Much like a certain song or scent can transport us to another time and place, clothing and accessories evoke nostalgia as well. Two of our favorite shoes — the boat shoe and suede buck — share this ability. They remind us of days by the sea, walking through the quad between classes or tearing it up on the dance floor at a summer wedding. No matter the association, these casual favorites have a place in our wardrobe past and present.
Ever since Edward VIII, Duke of Windsor, sported a white pair on his tour of the East Coast in the early twentieth century, the suede buck has become one of the most recognizable icons of mid-century American style. Universally beloved, a pair of scuffed and dirty-white bucks were prized as a symbol of teenage rebellion, while keeping these shoes pristine projected a squeaky-clean image. They’ve remained a key piece of the preppy aesthetic, staying relatively unchanged from the version popularized nearly a century ago. Sometimes referred to as the “third shoe” — not quite casual, not quite formal — they’re still prized for their versatility and comfort today. Wear a clean pair with a suit to stand out from the crowd, or give your sneakers a rest and toss them on with jeans, a button-front shirt or a polo for a smart-casual look.
Remaining on the relaxed end of the spectrum is the boat shoe, which has evolved from its 1930s introduction into iconic, all-purpose summer footwear for men, women and kids alike. Born from the need for a shoe that could grip a wet ship deck, this style has a genuine leather upper that ensures it will age with a rich patina and, over time, conform its shape to the wearer’s foot. Rawhide laces and non-marking white soles supply nautical accents and complete the signature look. Socks are optional, but if you must wear them, we recommend low-cut socks to avoid teetering the tragic “shoobie” line. Beyond that, it’s a look that’s difficult to mess up.