Shoes: Chatham Marine Deck Shoes review

Tuesday, December 18, 2012
A couple of summers ago, I bought my first pair of deck shoes. Unless you're the sort of chap who can stomach the thought of wearing loafers without socks all summer, deck shoes are really the best option for wearing with shorts or casual trousers. While they won't be acceptable in a city club, they're pretty much de rigeur in many yacht clubs and, dressed up with chinos and a shirt, are unlikely to be frowned upon in most restaurants. Especially if you're within a mile of the sea or the temperature is over 30 degrees.

All of that was my thinking as I prepared for a mostly fictional summer of beaches, cocktails, sunbathing, and lounging by pools. A pleasingly fashionable pair of blue suede deck shoes from Charles Tyrwhitt followed and, given the undemanding purposes to which I meant to put them, I didn't really care when the insole came loose within a week and a year later, the soles started falling off. Now, unfortunately, they're completely unweareable so it was extremely timely to receive a new pair from Chatham Marine, a company with a proper sailing heritage and enough confidence in their products to provide the classic deck shoes with a two year guarantee.

And, of course, it's only the wrong season for deck shoes if you think their main purpose is protecting your feet as you stroll up the beach for another mojito. As an enthusiastic but reasonably infrequent sailor myself, I tend to forget that good deck shoes have really been carefully designed and built to wear on a boat. Their distinctive white soles are designed not to mark the white fiberglass that most modern boats are made of, and are cut in patterns known as 'siping'; jagged, razor-thin cuts that open up as you walk and create suction (and therefore grip) on a smooth surface. Fashion deck shoes may look the same, but if they're not constructed properly they'll be worse than useless on a slippery deck.

The insole on these is not only properly secured, thank goodness, but also includes a double-layer perforated edge which, I presume, helps air to circulate under the feet. The upper is made of sturdy leather in a rich, reddish-brown, double-stitched and embossed with a very discreet Chatham Marine logo. They're also available in blue (been there, done that) or white, which is suddenly very appealing for that mediterranean look. No harm in having a second pair, of course...

They're extremely comfortable, surprisingly warm in the current grim weather, and curiously elegant for a casual shoe. More than anything, though, having a decently-made pair of deck shoes reminds me that these are really a feat of engineering, carefully designed for a potentially dangerous environment. If that makes them all the more enjoyable to wear season-round as a hard-wearing, versatile casual shoe then that's part of the joy of it, whether or not you actually ever find yourself on a boat.

Note: The shoes in this article were provided by Chatham Marine for review. No payment has been made for this post, and acceptance of items for review does not guarantee positive coverage.