Skip to Content

How To Wear Boat Shoes With Jeans [7 Essential Tips]

Some combinations may seem like the perfect pairing but are actually pretty easy to get wrong. The question is, can you wear boat shoes with jeans? 

Boat shoes can be worn with jeans, mainly to casual and smart-casual settings in the summer and early autumn. Try to achieve contrast in color between the two items. In addition, avoid excessively tapered jeans as they can look awkward when paired with the wide-set boat shoe. 

Although that’s the gist, let’s dig a whole lot deeper. 

Here are some essential tips for pulling off boat shoes with jeans in the most effective way possible. 

Let’s get to it. 

example of boat shoes
Image From Deposit Photos

1. Make Sure It’s Appropriate

Boat shoes and jeans should really only be worn to casual and smart-casual settings. 

The rugged texture of denim has made jeans a classic staple of casualwear around the world.

The wide-set boat shoe with its often bright, contrasting colors and 360-degree tunneled lacing is also a classic item of summer-casual attire. 

Ultimately, this combination could never be considered anything more than casual. 

It definitely wouldn’t be appropriate for a formal dress code. Business-casual would also be out of the question – think chinos and loafers, not boat shoes and jeans. 

While the combination should only be worn in “casual” settings, even casual is a spectrum ranging from very casual to smart-casual. 

The key to getting the dress code right when wearing this combination is to pair the right pair of jeans with the right pair of boat shoes. 

In addition, you’ll need to get the upper clothing correct as well. 

Let’s discuss that in more detail. 

2. Get The Dress Code Right

The most effective way of getting the dress code right would be to split “casual” into two main types – “very casual” and “smart casual”. 

Boat shoes are traditionally worn in the summer given their ankle-exposing uppers, but early autumn is still possible. 

Very Casual

Example Settings – garden parties, beach parties, hanging out with friends, bars, casual restaurants. 

When wearing boat shoes and jeans to very casual settings, you’ve got a lot more freedom. 

You can go for brighter and bolder colors with more of a contrast between them. 

Boat shoes can be found in very bright and attention-grabbing colors. These are definitely an option when you’re going very casual. 

Here’s an example of such a pair on Amazon: 

You’ve also got more options with your jeans. You could go for lighter shades of blue or more unusual and bold colors. 

You’ve also got the option of distressed jeans with little rips, tears, and frills. Acid-washed and stone-washed jeans are also an option. 

example of very casual jeans
Image From Deposit Photos

The choice you’ve got with upper garments is also pretty huge. Vests with an unbuttoned overshirt on top, or just a simple T-shirt would both be great options. 

Smart Casual

Example Settings – Dates, mid-level restaurants, rooftop bars, sports events. 

These are events and occasions where a simple T-shirt would be too casual. Chinos would be a good option but a pair of smart jeans would be just fine too. 

You’ll need to be more careful with your choice of jeans and boat shoes here. 

Going for more neutral colors would be a better option. 

A pair of brown or navy blue boat shoes within minimal contrast between the tunneled lacing and the leather upper would be a good option. 

Here’s a pair of more “formal” looking boat shoes on Amazon as an example: 

The jeans should ideally be a darker color – dark blue or grey would work well. In addition, avoid distressed jeans. Rips and tears may make them look too casual. 

Try to avoid acid-washed and stone-washed jeans as well if possible, although a small amount can actually still work well (as you can see from the next photo). 

example of smart casual jeans
A pair of jeans worn in a smart-casual outfit

Image From Deposit Photos

You’ll also need to be more careful with your upper clothing as well, but you’ve still got options. 

A polo shirt or Henley shirt would work, especially when it’s more casual than smart. 

If it were the other way round and you want to dress it up a little more, an Oxford shirt with a blazer or sports coat would actually work really well. 

3. Contrast Is King

When wearing boat shoes and jeans, contrast is king. Boat shoes work best when they stand out from the pants, even just a little. 

This is the case for both very casual and smart casual outfits. It’s just that you can go for more contrast with very casual outfits than you can with smart casual ones. 

You don’t need to overthink it. 

Just avoid choosing a pair of boat shoes that’s similar in color to the jeans. They shouldn’t blend too seamlessly into each other. 

