Boat shoes (also known as deck shoes) are typically canvas or leather with non-marking rubber soles designed for use on a boat. A siping pattern is cut into the soles to provide grip on a wet deck; the leather construction, along with application of oil, is designed to repel water; and the stitching is highly durable. Boat shoes are traditionally worn without socks.
Modern boat shoes were invented in 1935 by American Paul A. Sperry of New Haven, Connecticut after noticing his dog's ability to run easily over ice without slipping. Using a knife, he cut siping into his shoes' soles, inspiring a shoe perfect for boating and a company called Sperry Top-Sider. Sperry Top-Siders are still a popular brand of boat shoe today, among many others, including Sebago and Timberland.
Boat shoes are used by sailors, as the name suggests; however, since the 1970s they have become casual footwear in coastal areas of the United States, Canada, Argentina, Australia, China, France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Some boat shoes today have traditional white, non-marking soles, though many others today have dark non-marking soles. They usually have a moc-toe (like a moccasin) construction.
Boat shoes do not last as regular shoes will, as they are designed to grip deck, and are thus soft and pliable. Using boat shoes on rough, gravelled surfaces will wear them out faster.
- "When to Break Out the Boat Shoes: Ask Nick Sullivan". Esquire. February 2009.