We’re experiencing a sort of weather limbo in New York City; it’s not exactly spring, and it’s not exactly summer. But, in the spirit of the long-deceased Eddard Stark, summer is coming. And with summer comes sweating…lots and lots of sweating. But beating the heat isn’t exactly a hard science. You shed some layers, stay hydrated, and pray to the autumn gods until they see fit to deliver their mercy. But there’s one thing we should also be doing that, unfortunately, many of us aren’t, and that’s keeping our footwear weather appropriate.
You see, feet sweat a lot, and with the mercury rising, keeping your feet cool can have a huge effect on keeping the rest of you comfortable. And that means wearing the right shoes. But I get it, finding weather-appropriate footwear can often be a drag, especially if your workplace dictates what you can and cannot wear. And on weekends, why shouldn’t you just slap on a pair of trusty flip-flops? (You shouldn’t!)
So we’re here to help. We’ve taken the liberty of rounding up four great styles that are sure to keep you feeling and looking cool this summer.
1. The Blake-Stitched Lace Up
When it comes to proper shoes, we’ve been taught–perhaps to a fault–that Goodyear welting is the near-pinnacle of high quality construction. But like most things in this world, Goodyear welted shoes have their time and their place, and they are by no means the be-all and end-all of footwear. In the summer months, Goodyear welted shoes–generally heavier by the very nature of their construction–can leave your feet feeling exhausted.
If you have to wear a proper lace up to work this summer, then I suggest you try a Blake stitched shoe instead. With Blake construction, the sole is directly stitched to the uppers without the need of a welt. The result is a shoe that’s comfortable right out of the box, with a much lighter and more flexible sole. It also creates a much sleeker looking shoe, and it’s for this reason that many Italian makers prefer this method of construction.
For a pricier option, check our Rancourt‘s fantastic Blake Wingtip ($375). Known primarily for their hand-sewn footwear, Rancourt recently expanded their product line to include Blake stitched shoes and boots (with more styles to come). Their Blake construction is unique because they attach a second layer of leather to the outsole, thereby creating a slightly thicker and more durable shoe without sacrificing its flexibility.
2. The Blucher Moc
The hand sewn blucher moccasin (or moc) is an American classic introduced in 1936 and made popular by L.L.Bean. Beloved for their comfort and versatility, Bean bluchers became a wardrobe staple with the ability to transcend the seasons (wear them bundled up in the winter, or sockless in the summer).
L.L.Bean still sells several versions of the blucher moc, though the construction has certainly changed and they’re now made in El Slavador and China. But L.L.Bean is not the only place one can get a pair of classic blucher mocs, and if you’re looking to splurge a bit on shoes hand sewn right here in the States, look no further than Quoddy and Rancourt.
These two companies, both headquartered in Lewiston, Maine, produce the majority of hand-sewn moccasins in America. Why Lewiston? Because it’s one of the few places where people still have the knowledge and know-how to make a hand-sewn shoe, and ongoing production in this area for the last three generations has turned hand sewing into a largely regional skill.
Quoddy’s Camp Sole Blucher and Maliseet Oxford (similar to the blucher, but with a slightly different pattern and extra set of eyelets) come in a number of great made-to-order options, including a lot of tasty leathers from Horween and S.B. Foot. You can choose from the pre-made styles available on their website, or you can put in a custom order (they accommodate a range of widths for both men and women). Either way, there is a lead-time of 3-4 weeks for most order.
Rancourt is a family owned and operated company that’s been in the hand sewing game for three generations, employing 62 full-time employees and sourcing over 90% of their raw materials from right here in the States. Their 4-Eyelet Ranger Moc is a fantastic shoe and, like Quoddy, Rancourt offers a number of customizable options (lined or unlined, sole color, leather). Unlike Quoddy, Rancourt has a number of styles and colors pre-made and ready to be delivered upon order. They also offer all of their shoes in Shell Cordovan, which they surprisingly dye in-house (though I’d stick to regular unlined leather and suede for summer wear).
3. The Chukka/Desert Boot
Chukka boots are ankle-length boots with two or three sets of eyelets. They’re generally lightly structured, and feature a rounded toe and open lacing. Traditionally made using unlined suede on top of a leather sole, today’s chukka is offered by a number of manufacturers in a wide assortment of leathers, colors, and soles.
Desert boots are stylistically similar to chukka boots, except that they have a rubber crepe sole. This specification, interestingly enough, can be traced back to World War II. Nathan Clark (great-grandson of James Clark, one of the two founders of Clark’s), at the time an officer in the Royal Army Service Corps, noticed the curious footwear worn by some South African soldiers. Their boots had suede uppers and a crepe sole, providing the soldiers the much-needed traction to deal with their sandy surroundings. Nathan liked the design and took it back with him after the War, and less than a decade later Clark’s Desert Boot was born.
If you prefer a leather soled chukka boot, then look no further than Alden. Their flex-welted unlined suede chukka is the perfect summer shoe, and though they’re pricey at $510, their styling, construction, and comfort simply can’t be beat. The oil-soaked flex soles are especially great, being both light and flexible right out of the box, and the soft suede uppers allow for a very comfortable and forgiving fit.
For desert boots, Clark’s is the obvious answer. Their classic silhouette will look great dressed up or down, and their affordability will alleviate the guilt of picking up several pairs for the summer (and since they’re often found well below retail, your money will go far). But don’t get me wrong, they’re by no means a “cheap” shoe. A Reddit user deconstructed a pair of Clark’s desert boots, and was pleasantly surprised to find solid materials and construction. Just remember, stick to the unlined pairs for maximum warm-weather comfort.
J.Crew also offers desert boots in the form of the MacAlister, an Italian-made boot with a slightly slimmer silhouette than Clark’s version. They too can often be bought on promotion, so if you prefer the aesthetic of the J.Crew version, they’re a worthwhile option that won’t break the bank.
4. The Canvas Sneaker
For a casual option this summer, canvas sneaker can’t be beat. They’re lightweight and comfortable, and they’re often cheap enough that you won’t feel bad about mucking them up with your summer shenanigans. (Spilled beer? Not a problem.)
The most obvious option for a pair of great canvas sneakers comes from Vans in the form of the Authentic, an iconic vulcanized low-top sneaker going all the way back to 1966. With almost no padding around the mouth, you’ll feel as though you’re wearing a slip on. The Authentic also comes in a number of different colors and patterns, from optic white to this pair perfect for your July 4th BBQ.
Another great option, and it’s a bit of a no-brainer really, is the Converse Chuck Taylor low-top sneaker. They’re about as classic as sneakers get, worn throughout the years by skateboarders, basketball players, and rock stars alike. Converse recently released the 1970s Chuck Taylor All Star, a retro throwback to the way their sneakers felt and looked in the 70s, featuring higher rubber foxing, added cushioning, and a slightly a roomier toe box. They’re a great choice for those who need the extra width, and for fans of the classic styling.
by Ilya Ryvin
You can follow Ilya on Instagram: @RyvinI