The boat shoe (or deck shoe as it is also called) has become a popular, practical and comfortable fashion accessory that is now regularly worn by both men and women across much of Western Europe and America.
But do they still have a role to play in modern day fashion or are they yesterday's shoes?
Let's start by taking a quick look at how deck shoes came to exist in the first place as that will help us to see more clearly what the future holds.
Many people consider it to be a fairly modern design, but the original deck shoes can be traced back as far as 1935. Created by Paul Sperry, the brand Sperry Top-Sider still exists to this day and has given rise to the term top-siders, an alternative name for deck shoes used throughout the world.
The original idea for men's and women's deck shoes evolved after Paul Sperry noticed that the pattern on the soles of his dog's paws allowed it to gain extra grip in wet and icey conditions. Sperry applied the same technique on the rubber soles of his original design of boat shoes by using a knife to create what is known as a siping pattern, much like the tread used on a car tyre.
From there, the design quickly evolved into a shoe that became popular for wearing on the slippery, wet decks of a ship and incorporated an oiled leather upper to help repel water and a rubber sole that not only provided extra grip, but was designed in a way that meant they did not leave unsightly scuff marks on the wooden decking of sailing boats either.
The term boat shoe of course comes from this nautical use and to this day deck shoes are traditionally worn without socks, harking back to the time when the feet were constantly wet and socks were not a practical option.
In the last 30 years, boat shoes have moved on from being a largely utilitarian form of footwear and evolved into casual men's and ladies shoes that look just as much at home when worn with a pair of shorts as they do with chinos or jeans. Their comfort, which is partly the result of the traditional moccasin construction, has meant that they have become a sought after style of semi-formal shoe in certain parts of Western Europe where they are frequently worn to the office and teamed up with a jacket or lounge suit.
This change in demand has resulted in deck shoes also now being made using lightweight canvas as well as the more traditional leather uppers, creating a shoe that is not only comfortable but can be dried out quickly when it gets wet. Of course, these canvas designs do not repel water in the way that the oiled leather shoes will, but they have nevertheless quickly made a name for themselves as a popular style of lightweight summer shoe for men and women of all ages.
The range of colours available has also increased over the years to meet this change in demand. Brown and blue are still the most popular colours for men's boat shoes, although a selection of more feminine colours are now also readily available and provide a wider choice of deck shoes for women.
Boat shoes have withstood the test of time beautifully and their appearance has changed surprisingly little in the last 80 or so years, a testament to the original quality of their design. Their appeal seems to stem from a combination of comfort, practicality and style, the fundamental ingredients of many of the great fashion trends that have evolved during the last century.
Adrian Kay is an online retailer of mens and womens shoes
and is the founder of Modello Shoes. For a fantastic collection of quality deck shoes for men
and women at particularly low prices, visit http://www.modelloshoes.co.uk