The Buzz on Boat Shoes

Sometimes fashion just seems like “Groundhog Day” with better outfits. Designers vanish only to reappear suddenly (looking at you, Alessandro Michele.) Trends sputter out and abruptly are back. Skinny jeans were cool until everyone was wearing oversize drop-crotch khakis — everyone, that is, except that cadre of teen style-setters intent on bringing back 2000s-era jeggings so bad they’re good.

Consider, in this vein, the boat shoe, echt 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, 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. There, too, they were at Fendi’s fall 2024 men’s wear 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 catalog from the revived hipster heritage brand Quaker Marine Supply Co., a label whose style paragon is not Jacob Elordi but “Papa” Hemingway.

Miu Miu showed a take on boat shoes on its spring 2024 runway.Credit…Julien De Rosa/Getty Images
Fendi’s fall 2024 men’s wear show featured a version of the moccasin-style shoe as well.Credit…Gabriel Bouys/Getty Images

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

Ms. 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, Ms. Birnbach knows her phone will ring. “My telephone number must be on the bathroom wall at Condé Nast and Hearst,” she said on a call from her home north of Los Angeles.

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