Summer, summer, summertime. Time to sit back and unwind.
– His Royal Highness, The Fresh Prince
Heads up, Gentlemen! We’re only about a week or so away from officially descending into the heat and humidity of Summertime. Here in the Southern U.S., we regularly see the mercury surpass 100 degrees fahrenheit with the hygrometer showing 90%+ humidity in the mornings, so trust me when I say I understand why people reach for flip flops this time of year! With that said, I think you will be better served with one of the seven styles listed below, as I believe they’re more stylish and versatile than those cheap foam pads.
Many of you avid Dappered readers probably already have many of our casual Summer shoe types shown below, but for those of you who might be new around here or just need a bit of guidance, we’ve broken up each category into three budget tiers:
- Skimp – Under $100 USD
- Spend – Under $200 USD
- Splurge – Over $200 USD
This certainly isn’t an exhaustive list, just a few options that I think you should check out should you be in the market for a particular style of shoe. As always, local price and availability will vary greatly, and you should always be hunting for a discount code or local sale. Without further ado, let’s get you equipped for the Summertime:
#1. Minimalist White Leather Sneakers
- Skimp: Vans Tumble Slip-On – $60
- Spend: Gustin White Low Tops – $169
- Splurge: KOIO Capri Triple White – $248
- Super Shoe Nerd Splurge: Common Projects Achillies – $425 (wait for a deep discount)
I would be willing to wager that there have been at least a thousand and one articles, reviews, and YouTube videos created simply for minimalist white sneakers. While some might say this trend has passed (Google says it just peaked in late 2019), I would contend that everyone should have a pair of understated, smart casual sneakers in their arsenal. I believe that they are as timeless as blue jeans, white t-shirts, and apple pie.
Side note: the relatively expensive Common Projects Achilles Low is arguably the ideal archetype, but plenty of worthy alternatives are now available at much more affordable price points. Owning both the Common Projects Achilles and the Gustin clones, I can confidently say that the Gustins are worth the 3-4 month wait for the amount you’ll be saving. If you do manage to find the Achilles model on deep discount, they are worth it.
Unlike the bulky, all-white “dad shoe” monstrosities that you’ll typically find perched atop riding lawn mowers on any given Sunday, you should keep an eye out for models with minimal design elements. Keep it simple, clean, comfortable, and within your budget.
#2. Minimalist Suede Sneakers
- Skimp: Beckett Simonon Reid – $149 ($99 when on sale)
- Spend: Good Man Brand Legend Low Top – $198
- Splurge: To Boot New York Pacer – $350
While suede sneakers are inherently a little softer and more casual than their full grain leather counterparts, their rich texture adds a bit of elegance to any smart casual outfit. Don’t be afraid to beat them up either, as they look better with some character! Again, look for models within your price range that have minimal details and a comfortable footbed. I like to dress mine (the Gustin chestnut suede low tops shown above) up a bit with dark denim and a slim fitting linen or chambray shirt, but feel free to swap in your favorite flat front chino shorts and slub cotton Henley.
#3. Retro Trainer/Running Sneakers
- Skimp: Nike Air Tailwind ’79 – $90
- Spend: New Balance 997s – $170
- Splurge: Rancourt Bennett Trainer – $295
Retro trainers have been among the most popular sneakers released over the past few years, including the often mentioned Nike Killshot 2 that probably kept J.Crew afloat longer than they should have been. Personally, my favorite retro sneakers have the vintage look and feel but with a modern twist of interesting fabrics and colorways. Best paired with your everyday casual outfits, look for retro sneakers to add a pop of color and style to an otherwise plain outfit.
#4. Boat Shoes
- Skimp: Sperry Striper II CVO Oxford Sneaker – $60
- Spend: Todd Snyder + Sebago Portland Boat Shoe – $145
- Splurge: Rancourt Gilman Traveler Boat Shoe – $228* ($275) *pre sale price, returns for store credit only. Note that the mocs shown above were a special order, and aren’t quite the Gilman. But they’re close.
When you think of boat shoes, you probably envision the classic mid-brown leather Sperry Top-Siders, or at least I do. While Sperry makes some great entry level boat shoes, there are TONS of other options out there! Whichever yacht rocker style you choose, try to avoid pairing them with loose fitting polo shirts and Chubbies-style short shorts lest you be confused for just another WASPy fraternity broseph. Instead, pair them with a lightly tailored linen or seersucker shirt, flat front chino shorts, and a color coordinating woven leather or fabric belt. This outfit will kick them up a notch style wise without making you look too stuffy.
#5. Espadrilles (Alpargatas)
- Skimp: Soludos Equality Smoking Slipper – $36 ($45)
- Spend: Viscata Sitges Espadrille – $74.99
- Spend II: Manebí Indigo Canvas Yucatan Espadrilles – $90
- Splurge: Sid Mashburn Slip-On Espadrille Moccasin – $195
I’ll be honest, I’ve never been a big fan of the cheap espadrilles most people buy because of the blobby, shapeless cotton canvas upper and less-than-sturdy jute rope sole. However, there are plenty of other options available with more style and substance. If you’re not a fan of those strappy Tevas and Chacos and you’re also someone that really hates those cheap foam flip-flops, then maybe these stylish and affordable espadrilles are right for you! Pair them with your most relaxed DGAF outfits.
Note: shifting the price tiers a bit because espadrilles are supposed to be rather inexpensive!
#6. Suede Loafers
- Skimp: Nordstrom Men’s Kai Penny Loafer – $60 ($125)
- Spend: J.Crew Ludlow Suede Penny Loafer – $298 (often on sale for less)
- Splurge: Alden Leisure Handsewn Loafer – $577
For those of us who like to wear something more than athleisure every day, slip-on suede loafers are a Summer classic that look great in almost every occasion. It won’t matter if you are bar hopping with a buddy (with proper social distancing, of course) or attending your mom’s weekend book club potluck, slip into a pair of these loafers to elevate your style a bit. Whether you prefer the classic Penny or the smart casual tassel loafer, both pair very well with tapered jeans, flat front chinos, and non-denim shorts. If possible, try to have your Summer pants hemmed with little to no break so that your ankles can breathe a bit. For some outfit inspiration, check out this album!
#7. Suede Derbies/Plain Toe Bluchers
- Skimp: Bass Pasadena Bucks – $55
- Spend: Beckett Simonon Dunham Derbies – $199 ($150 when on sale)
- Splurge: Tricker’s Robert Plain Toe Derby – $430
Life doesn’t stop moving during the dog days of Summer, so if your attendance has been requested at a wedding or upscale get together, don’t be afraid to get down with some suede for the big day. I’m a fan of unlined PTBs (plain toe bluchers) or suede bucks with summer-weight suiting. If that’s something that interests you, look into light, earthy toned shades like milkshake, tan, and snuff suede for daytime events. Save the navy, chocolate, and black suede for nighttime events where a slightly more formal dress code is usually requested. You’ll want to keep these in top condition, so brush the suede after each wear and use a spray on suede protector to guard against spilled drinks while everyone and their grandma is doing the Wobble.
About the Author: Adam Terry is Dappered’s resident shoe and denim nerd. He’s a thirtysomething Technical Trainer in the heating and manufacturing industry. He enjoys bourbon, boots, sneakers, raw denim, and being a dad!