Dark blue jeans with dark blue boat shoes wouldn’t look great. 

While it wouldn’t be the end of the world, you’d be missing out on an opportunity. 

You don’t want too much contrast when you’re going for a smart-casual look, but dark blue jeans with a light brown pair of boat shoes would be a much better option. 

When you’re going very casual, go for even more contrast. 

Light blue jeans with bright red/yellow/green boat shoes, etc. They come in such a huge variety of colors that you’ve really got options. 

Choosing an upper garment that’s a shade of the color you’ve gone for with your boat shoes is a really great option. 

For example, baby blue, stonewashed jeans, red boat shoes, a white vest, and an unbuttoned light red/pink overshirt. 

You’re going for contrast between the jeans and the boat shoes, but trying to sync the overshirt and the boat shoes. 

This is a great way to add contrast where it matters but ensure everything blends as a whole as well. 

4. No-Show Socks

Visible socks and boat shoes never pair well together. It’s a quick and easy way to make the combination look awkward. 

However, going sockless isn’t great in the summer either due to hygiene. 

No-show socks are such a great invention – it’s a shame more people don’t make the most of them. 

When wearing boat shoes and jeans, always go for no-show socks. As the name would suggest, they aren’t visible. 

But they also feel less awkward and more comfortable than going completely sockless. 

They need to be very low cut to work with boat shoes, however. Just make sure the set you’re buying is low enough. 

Here are some on Amazon you can check out. 

5. Avoid Skinny Jeans

Avoid skinny jeans when wearing boat shoes. Having the jeans taper and wrap around the lower leg tightly can look awkward as it eventually reaches the wide-set boat shoe. 

This isn’t a rule, by any means. Plenty of people wear skinny jeans and boat shoes and make it work. 

But it usually isn’t the best option. 

Jeans with even a slightly wider leg would usually work better. 

Boat shoes will always appear pretty wide-set. It’s just the way they look, especially from front-on. The toe is pretty wide and the fact that you aren’t wearing visible socks also exaggerates the effect. 

The skinnier or more tapered the jeans you choose, the wider-set the boat shoes will look in comparison. While this isn’t necessarily a bad look, it isn’t a very balanced look from the waist down. 

It can make your silhouette as a whole look top-heavy. 

So, avoid going more tapered than slim-fit jeans. Wide-leg, straight-leg, or slim-fit jeans would be a more appropriate option than skinny jeans would be. 

6. Cuff But Don’t Pinroll

Cuffed pants look great when wearing boat shoes and jeans are no exception. 

To “cuff” a pair of pants is to roll up the hem (i.e bottom) of the pants to make them appear shorter. It’s a great look when you’re going casual – even smart casual. 

cuffed jeans and boat shoes
Image From Deposit Photos

The cuffed jeans and boat shoes look is very summery, however. It wouldn’t look quite as good when worn in cooler weather. 

When the temperature drops those boat shoes probably wouldn’t be the best choice in the first place. 

Once again, remember to avoid visible socks when wearing boat shoes. If you’re cuffing the jeans, this is even more important as your ankle will be completely visible. 

In addition, while cuffing works great, avoid pinrolling. 

Pinrolling is where you pinch the edge of the hem before you roll it up. This has the effect of narrowing the bottom of your pants, producing a more tapered appearance at the lower leg. 

This can still work great when you’re wearing slimmer footwear. 

But once again, boat shoes are wide-set. You don’t want too much tapering at the lower leg because it looks out of balance with the wide-set boat shoes. The same goes for sneakers. 

7. Match The Belt

A final tip would be to try, if possible, to match your belt with your boat shoes in terms of color. Having a matching pair in your wardrobe is always useful. 

It’s a great way to make your entire outfit seem well thought out and intentional. 

Given how you’re going for color contrast between your jeans and your boat shoes, it’s also a great way to make sure you’ve got some contrast between your belt and your jeans as well. 

While this isn’t essential, it’s the nuances and finishing touches that really make an outfit stand out. 

This tip, as well as the others in this list, should ensure that your jeans and boat shoe combo is eye-catching, effective, and balanced. 

Enjoy.