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Nautical styles, including boat shoes, can be worn on-deck or off. When the weather heats up in spring and summer, trendy gals break out the sailing-inspired duds. Boat shoes have gone through major redesigns since the first, solely utilitarian, models were developed in the early 20th century. Now the "dock-sider" look even appears in shiny metallics and atop chunky platforms. The basic boat shoe has also evolved into a foot-loving form that gives you support and comfort with your sporty look.
The makers of the first modern boat shoes found their inspiration in Native American moccasins. In the 1930s, sailing enthusiast Paul Sperry developed the iconic split-patterned rubber soles to give his boat shoes traction when sailors wore them on slippery decks covered with seawater. The shoes had leather uppers stitched at the sides. The slip-on style made it simple for sailors to put the shoes on and kick them off when they got wet. The insoles were fairly simple and flat at first, without much foot support.
Slip-on boat shoes have gone through many transformations since the 1920s and '30s. You can find them in canvas, suede and even patent leather. Fashionistas buy boat shoes in an array of patterns and atop platforms and heels -- though these aren't recommended if you're actually going sailing. The insides of boat shoes have evolved as well, to give you cushioning and arch support. Better brands of boat shoes have added water-resistant removable insoles. Some are odor-resistant as well, for going sockless in the summer and on the water.
Sailing purists might not consider lace-up models true boat shoes, but shoe manufacturers developed them for better foot health and safety while on the water. These boat shoes resemble sneakers, but they're made with stormy weather in mind. The soles are still made to grip slippery decks, and the uppers can take a soaking while wicking the moisture away from your feet. The lace-up style gives you more support than slip-ons, so if you live in your boat shoes throughout the summer, your feet won't be as likely to develop an unsightly spread.
When your celebutante pals come to whisk you away on their speedboat or yacht, sandals made for wear in the water may be a better choice than loafer or lace-up boat shoes. You'll be sitting rather than scuttling around the deck to adjust the jib, but you still might get wet. Double-strap sandals with rubber soles are made for walking as well as getting wet, and the soles are molded for maximum support. These shoes also run the gamut as far as style and price go -- so pick the ones that'll make you a star of the sea.