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If there’s a more satisfying feeling when the sun starts to blaze than setting your out of office to ‘on’ and feeling sand between your toes, we’re yet to find it. Unfortunately, unless you’ve won the lottery, chances are you only get to do that for a week or two of the year, and the rest of the summer months will be spent pounding pavements – shoes firmly on.
So what are you supposed to wear when the mercury rises without resorting to the dreaded socks and sandals combination? Well, here is a list of the five proper pieces of footwear that every man should have in his rotation.
Suede Penny Loafers
Flitting between work and the beer garden is a common hobby in summer, as is going from barbecue to bar and sightseeing to dinner, so the key to nailing warm-weather footwear is versatility.
Choosing a classic penny loafer over a slightly more relaxed tassel design is an easy way to achieve a smart-casual vibe that’ll work with all outfits, be it shorts and a T-shirt or a lightweight summer suit.
“When shopping for loafers, go for something in a light suede. This will work with all shades and textures of clothing,” explains the design team at Ted Baker. “Team them with chinos and a blazer for a dressed-up daytime event, or tailored shorts and a shirt for a dose of city break chic.”
As a general rule, your trousers should not touch the shoes (also known as having ‘no break’) so the loafers are fully visible. When flashing your mankles, it should go without saying that you’re required to wear a pair of invisible socks, particularly as suede shoes absorb sweat more readily than their leather counterparts, which isn’t a good look (or smell) – whatever you wear them with.
Call them what you want, but thanks to the astronomical rise of the athleisure trend, trainers/sneakers/kicks/creps have made the transition from gym gear to appropriate all-round footwear, especially in the warmer months.
“Every guy needs a pair of understated, smart sneakers,” says Flavio Girolami, co-founder of cult minimalist sneaker brand Common Projects. “It used to be the case that you’d only wear them when nobody would see you, but now, investing in a pair that goes with everything means you’ll always look on-point.”
Unfussy white leather kicks now get a pass at almost every summer event, so it’s worth buying a pair that will last. Common Projects’ Achilles low model is the blueprint, but if you don’t fancy dropping that much on logo-free footwear, the high street has some great alternatives. Just keep any decorative elements to a minimum and invest in some hydrophobic spray and a cleaning kit to keep them sparkling white.
Ignore their frat-boy connotations, boat shoes are one of the easiest footwear styles to slip on and go. Breathable, comfortable and available in a wider range of colours than most other summer shoes, the design that hasn’t changed since 1935 has sailed back into fashion this season.
“They’re preppy, classic and just a little bit fun,” says Woolmark Company menswear mentor and former Topman creative director Gordon Richardson. “They’re ideal first date shoes, too – not too try hard, not too sloppy.”
Bear in mind that sturdy leather boat shoes will require a period of breaking in, so don’t go buying a pair in the airport lounge and expect to be able to tread around town without some hefty blisters.
As for what to wear them with. “No popped collar polo shirts, or you will look like you’re off to a frat party. And steer clear of the Breton stripe – it’s not fancy dress,” adds Richardson. Instead, combine them with lightweight tailoring for a Riviera-inspired high-low combo, or slip them on with jeans as an everyday substitute for sneakers.
Whether it’s because they have feet like chewed up gammon joints or have to get a crammed commuter train into work, not every guy is comfortable in open-toed footwear. To get the same care-free summer vibes without having your toes on show, look to a pair of espadrilles.
Light, comfortable and easy to pack, they’re a holiday no-brainer. “Espadrilles are the ultimate chill-out shoes,” says Blake Mycoskie, founder of philanthropic footwear brand Toms. “Wear them with a linen suit for Miami Vice cool or shorts and T-shirt for laid-back casual.”
Usually made from canvas or cotton with a jute rope sole, espadrilles are not the hardiest of shoes, so if there’s even a hint of rain, keep them stored firmly on your shoe rack or in your suitcase.
“Stick to darker shades if you’re going to be walking through cities or on grass, as they will get dirty quickly,” adds Mycoskie. “But if they do, don’t panic – get an old toothbrush and some washing powder and scrub away. Just be careful not to get the sole wet, or it will expand and you won’t be able to wear them again.”
Unfortunately, not all summer days will be spent on the beach or at the park. When the occasion calls for something smarter, that’s when the Oxford shoe’s cooler cousin comes in handy.
“For summer Derbies, there are [a couple of] options that you should consider,” says Tim Little, owner of heritage shoemaker Grenson. “If looking for something more adventurous, go for a woven pair. If, however, you’re after a multitasker that’ll be suitable for everything from weddings to work summer parties, stick to classic suede.”
A well-made pair of Derbies may pack a punch in the pocket, but if cared for properly, they will be a worthwhile investment. With that in mind, it’s essential to regularly treat the uppers with a spray protector. It’s also advisable to keep a suede brush to hand, as the textured and porous nature of the material means it has a tendency to pick up stains all too easily.
Derbies in beige, light brown or tan generally pair better with sharp, summer-weight suiting than darker chocolate shades or black as well as slim-cut chinos and trousers, linen shirts, cotton blazers, pique polos and tailored shorts.