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Can Boat Shoes Be Worn As Business Casual? [Solved]

December 21, 2022
Can Boat Shoes Be Worn As Business Casual? [Solved]

Boat shoes are a great addition to any casual outfit and they are as popular as ever. But can you wear boat shoes as business casual? 

Boat shoes should not be worn as business casual and are better suited for casual or smart-casual events during the summer months. Derby shoes, monkstraps, and loafers are more appropriate for business casual dress codes. 

Although that’s the gist, I wanted to dig deeper. 

Before going through why you can’t wear boat shoes as business casual in more detail, we need to understand what ‘Business Casual’ actually means. 

What Exactly Is “Business Casual”?

Business casual means different things to different people and can vary between different work settings.  Broadly speaking, a business casual outfit is an outfit that does not include jeans, but also is not as formal as wearing a full suit.

sweater ocbd and chinos, business casual
Image From Shutterstock

It’s a “work-appropriate” outfit that consists of a blend of traditional “business” attire and “casual” attire. 

It does lean more toward the “business” end of the spectrum than the “casual” end, however.

As you can imagine, this leaves a lot to interpretation.

It is easiest to think of business casual outfits as being on a spectrum. 

On one end, you have the more formal approach to business casual, which may be more appropriate in a white-collar setting such as a bank, accounting, or law firm.

On the other extreme end of the spectrum, you have the more casual approach to business casual which is suitable for more relaxed office environments. For example, if you work at a tech startup.

The most important thing is to understand which part of the spectrum your office falls onto.

The other thing to remember is that depending on the day, the formality of your outfit may move up and down the spectrum depending on what you are doing.

For instance, if you have a day during which you are client-facing, it will be more appropriate to dress more formally, for instance with a navy blazer, Oxford shirt, grey dress pants.

On non-client facing days you can relax your attire a little, perhaps opting for no necktie and some chinos instead.

One tip is if in doubt, to err on the side of formality. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’ve underdressed to the office compared to all of your coworkers. 

With all of this in mind, let’s break down some of the reasons why you shouldn’t wear boat shoes as part of your business casual outfit.

3 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Wear Boat Shoes As Business Casual 

1. They Are Simply Too Casual 

Boat shoes are the epitome of a relaxed, laid-back vibe. 

lots of boat shoes example
Image From Deposit Image

They are ideal for those summer boat or garden parties, where you want to combine comfort with an effortlessly casual look.

It follows, then, that you probably don’t want to wear this type of shoe at work where you want to project a focused, ‘on-the-job’ appearance. 

This particularly applies to those more corporate job environments, such as in accounting or law firms or if you work in a bank.

Your boss may not appreciate you looking like you’ve just strolled in from the golf club bar after a round of drinks. 

Ultimately, boat shoes exude a vibe that is too casual for most office or work environments. They are still perfectly suitable for laid-back summer parties or golf club drinks, but they are best avoided if you are aiming for a business casual look.

2. You Typically Wear Them With No Socks 

Boat shoes are typically meant to be worn without socks. In the times when boat shoes were used predominantly on boat decks, the lack of socks contributed to added grip on the deck. 

Nowadays, wearing socks with boat shoes can still appear odd. Therefore most people choose to wear them either without socks or with ‘no-show’ socks.

This works well when combined with a casual outfit such as shorts or Nantucket reds, and accentuates that lounge-y, holiday, relaxed summer vibe that you want at a summer party.

However, the ‘no-sock’ look can appear odd, even unprofessional, in most smarter office working environments.

It also doesn’t look good to a client if it appears you have forgotten to wear your socks that day.

This is another reason why boat shoes shouldn’t be worn as business casual

3. They Clash With Proper Business Casual Clothing 

When most people get ready for work in the morning, they aim for the different components of their outfit to complement each other.

Unfortunately, boat shoes just don’t go very well with more “formal”, darker colored blazers, slacks, or chinos that the business casual look consists of. 

Even a vest, which is often used to dress up a shirt when wearing business casual, will look at odds with a pair of boat shoes.

This is because all of these clothing items are pretty formal, and boat shoes are simply not.

Full suits and traditional formal attire may be too much for business casual. But remember, it should still lean more toward “business” than “casual”. 

Khakis, cardigans, Oxford shirts, blazers, sports coats – they’re all classic business casual items. When combined, they’ll usually look pretty strange with boat shoes. 

The 360-degree lacing system of boat shoes is usually a contrasting, much lighter color compared with the predominant color of the boat shoe. Again, this does not go well with business casual attire, which tends to follow a navy, grey, and dark brown color scheme.

As a result, there are several different shoe types that would be much better suited to being worn as business casual.

Let’s discuss them. 

