Leather boat moccasins are ubiquitous footwear for crews from Maine to Melbourne sailing the biggest yachts to the smallest dinghies. Moccasins are comfortable enough that crewmembers will wear them on board, and the nonskid soles help to keep them there-a priority on many boats. And they're versatile, since they'll also pass muster at the yacht club when the occasion calls for a blazer. With this in mind, I examined several available men's models for style, construction, wearability, and comfort. Here's what my feet found.
I tested each company's most basic shoe; it should be noted that they all make more expensive boat shoes with more features. All the brands I looked at are well constructed and should hold up well to the salt-stained abuses caused by careless sailors. All were ordered in a size 10, and all were a good fit on my slightly wide feet.
Except for those from Rockport and West Marine, all the shoes had half insoles that, after being slipped on and off bare feet for a summer, will start to roll up and will eventually have to be replaced. The leather laces on the shoes, except the very thin ones on the Sebagos, were rather difficult to keep tied in a bow, no matter how tight the knot was pulled. We'll take a look at women's shoes in the July issue of CW.
Sperry Topsider Authentic Original
This is the shoe that many of us grew up with. I've been wearing Topsiders for so long that I'm not sure whether they fit my feet or my feet fit them. For good reason, the company has changed its basic shoe little from the days in the early 1980s when it became trendy. It just works. One of the few changes is a half insole that provides the heel cushioning and arch support that the moccasin lacked way back in the day. It still boasts the same hand-sewn construction, substantial leather, and rustproof eyelets. The famous white, nonslip sole with the razor-cut sipes will never leave a mark on your teak while it helps to keep you on deck.
$80, (617) 824-6000, www.sperrytopsider.com
The Dubarry Cruiser had the best finish of all the shoes I looked at-as it should, given its much higher price. The multi-layered rubber sole will be sticky on wet decks. The seam above the toes is covered with a strip of leather, and the toes are sealed, so water won't penetrate as easily to your tootsies. The insole provides support and cushioning and makes an already comfortable shoe even more of a pleasure to wear. A small patch of red or green to mark port or starboard on each will help those who rarely wear shoes to decide which goes on what foot.
$130, (919) 821-3145, www.dubarry.com
The shoes that looked most appropriate for the yacht club were the Sebago Knockabouts. They have thinner laces than the rest and slip on and off the easiest. Extra comfort and padding is provided by the half-length leather insole. The thin rubber sole has a combination of wavy and slit siping to keep feet from slipping on deck. Shorter toe pieces and lower heels make this a cool shoe for warm weather and add to its elegant look.$90, (888) 637-7001, www.sebago.com
Timberland Classic 2 Eye Boat Shoe
The Timberland Classic features oiled uppers that repel water. They're sewn to an inner sole, which is then glued to the outer sole so the stitching won't get worn through. The razor-cut rubber sole will help keep you aboard when the deck gets wet. A half insole cradles the foot and provides some arch support.$90, (603) 773-1212, www.timberland.com
The square-toed Rockport Bridgeport struck me as the best walking shoe of the bunch. The full-length, fabric-covered rubber insole provided good support; forefoot flexibility was good, too. The rubber sole is stitched on and has razor-cut sipes running in two directions for extra traction. This is a good all-round shoe that will be at home on land but is a true boat shoe, just the same.$70, (866) 290 6431, www.rockport.com
West Marine Classic
This three-eyelet offering from West Marine features a removable full-length, leather-lined foam insole that provides arch support and a good heel cup. The gum-rubber sole has razor-cut sipes running in two directions, and the outer sole is glued to an inner one that's stitched to the shoe. The toe has an extra layer of leather to keep the shoe whole after it's been dragged over nonskid decks for a few voyages.$60, (800) 685-4838, www.westmarine.com