marks.

Colorful Leathers

Introducing colorful shoes to your summer wardrobe is easily one of the most fun and interesting ways to enhance your outfit. While black and brown shoes are the most common on men, buying a pair of shoes in olive green, dark blue or beige suede can really set you apart from the crowd in a sophisticated way. Of course, you can also play with other colors such as red tones or yellows, just be careful to pair them with muted items and skip other statement pieces because less is more and the introduction of a pair of bright shoes is more than enough to add some color to your outfit.

Add Colorful Socks

Instead of just matching your socks to your pants, you can be a bit bolder by going with brighter socks with contrasting colors.

Shadow Stripe Ribbed Socks in Burgundy & light grey paired with brown suede Derby shoes

Shadow Stripe Ribbed Socks in Burgundy & light grey paired with brown suede Derby shoes

Going Barefoot?

Many elegant men in warmer climates seemingly have no socks when they wear shoes. Some find this idea unhygienic and preposterous while others strive for that elegant look.

Boat Shoes can be indeed worn barefoot without getting blisters. On the other hand, regular leather dress shoes will give you blisters when worn barefoot. So how do these Italian men pull off that look? They wear invisible socks or removable cotton insoles.

No Show Socks

No show socks are essential for summer

Invisible socks are short, thin cotton socks with a low profile that you can’t see outside the shoe. In our experience, this is the best option, because they feel like socks and your skin will not stick to the leather lining.

An alternative option is to buy removable and washable cotton insoles that help absorb sweat. The problem with those is that everything but your sole is still exposed, and they can make the shoe feel much smarter especially since feet and legs often swell during warmer days.

What Not To Wear

Sandals and Flip Flops

flip flops break your entire outfit

flip flops break your entire outfit

Even though quite popular, flip-flops are never flattering and are practical only when on the beach, aboard a cruise ship or by the pool. If you consider yourself a man of style, we suggest that outside of these areas, you should not wear them. In some cultures like China, they are considered to be extremely cheap, and in fact, they are.

Even though sandals provide great ventilation, they are anything but stylish, and you should not wear them unless there is no other option. Personally, I don’t own a pair,  I have never missed them and neither will you.

Crocs

Somehow, this single brand of shoes became a style of its own. The only benefit to wearing crocs would be to let your dignity seep out through the holes. Otherwise, they are about as anti-stylish as one can get. Avoid these at all costs.

Crocs Shoes

Crocs—best avoided for any gentlemanly pursuits!

Hybrid Shoes

There is a new breed of shoes coming out called hybrids, and unfortunately, there are no rules that govern what these are. One could argue that leather sneakers, canvas shoes and even driving mocs are hybrids. There aren’t really any rules against wearing hybrids. However, there are parameters around how one should wear them; and often, this goes against the advertising methods of the brand.

An example of a hybrid shoe (image credit: Ike Behar)

An example of a hybrid shoe (image credit: Ike Behar)

Hybrid shoes came about as a way for fast-fashion brands to sell shoes that offered a wider range of versatility. As an example, hybrid golf wingtips are often marketed as a shoe that can be worn on the golf course or in the boardroom. To be clear, they cannot. Golf shoes – regardless of style – should only be worn on the golf course. This is the same for hybrid casual-oxfords; a new breed of oxford-style shoes with the comforts, rubber soles, and laces of athletic shoes. These are not real dress shoes, and you are better off having a designated pair of tennis shoes for the gym and decent dress shoes for the office.

Redan Golf Shoes from Allen Edmonds

These “Redan” golf shoes from Allen Edmonds, while stylish, should obviously be worn only on the golf course.

Conclusion

Summer shoes are a wonderful addition to your seasonal wardrobe and make your outfits special. If you are at the beginning of building your shoe closet, it’s OK to wear your regular brown dress shoes, but be sure to dress them up with shoelaces or socks to create a summery look.

What are your favorite summer shoes? Let us know in the comments!

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