Long associated with yachts and men in their 60s, boat shoes are enjoying a surge in popularity thanks to influential fashion designers putting them on the catwalk. Prada, Gucci and Saint Laurent all gave the leather drawstring style a contemporary update in new fabrics and bright colours at their spring/summer 2019 collections, prompting high-street options to pop up at Kurt Geiger, River Island and New Look. The popular online retailer Asos currently has 37 styles for sale.
At the Pitti Uomo menswear showcase in Florence this week, they were also spotted at MSGM, Grenson and Fratelli Rossetti – meaning that this is a trend that is likely to run into next year too.
It was John F Kennedy who first gave the boat shoe fashion credentials. “JFK did for boat shoes then what Obama did for black nylon bombers at last week’s North Carolina vs Duke basketball game,” wrote GQ’s style and grooming director, Teo van den Broeke, recently. “He made them look not only cool, but presidential too, a trick only a specifically handsome leader of the free world can ever truly achieve.”
While there’s no suggestion that any of the Tory leadership candidates possess the pizazz of the famed American president, they might want to consider an up-to-date style, that also shows approachability. As footwear messaging goes, it couldn’t be further away from Theresa May’s spiky leopard-print kitten heels.
“Boat shoes could be a useful ploy for these male candidates,” said fashion psychologist Dr Carolyn Mair. “They suggest relaxed confidence, which is an attractive characteristic for a future PM, and they are a way to show their pedigree subtly, without flaunting luxury which would be in poor taste. I would imagine that Eton alumni have several pairs already.”
Mair also notes the nostalgic appeal of a boat shoe – a sentiment that will surely appeal to the hardwired Brexiters among the candidates. “Nostalgia conjures bittersweet memories of the ‘good old days’ when life was less complex and more pleasant. Of course, nostalgia is a perception of life through rose-tinted glasses.”