With what looks to be the onset of a particularly scorching summer, perfecting a wardrobe that strikes a balance between style and comfort is a battle best faced early – particularly when it comes to footwear.
While the humble pair of thongs (or jandals, if you're from across the Tasman; flip-flops everywhere else) remain the national shoe for an Australian summer, they often fall short. Enter the boat shoe
Infinitely more stylish than thongs yet less conservative than their Ivy League cousin, the loafer, boat shoes are the perfect solution for any man looking to embrace classic summer style.
A stylish history
Much like denim, the original purpose of boat shoes was purely utilitarian; they were designed to prevent sailors from slipping on a wet boat deck.
However, their simple elegance and the clockwork-like return of nautical trends has seen the design picked up and re-interpreted by major luxury labels including Gucci, Bottega Veneta and Saint Laurent.
Unlike other shoes, wear and tear becomes them and gives them a lived-in character.
But for traditionalists and lovers of authenticity, it's the Sperry topsider that has both the look and the history.
Paul A. Sperry created the shoe in 1935 after experiencing a near-fatal slip while sailing on his boat.
Inspired by the way his cocker spaniel Prince managed to maintain traction while running across ice, Sperry carved grooves into the soles of his shoes in the same patterns that he saw on Prince's paw in a technique known as siping.
Soon after, Sperry's design was being worn on the feet of sailors all over America before becoming the official shoe of the US Navy during World War II.
Coast to coast
Their long standing association with the nautical life has been a primary part of the topsider's appeal.
General Manager for footwear and accessories at David Jones, Damian Burke, suggests that the ongoing love Australians have for the sea as both an emblem of Australian life and a national pastime is one of the primary reasons for the shoe's particular popularity here.
"I think that when you look at what trends Australian men resonate with, nautical or coast-inspired looks are hands-down the winner," Burke tells Executive Style.
"Whether it's surf culture and lifestyle or sailing – it really is coastal based and water-inspired, which is why the boat shoe is such a favourite."
From work to weekend
Sitting squarely in the middle of the spectrum between leisure and luxury, the versatility of the boat shoe means it lends itself to pretty much any outfit. Particularly if you're fortunate enough to work in an office with a relaxed dress code, or even allowance for casual Fridays.
Worn with chinos, a pair such as Sperry's Gold Cup edition, complete with 18K gold eyelets, will add the right amount of prep polish. Don't be afraid to roll the hem up once or twice to give the look a more casual vibe.
Alternatively, teaming Australian label Trenery's Elliot style with your favourite blue jeans can add a seemingly contradictory – although versatile – outdoors edge to your denim.
For an easy-wearing look that works just as well in the office as it does cooling off with something cold and frothy at your local rooftop bar, finish off with a white shirt for a simple, yet classic aesthetic.
Where boat shoes really come into their own, however, is with summer's standard fare – a simple tee and shorts. Or, in other words, much like you would wear should you happen to actually be on a boat.
While thongs remain the favoured option for weekends at the beach, ditching them in favour for a pair of boat shoes has several benefits. Not only are they better at protecting your feet as you make your mad dash across the scorching sand, they add just enough class to carry you from beach to bar.
More casual-looking than the leather varieties, Sperry's original 2-Eye style in canvas is the perfect lightweight option that won't leave you feeling the heat.
Wear them well
Boat shoes are designed to be worn without socks, a feature that has helped keep them such a mainstay of summer style.
The downside to this, however, is that they also have a tendency to get a little on-the-nose with time. A quick fix to this is to put some talcum powder on your feet before putting them on – this absorbs the sweat and helps keep them smelling fresh, although occasionally airing them out in the sun will also work wonders.
One of the best things about boat shoes, however, is that they only look better over time.
"They genuinely look better with age," says Burke .
"Unlike other shoes, wear and tear actually becomes them and gives them a lived-in character. Some are even specifically created to have a beaten-up look."
Designed for extreme conditions on the ocean, the individual characteristics of the leather become more pronounced over time, making them uniquely yours.