8 Summer Shoes Every Man Should Own

From driving shoes to slides via loafers and espadrilles, get your summer footwear rotation well prepped before the sun begins to shine.

Words by: Ryan Thompson

Dressing for warm sunny days is arguably a lot easier than the colder months of the year, when you have to consider layering, fabrics and the weather. Come summer, everything gets dressed down as the mercury rises and styling out your wardrobe becomes a breeze. Summer footwear can be a sticky point though as your shoes become decidedly more noticeable when all you have on top is a pair of shorts and a polo shirt.

Your shoes will also determine just how dressed up you want to appear – the same resort look with sneakers is completely transformed with a pair of loafers for example, so it pays to have a broad selection of footwear to call on. Hence we’ve put together what we think are the essential shoes for all manner of looks this summer.

White sneakers

If you had to buy only one shoe style from this list and wear it all summer, then the classic white sneaker is winning hands down. That lo-fi styling has a lot to thank the original tennis pumps for, but the modern white sneaker has unburdened itself from the shackles of sports long ago to become a shoe you can wear with literally everything, including tailoring, and not many other styles can say that.

In a rough and turbulent sea of chunky, fugly kicks, the classic white sneaker always stays afloat.

Buying considerations

Minimalism is the key to the white sneaker so keep it dialled down and true to form. Most contemporary models will have a contrast heel tab and tongue, or maybe a sole or upper detail that breaks up the whiteness. These details can be useful to coordinate with other elements of your look.

Leather is the primary fabric to opt for as it can be styled up with a suit or separates, whereas white canvas sneakers will always be that much more casual.

How to wear them

Men's simple summer outfit: t-shirt tucked into trousers with sneakers

Luca Faloni

Really the question should be how not to wear them, since they are so versatile. Trouser-wise, they look great with beige or khaki cotton chinos with a turn-up, as well as darker contrast tones such as navy and forest green. The same goes with shorts, too.

The sleek profile (and especially if you keep them clean) makes them great candidates to dress down smarter fits, such as relaxed summer tailoring.

Loafers

Arguably the most casual of the ‘smart’ shoes, the loafer has come a long way since the shiny horsebit styles of the 80s, and could now be considered a bona-fide off-duty shoe in many cases.

For the summer, avoid loafers that are overly structured and formal and instead look for super-soft leather and suede styles to bookend your smart casual outfits.

Buying considerations

Leather? Suede? Leather mesh? Tassel? Penny? It all comes down to personal preference, but for easy-going summer style, it’s hard to beat a soft tan suede Belgian loafer.

The addition of a tassel or horsebit just makes them that little bit more showy, which is no bad thing if that’s what you’re trying to accomplish.

How to wear them

Men's summer outfit with Cuban collar shirt and pleated linen trousers

Thom Sweeney

The suede style can be worn with an infinitely more varied wardrobe than plain leather styles, such as tailored shorts, smart tailoring and jeans.

Opt for slim-cut tailored trousers, chinos or jeans to maintain a tapered silhouette from hip to ankle, which serves the svelte loafer well. When it comes to a suit, make it linen and unstructured, and your loafers will make handsome bedfellows.

Espadrilles

Originally from Catalunya and the Basque region in Spain, the espadrille was worn by 13th century foot soldiers and peasants. They take their name from the ‘esparto’ grass that is still used to this day to weave the iconic rope sole.

The upper is more often than not made from cotton canvas (but they can also come in leather, suede and raffia too), making the espadrille a lightweight casual summer shoe that oozes relaxed holiday vibes.

Buying considerations

Most espadrilles stick to the same tried-and-tested blueprint, which includes a rubber lined rope sole. The main consideration is the fabric of the upper and the colour. Most styles will be cut from a cotton canvas and look great as a casual, off-duty shoe, whereas you can find more elevated leather and suede versions that can be worn with smarter pieces.

Colour choice is personal, but you’ll find that most come in every shade of pastel hue known to man.

How to wear them

Men's summer outfit - black shirt, shorts and espadrilles

Reiss

Slouchy daywear or sophisticated resortwear, the espadrille will do both with ease. We like the light tone cotton styles for kicking around the beach or pool, but slip your feet into a black leather or suede style for a chic alfresco dinner in the Med – they will look right on the money with cropped black trousers, a black knitted polo and tan.

Sandals

Ah, the ‘S’ word – always a touchy subject in menswear circles. Yes, exposed feet bondaged up in Jesus creepers are not to everyone’s taste but today’s sandals are far more fun and stylish than the hippy shufflers of old.

From Birkenstock to Balmain, sandals are essential summer kit, and can be styled up nicely to create a sophisticated off-duty look. There are plenty of cool sporty crossover styles for streetwear heads, too.

