When the weather turns warmer everything we wear changes. Instead of comfy boots and layers, we end up in a shirt with shorts and shoes. It’s a literal stripping down of our clothing and it can be hard to figure out what to wear from head to toe. Let’s agree that most of us end up in a casual shirt and shorts for much of the summer. Maybe cooler temps keep us wearing lightweight pants like chinos. What shoes do you wear with shorts if you still want to look stylish? What shoes work best in the summer? We’ve got you covered with this guide to summer shoes for butches.
We’re going to break down the best shoes for summer by types and give a few recommendations for each category.
1. Classic sneakers/canvas sneakers.
Sneakers may be the ubiquitous casual shoe, but they’re popular for a reason. They’re comfortable. You can really beat them up and they are usually cheap enough that you can wear the hell out of them for a year and then let them go. Canvas sneakers are so classic that they look great on everyone from JFK to Paul Newman to Steve McQueen to freaking Baby on Dirty Dancing. Grab some crisp white ones and wear them with your shorts or chinos this summer.
Classic sneakers offer more variety though a less versatile look. Check out our roundup of 10 classic sneakers here for links and a better overview.
Like we said in our Keep It Classy Edition of Butch at the Beach, we are better than flip flops. Espadrilles offer a really casual look that is still stylish and grown-up looking. They have a canvas top and often have a rope sole bottom. They come in plain colors or crazy patterns. They are just enough off the beaten path that they look striking. I’ll say this – I felt like a complete dandy the first time I wore espadrilles, but in a good way. They definitely took me out of my comfort zone a little. But you know what? I liked them. I found myself wanting to wear them all the time. I literally wore my cheap $15 pair out in one summer. I only wear mine with shorts. They are a pretty cheap experiment and it may end up surprising you how much you like them.
ASOS DESIGN Espadrilles ($13).
CASMAG Slip-on Espadrilles ($30).
3. Blucher mocs/camp mocs/boat shoes
I know lots of people think boat shoes can only make you look like a frat boy. I felt like that when I first wanted to buy a pair. But my 80-year-old Gram rocked a pair too. And Gram is obviously not a frat boy. So I bought a dark pair with a white sole from L.L. Bean counting on the darker color and that white sole to make them feel a bit less ordinary than the ones I saw on everyone around me. I loved them. My boat shoes were one of the first pairs of shoes I chose when I started upgrading my style nearly 10 years ago, and they were a summer go-to shoe for me for several years.
All that said, I did get to the point where I felt like boat shoes didn’t quite capture my style. So, I shifted slightly and bought some blucher mocs and some camp mocs. Camp mocs have a very similar style to boat shoes. Where boat shoes typically have two holes for the laces, camp mocs can have betwee one and four depending on the brand. They both have the moccasin style stitching on the toe. Somehow the subtle difference makes enough of a difference that I feel comfortable in mocs but not boat shoes. *shrug*
The other similar style is the blucher moc. These also have a low silhouette. They have 4 eyelets for laces and come up a little higher on the front of your foot. I like that they look good with chinos, with jeans, and with shorts.
All 3 offer a great choice for summer. They look good with shorts (go sockless or wear no-show socks) or with chinos. They are “nice” enough you can wear them into a sit-down restaurant (especially in a beach town). And they are comfortable. Simple slip-on shoes are not just for the femmes. If you’re still worried about looking like a frat boy, check out Primer Magazine’s great post on 50 non-preppy ways to wear boat shoes.
L.L. Bean Handsewn Camp Mocs ($89). (Great news – these are women’s sized shoes that look just like the men’s version, so the sizing goes down to women’s 6 for all my smaller footed brethren!)
Drivers (or driving moccasins) and loafers are close kin to the mocs and boat shoes above, but take things up a notch in the style department. The most familiar of the loafers are probably the penny loafer which might make you think of your philosophy professor or your 9-year-old niece but fear not. You can rock loafers and you can look absolutely killer doing it. The key is simply substituting them for whenever you might wear boat shoes. They work in super casual settings with shorts and they work with chinos and an OCBD at the office. Any shoe that is that versatile deserves a spot in your wardrobe.
Driving moccasins are similar to loafers and many even have the little fake penny slot on the front. But they are more casual due to their sole which usually has tread wrapped up around the heel to give traction for driving. Thus the name. These are usually soft leather or suede and look great with chinos, jeans, or shorts. Just keep your pants leg slim or tapered if you’re wearing driving mocs (well, and always).
TSIODFO Driving Penny Loafer ($30).
Ok, here’s where a lot of butches veer off the stylish highway and start bumping through the field of wearing any shoe that is comfortable. Guys, let me be honest: I freaking hate flip flops. I think that’s clear at this point. To me, flip flops are what I wore in the shower in college. That’s about the only place I’d wear them still. I know that sounds kinda harsh. It’s just that there are so many good footwear choices. I can’t think of any situation wear flip flops make your outfit look better. None.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about some stylish options for sandals. Lots of our outdoorsy/hippy/granola butch sisters/brothers choose to wear Tevas or Keens every day all summer long. I understand that from a practical standpoint. They are comfortable. They are practical. So get a pair. Just please don’t wear them when you are making an effort to look good. They really don’t. I have Keens and I wear them hiking. They’re perfect. But when I’m trying to exude some summer style, I’m going for any other option on this list.
