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Boat shoes (also known as deck shoes) are typically canvas or leather with non-marking rubber soles designed for use on a boat. A siping pattern is cut into the soles to provide grip on a wet deck; the leather construction, along with the application of oil, is designed to repel water; and the stitching is highly durable. Boat shoes are traditionally worn without socks.
Modern boat shoes were invented in 1935 by American Paul A. Sperry of New Haven, Connecticut after noticing his dog's ability to run easily over ice without slipping. Using a knife, he cut siping into his shoes' soles, inspiring a shoe perfect for boating and a company called Sperry Top-Sider. Sperry Top-Siders are still a popular brand of boat shoe today, among many others, including Sebago and Timberland. Boat shoes are worn by both women and men.
Boat shoes are used by sailors, as the name suggests; however, since the 1970s they have become casual footwear in coastal areas of the Netherlands, United States, Canada, Argentina, Australia, China, France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Some boat shoes today have traditional white, non-marking soles, though many others today have dark non-marking soles. They usually have a moc-toe (like a moccasin) construction. They are usually seen as somewhat of a status symbol (owning boating shoes usually denotes the owner of a boat with a deck large enough to walk around on - a moderately expensive vessel)
In the 1980s through to the early 1990s, they became a fashion trend and returned in 2007-2008 and continuing in the 2010s,as a fashion trend and were worn with every day and dressy wear alike by both boys and girls and men and women. Taking off big time with the upper elementary through middle school, high school, and college crowds. Besides being worn by themselves, many children and adults wear them with socks, especially low-cut, ankle socks and crew in white and many other bright neon and pastel colors. Many schools with uniform requirements allow boat shoes as acceptable uniform shoes.
In the 1980s through the early 1990s they were worn with the slouch socks trend. They were worn a lot with tight rolled/French rolled jeans to show off the slouch socks. Girls would also wear them with a crew neck or v neck sweater over a turtleneck or a crew neck top with the v neck sweater and leggings with slouch socks over them and Sebagos with many wearing their hair with a hair band or hair wrap or ponytail and scrunchie and bangs for a comfortable and fashionable look that could be worn casually every day to school, college, church, hanging out, etc. or would look just as in as a dressy casual or dressy informal wear. Sebago, Sperry Top-Siders and Eastland were the three most popular brands at the time and have remained so through the 2008 into the 2010's fashion trend revival.
- Sullivan, Nick (February 25, 2009). "When to Break Out the Boat Shoes: Ask Nick Sullivan". Esquire. Retrieved May 3, 2019.
- "Boat Shoes". boats.com. February 2017.