Sneaker fatigue? Gen Z and the fashion world are buzzing about boat shoes

3 weeks ago 60

UNITED STATES – Sometimes fashion just seems like Groundhog Day with better outfits.

Designers vanish only to reappear suddenly (looking at you, Alessandro Michele, who is the creative designer of Valentino). Trends sputter out and abruptly are back. Skinny jeans were cool until everyone was wearing oversized drop-crotch khakis – everyone, that is, except that cadre of teen style-setters intent on bringing back 2000s-era jeggings.

Consider, in this vein, the boat shoe, signifier of all things preppy. All but defunct as an element of a stylish wardrobe, it has now become a hot item. This is “the year of the boat shoe”, says Vogue magazine, which is far from alone in observing a proliferation of fashionable maritime footwear.

There they were on the Miu Miu spring 2024 runway in Paris, in what was widely considered one of Miuccia Prada’s best collections for that label in years.

They were also at Fendi’s fall 2024 menswear show in Milan, where the moccasin-style shoe had been stamped to look like crocodile.

There they are on virtually every page of a new catalogue from the revived hipster heritage brand Quaker Marine Supply Co, a label whose style paragon is not Jacob Elordi but “Papa” Hemingway.

“Every few years there’s another wave,” Lisa Birnbach, the 65-year-old author of The Official Preppy Handbook and its sequel True Prep, said of boat shoes such as Sperry Top-Siders or the similarly beloved, if nautically inappropriate, L.L. Bean Camp Moccasins (they scuff decks).

Birnbach’s handbook, originally published in 1980 as a satirical take on upper-class folkways, went on to become a canonical text, right up there with Take Ivy, a slender volume of photographs from 1965 depicting long-ago Ivy League guys.

Both are inevitably cited whenever preppy trends cycle through again. And each time that happens, Birnbach knows her phone will ring. “My telephone number must be on the bathroom wall at Conde Nast and Hearst,” she said on a call from her home north of Los Angeles.

The renewed interest in boat shoes could be inspired, Birnbach added, “by a new retailer selling Top-Siders, a designer that discovers them, an Instagram or TikTok user who puts themselves together with boat shoes in a clever way”.

Regardless, she said, it always seems as if people are seeing them for the first time, which is odd for a category of footwear created when Franklin ...

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