So what does grumpy Brenn think are actually acceptable sandals? I think sandals should be leather. Straps of leather in a variety of styles running the spectrum from hippy to actual Jesus sandals. When I think of sandals, I think the image in my mind is of an elegant Italian gentleman. And please, no socks. Harssidanzar is a choice that would fit in the “because it’s comfortable” category. Frye , gianluca, holy market land.
Holy Land Market Unisex Leather Sandals Finger Style ($45). (Unisex sizing on these, so good for smaller feet.)
Holy Land Market Unisex Genuine Leather Sandals (Jesus) Yashua Style II ($45). (Unisex sizing on these, so good for smaller feet.)
6. Bucks/saddle shoes
Bucks and saddle shoes are a beautiful midway point between dress shoes and suede boots. They look fantastic worn with chinos (check out this Brooks Brothers article for a great example) and can be worn without socks (or with no-show socks if that’s how you roll) with shorts. They have a classic oxford shape which makes them look a bit sharper, but the suede fabric keeps things casual.
Bucks have red contrast soles, which sounds a little weird, but looks great. These are a perfect way to add a little detail to your shoe game without stepping too far out of your comfort zone. If you’re really feeling dandy, try them in white or blue. Play it safer with tan or brown. Either way, I think you’re going to like them.
Saddle shoes are not just for little girls and golfers. They are a little unexpected, a little brash, a little in your face. If that doesn’t sound like a butch shoe, I don’t know what does! Every time I put mine on, I feel like my strut gets stronger. I do only wear saddles with pants – I think they do tend to look a little golfer-esque with shorts.
Eastland Bucks ($55). (This one is a women’s shoe with the same silhouette as the men’s so sizing is down to women’s 6 for smaller feet.)
J.Crew Kenton Suede Bucks ($136.80 – which is 40% off!).
G.H. Bass & Co. Denise Bucks ($100 – 25% off with code ENDLESS).(Women’s shoe again here so down to size 6.)
G.H. Bass & Co. Proctor Bucks ($100 – 25% off with code ENDLESS).
Peter Huber Classic Bucks ($150).
G.H. Bass & Co. Parker Saddle Shoes ($100 – 25% off with code ENDLESS).
7. Desert boots
I used to think you couldn’t wear any boots in the summer. Why? Well, most boots are big and heavy and leather and would turn your socks into a swamp in the heat of summer. But desert boots are an exception. Desert boots are lighter and most often made of suede which can be great for the summer. I’ve got classic desert boots in mind here, guys: dusty tan suede with crepe soles and 2 eyelets for the round laces. I suppose you could wear these with shorts, but I would feel like a teenage boy trying to pull that look off. They look fantastic with colored chinos or lightweight jeans and that’s how I’d wear them all summer long. Pro tip – don’t skip the socks with these.
8. Oxfords or wingtips
A guy has still got to look nice in the office or on a date even when the temps skyrocket. You could wear a classic dress shoe, of course. Or you could grab a pair of oxfords or wingtips. I feel like these shoes are just a little more casual than dress shoes. Actually, a lot of people probably think of these as dress shoes. I think of them as about halfway between bucks and dress shoes. They are appropriate for the office, look handsome as hell on a date, but are usually as comfortable as my worn in classic sneakers. If you want to get a super casual version of these, there are a lot of versions with thick contrasting white soles. I’m not into those as they feel a little GQ to me, but they look great on some guys. These work with dressy chinos (the kind with the crease) or smart casual chinos. You can wear them with dress pants or jeans. They are really versatile and really ground your look. These shoes say “I’m handsome and I know it.”
Bruno Marc Oxfords ($20).
Clarks Raharto Plain Oxford ($44).
Rockport Wingtips ($64).
JOUSEN Oxfords ($40).
9. Woven sandals
Woven sandals are what regular sandals want to be when they grow up: sophisticated, elegant, and dare I say, suave. They are a beautiful hybrid of shoes and sandals. You could wear these with some really slim lightweight chinos or with your favorite slim shorts. I think they stand out from among the other footwear choices because you just don’t see them a lot. When I first wore my Mohinders, I had that same feeling as when I tried espadrilles for the first time. I was definitely out of my comfort zone but in a good way. I could tell I was stretching myself. Growing, maybe. It took a little while to feel familiar with woven sandals, but I always want to wear them when I want to look kinda classy in the summer. Don’t feel like they are stuffy or something though. You can absolutely rock these in a casual way like featured in our Spring Cookout Outfit.
With so many great choices available for your summer shoe rack, it’s just as easy to look dapper in a limited summer wardrobe as it is in fall and winter layers and tough boots. Stay dapper out there, butches!