3 Shoes That Are Better For Business Casual Than Boat Shoes

Although boat shoes are not generally suitable to be worn as business casual, as we have explained above, there are several shoe types that are perfectly suited to the business casual look.

I’m going to take you through 3 shoe types that can be worn as business casual

Derby Shoes

Derby shoes are a great option for the business casual look, as they are less formal than Oxford shoes, but still look smart enough to pull off the ‘on-the-job’ look.

The reason that they are less formal than Oxford shoes comes down to the lacing system.

Here’s a pair on Amazon as an example: 

Derby shoes have an open lacing system, whereas Oxford shoes do not. Practically speaking, this means that in Derby shoes, flaps appear at the lacing – making them easier to separate when putting them on. 

This means that Derby shoes can be easier to slip on and off, but also means this lacing system is less formal looking than the closed lacing system of Oxford shoes.

But even though they are a little more flexible than Oxford shoes, they are still structured enough to be suitable for a formal office setting, making them a perfect type of shoe to wear as business casual.

The other thing that makes them so suitable for business casual attire, is their color.

Derby shoes come in a range of colors, but look particularly good in shades of brown and black. These colors are ideal for a business casual look, as they pair well with grey dress pants and navy/grey blazers. 

When selecting a derby shoe for your business casual look, opt for classical leather in brown, dark brown/reddish-brown, or black. These colors are more formal than lighter colors which can risk looking a little too casual.

Avoid suede derby shoes, as these fall onto the more casual end of the spectrum which can be at odds with your business casual clothing. 

If you want to be on the more formal end of the business casual spectrum, it is better to avoid Derby shoes with brogue patterns. Again, these can often appear too casual to combine with dress pants. 

If you do opt for brogues, try not to go any further than quarter brogues. 

All in all, there are some great options when it comes to Derby shoes and wearing them as part of your business casual look.


The monkstrap shoe is an intermediate formal shoe that can work really well as part of a business casual outfit.

On the spectrum of formality, it is less formal than the Derby shoe, which we have just discussed.

black double monkstrap shoes
Image From Deposit Photos

Monkstraps certainly shouldn’t be worn with a full suit or tuxedo – they would simply appear too casual and at odds with the rest of the outfit.

They can however look good with chinos, navy blazers, cardigans, and sports coats, as well as dress pants, making them ideal for the business casual look.

Monkstrap shoes pair especially well with slightly lighter colored pants, such as beige chinos or lighter grey dress pants. This is on the slightly more casual end of the business casual spectrum, but still certainly acceptable for days on which a more casual look feels appropriate. 

When choosing a monkstrap shoe for the specific purpose of being worn as business casual, it is best to go for a leather monkstrap in a slightly darker color, for instance, oxblood or dark brown.

This is because as monkstrap shoes are already less formal than the Derby shoe, you can risk looking a little too casual if you opt for a monkstrap in a lighter shade.

‘Double monkstraps’ which have two straps instead of one, also appear slightly more formal.

In summary, monkstrap shoes are a great choice for a business casual outfit, particularly on days where you want a slightly more casual, yet still professional, look. 

They’d be much more appropriate and easy to pull off than a pair of boat shoes. 


Loafers are another type of shoe that can be easily adapted to the business casual style.

Loafers are laceless, slip-on shoes that are less formal than both Oxfords and Derby shoes.

They have the benefit of being similar to boat shoes – laid back and easy to slip on. But they don’t look anywhere near as casual. 

leather penny loafers example
Image From Shutterstock

Like monkstrap shoes, they would be too casual to be worn with a full suit or tuxedo.

However, if chosen correctly, they can be a great option for a business casual outfit.

Similar to monkstrap shoes, you want to go for the more formal loafers when it comes to dressing business casual.

The most formal type of loafer is the black horsebit (“Gucci”) loafer. It has a metal buckle across the vamp in the shape of a horse’s bit. This adds a bit of sophistication to the standard loafer shoe. 

The classical black leather finish means these match well with formal pants such as tweed or dress pants that are suitable as business casual. 

An example outfit would be those black horsebits, a light grey pair of tweed pants, an Oxford shirt, and a sports coat. 

Penny loafers and tassel loafers are more casual types of loafer shoes, therefore are best avoided if you are trying to pair them with formal pants. 

Again, it is best to avoid suede loafers as these are generally a tad too casual for office attire. 

But if you choose carefully, loafers can be the gift that keeps on giving when it comes to your business casual outfit, as they can look smart as well as be comfortable. 


To sum that all up – avoid the boat shoes when it comes to business casual. 

You have plenty of other options. 

With this knowledge, you can now feel more confident about shopping for the right shoes to complete your business casual look and more importantly, impress at the office.