Buying considerations

In a word, straps. If we reconcile the fact that most stylish sandals will be constructed from leather, the only question that remains is what is the strap configuration? A one- or two-strap slide-on like classic Birkenstocks will be the most versatile and resourceful style, but the more complex the straps become the more you begin to look like an extra from Cleopatra.

Crossover sandals with a sling-back strap are the more comfortable option if you plan on eating up some miles in them.

How to wear them

Men's beach summer outfit - swim shorts, sandals and open linen shirt

Frescobol Carioca

Many of the modern sandal styles are quite chunky with a sporty crossover vibe so you can definitely weave these into a more streetwear-leaning summer wardrobe. The classic leather styles work well with relaxed-fit linen trousers and chinos, while there are plenty of statement designer sandals that will hold their own as part of a more trend-driven look.

Slides

The ultimate vacation footwear has become something of a streetwear icon, and it’s not uncommon to see teenagers loitering in them at bus shelters in the middle of winter. That aside, as a functional summer shoe, they’re hard to be beaten, especially at the beach.

Although most sports brands do a good line in slides, check out the luxury labels for more imaginative versions to flex some logo love.

Buying considerations

There aren’t many considerations if we’re honest. All the big fashion houses produce a plethora of logo-laden styles every season so you won’t be short of bling slides to choose from, whereas the big sports brands will always provide some 70s football nostalgia with their efforts.

How to wear them

Men's summer outfit with matching sweat shorts and hoodie and slides

Fear of God

Mainly at the beach or by the pool (hence ‘pool slides’) in your favourite swimming shorts. Don’t be lulled into making the mistake that just because you dropped a week’s wages on what amounts to two bits of rubber moulded together that you can wear them with a smart look. Slides are slides, and just leave it at that.

Driving shoes

Driving shoes, as you might expect, were originally designed for driving in, hence the iconic pebbled rubber soles for better grip of the pedals, and the super-soft leather or suede upper for comfort.

Given that hardly anyone actually drives in them anymore, they have become a brilliant smart casual slip-on that rivals the classic loafer in terms of wearability, comfort and versatility. The fact that the pebbled soles wear down far too quickly isn’t lost on us, so perhaps they are better served driving in than walking in after all.

Buying considerations

The only consideration to make is the fabric of the upper, given that the sole is unequivocally the same from brand to brand. The options are typically leather and suede, with the latter preferable in the summer months.

As far as colours go, the world is your Pantone oyster when it comes to driving shoes but rather than spend a small fortune ticking off the colour wheel, opt for a neutral tone such as cream, tobacco or navy that will better integrate into your wardrobe.

How to wear them

Men's white jeans, brown suede bomber jacket and driving shoes outfit

Tod’s

As with loafers, driving shoes work will with a tailored leg so opt for slim-fit chinos with a gradual taper to the ankle. Same goes with your jeans.

Driving shoes straddle the smart casual divide nicely so you’ll have no trouble pairing them with a relaxed summer separates on one hand, or off-duty shorts and a tee on the other.

Boat shoes

The classic boat shoe first commercialised by Sperry will forever be associated with east coast preppiness. Immortalised by images of JFK sailing off Montauk in a pair of these instantly recognisable shoes, they quickly became part of collegiate style lore in the 50s and 60s, characterised by their deck-friendly rubber topsider soles and traditional leather moccasin construction.

Buying considerations

As far as brands go, Sperry is the original and best so we wouldn’t deviate too far from their offering (Sebago and Timberland are well worth considering too).

Opt for full-grain leather uppers in tan or navy for a solid wearable style, or if you really want to go the classic preppy look, then styles with contrast colour panels will make you feel right at home in Ivy League style circles.

How to wear them

Stick to a preppy aesthetic and you really can’t go wrong. Cotton tailored shorts with a polo or oxford shirt and crew neck knit or cardigan will serve your boat shoes well (and never wear with socks). Or for a slightly less casual look, combine them with cotton chinos with a roll-up or two.

Chukka boots

The chukka boot’s origin goes back to 1941, when one Nathan Clark was stationed in Burma with the British military. He observed that the local military men wore crepe-soled rough suede boots as part of their uniform, and discovered that they came from a bazaar in Cairo, Egypt. So he picked up some pairs, took them back to Somerset, and four years later launched a suede boot that has become a classic.

Buying considerations

Many footwear brands now make their own version of the chukka or desert boot, but for originality and value, Clarks is still the top of the pile. Look for a soft suede upper and a natural rubber crepe sole for a traditional aesthetic and you can’t go wrong.

How to wear them

Men's white jeans and green bomber jacket outfit with suede desert boots

Todd Snyder

Chukka boots are extremely versatile summer boots that tend to get better with age. They’re a natural fit with khakis, chinos and denim with a shirt or polo, but will also pair well with some tailored shorts.