by Nathan James May 20, 2021

What is the deal with boat shoes and socks? When done the right way, you can absolutely wear socks with boat shoes. Style aside, you should wear socks with boat shoes to keep your feet healthy and extend the life of your shoes.

Wear these Socks with Boat Shoes:

The proper socks to wear with boat shoes are either no-show socks or dress socks. It all depends upon the level of formality that you’re going for, but these are your options:

1. No-Show Socks for Boat Shoes

You don’t have to forgo all the benefits of wearing socks with boat shoes to achieve the “sockless” look. No-show socks are the perfect solution. At Boardroom Socks we spent nearly a year designing a high-quality line of American-made socks for boat shoes. They are soft and breathable to ensure your feet stay dry, comfortable and healthy.

man wearing tan no-show socks with boat shoes

These are a low-cut style of men’s sock that is intended to be “invisible” when worn with boat shoes, loafers, sneakers and any other type of casual footwear. Wearing no-show socks with boat shoes will help eliminate blisters and irritation while also ensuring your feet stay dry and comfortable. By staying hidden by the leather upper of your boat shoes, these socks will enable you to sport the casual sockless look.

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2. Dress Socks for Boat Shoes

If you aren’t a fan of the sockless look, opt for dress socks instead. Wearing dress socks with boat shoes will provide a slightly more formal look while still staying relaxed and casual.

wearing socks with boat shoes can be stylish

Beyond no-shows and dress socks, there really are not any other styles of sock that can appropriately be worn with boat shoes. Under no circumstances should you wear athletic socks with boat shoes. We'll go into more style tips below, but always stick to either no-show socks or dress socks when wearing socks with boat shoes.

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Why Do You Wear Socks with Boat Shoes?

As shown above, there are several ways to stylishly wear socks with boat shoes. But just as important are the three key reasons why you should wear boat shoes and socks.

1. Not wearing socks with boat shoes can be unhealthy.

As the “sockless” look has increased in popularity, experts have noticed a corresponding rise in foot fungus issues such as athlete's foot. Bacteria thrive in warm, dark and damp environments, making boat shoes an ideal breeding ground.

wear socks with boat shoes to keep your feet healthy

Wearing socks with boat shoes provides a layer of protection to help manage the sweat and moisture that naturally accumulates in your shoes. A quality pair of socks will ensure your feet stay comfortable, dry and most importantly, healthy. Wear socks with boat shoes to avoid athlete's foot and other podiatric health issues.

2. Going sockless in boat shoes can be very uncomfortable.

Boat shoes are notorious for being uncomfortable during the “breaking in” phase. As with many types of leather shoes, it takes time for the leather to form to your foot. This process can be painful, leading to blisters and hotspots that would otherwise be avoided by wearing socks.

wear socks with boat shoes to protect your feet from blisters

Avoid blisters and other discomfort by wearing socks with boat shoes.

3. Wearing boat shoes without socks can ruin your shoes.

If you’ve ever worn boat shoes or any other type of closed toe shoe without socks, you may need to pinch your nose when you take them off. Your feet naturally produce a lot of sweat, particularly in the summer months when boat shoes are most commonly worn. As this moisture accumulates, your boat shoes will develop a stench that is virtually impossible to get rid of. Wearing socks specifically designed for boat shoes can prevent this from happening.

boat shoes ruined by not wearing socks

Beyond developing a putrid smell, wearing boat shoes without socks can also damage the insole of the shoes. As moisture develops, the insole will loosen and begin to peel back - damage that is difficult to repair without completely replacing the insole.

How to Wear Boat Shoes with Socks

If you’ve asked yourself, “do you wear socks with boat shoes?” then hopefully the above information delivered the answer. Now that we’ve established that wearing socks with boat shoes is a good idea, your next question is likely, “how do I wear boat shoes with socks?” When done the right way, you can comfortably wear socks with boat shoes while still looking fashionable.

Do Not Wear Athletic Socks with Boat Shoes

do not wear athletic socks with boat shoes

You may see other men wearing athletic socks with boat shoes, but this is a major style faux-pas and should be avoided at all costs. Athletic socks should strictly be worn with athletic shoes.

Embrace the Nautical Look

boat shoes with chinos and rolled up pant cuffs

You may also hear boat shoes referred to as deck shoes, giving credence to their maritime origins as a non-slip shoe worn on the deck of boats. When wearing boat shoes, don't be afraid to embrace the nautical look! As shown above, pastel colors and rolled cuffs make for a great summertime look. Remember when showing sock ankle to always wear no-show socks with boat shoes.

Looking for More Information on Boat Shoes?

Boat shoes are immensely popular in casual menswear and are a must-have for men with preppy style. Continue reading below to learn more about how these shoes were invented and where to find your next pair.

Origin of the Modern Boat Shoe

Boat shoes were created to be worn in slippery conditions on the deck of boats, leading to their alternate name deck shoes. According to a detailed history compiled by the Smithsonian, Paul Sperry (founder of the eponymous Sperry brand) invented the boat shoe in the 1930’s after watching his cocker spaniel playing in snow and ice.

He noticed that his dog wasn’t sliding, so he examined its paws and determined that the many notches and grooves throughout the dog’s paws provided it with enhanced traction. The image below is from Perry’s filing with the USPTO in 1937, clearly illustrating the signature herringbone pattern seen on the sole of boat shoes.

Paul Sperry patent for boat shoes

Paul Sperry's 1937 patent for the original boat shoe

For more information on boat shoes, men’s lifestyle site Bespoke Unit has written a detailed boat shoe guide that outlines helpful style tips.


Are You Shopping for Boat Shoes?

If you are in need of a new pair of boat shoes for the summer season, check out Tools of Men where they have a good round-up on boat shoes. In addition to highlighting some great brands with detailed reviews, the article also provides in-depth information on what makes a great pair of boat shoes.

collection of men's boat shoes
A collection of Sperry boat shoes (photo credit)

Do You Wear Socks with Boat Shoes?

Like many elements of men’s style, a lot of this comes down to personal preference. Can you wear socks with boat shoes? Yes! As we discussed above, you should strongly consider wearing socks with boat shoes to enhance your comfort, extend the life of your shoes and ensure your feet stay as healthy as possible.

So, do you wear socks with boat shoes? Let us know in the comments below. Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions you may have. We can be reached via email at or toll-free at 855-379-SOCK.

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Nathan James
Nathan James

CEO, Boardroom Socks

Nathan is an eighth generation textile professional, passionate about producing quality hosiery right here in North Carolina. His favorite dress socks are our burgundy merino wool socks. You will also frequently find him wearing our no-show socks. Outside of the office he enjoys fishing, reading and exploring Charlotte with his wife, son and Golden Retriever.

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