The 6 Best Summer Shoes For Men

By: Peter Nguyen
Last Updated: June 6, 2020

Sam asks:

“What kind of shoe options do you recommend for the hot as hell summer in Texas?”

Summer can be brutal on your feet.

The humidity, paired with hot concrete, can leave your feet a swampy, smelly mess just asking for blisters. But as long as you properly outfit your summer closet, you have nothing to fear.

Here are your six essential summer shoes every man needs in his wardrobe.

Psst! Building your summer wardrobe and clueless where to start?
My “Spring/Summer Capsule Wardrobe” Guide is your cheat sheet to building the perfect, versatile, minimal summer wardrobe. And it’s available now! Click here to learn more

The Best Materials For Summer Shoes

best summer shoe materials for men

When it comes to materials, breathability is the name of the game!

You’ll often find casual summer shoes like sneakers and slip-ons made of lighter canvas or techy knit yarns to allow for airflow. 

Casual leather shoes will have strategically placed air-holes or be perforated entirely to increase breathability. (I’m personally not a fan. I def think they look ugly. And don’t you dare think about getting perforated leather dress shoes!)

Leather dress shoes are usually made from nice leathers like calfskin and lined to give it more structure and durability.

Summer dress shoes usually switch from calfskin leathers to softer, unlined suede. This makes them more breathable and comfortable, but a little less durable. It’s good habit to rotate your summer dress shoes and store them using shoe trees to help them retain their shape.

What Are The Best Colors For Summer Shoes?

Just like with your summer clothes, it’s an excellent time to go lighter with your color choices. 

White is a great option for casual shoes like sneakers, as it reflects heat. Lighter browns are good options for dress shoes. Even opting for a grey can help brighten your look for spring. 

In the section below, I’ll give you specific color recommendations for your summer shoes.

The Best Casual Summer Shoes

mens summer shoes casual espadrilles and sandals

The Espadrilles or Leather Sandal

Ok, so I’m cheating a bit by combining these two. I’ll explain. Some of my clients are brutally offended at the idea of wearing sandals. And I get it, most men’s feet are pretty butchered. 

For others, a sandal is a perfect choice for lounging around the pool of a fancy hotel.

The Espadrilles

mens summer shoes casual espadrilles

If you’re in the anti-sandal group: Let me introduce you to my favorite sandal alternative: the espadrille, the classic Spanish slip-on made of canvas with a signature rope sole. It was a favorite of Picasso. The O.G. Bond Sean Connery wore them in 1965’s Thunderball. Do I even need to convince you why these are cool to wear? 

Today you can find espadrilles in materials like leather and sueded. For summer, stick with the traditional lightweight canvas.

What color espadrilles should you buy: Black, navy, or tan are the most versatile options. To brighten up your look, go for a lighter grey (sand) color or even white. For a shot of color, olive or light blue are my favorites.

My favorite espadrille brands right now:

The Large Strap Leather Sandal

mens summer shoes casual sandals

I can hear the slapping of flimsy flip flops and thin plastic straps whenever I think “sandals on men.”

There is a better choice.

Two important keys to picking the proper men’s summer sandal: thick straps and leather. 

My favorite style is wide, cross strapped leather sandals with rubber soles. They’re much more substantial than foam flip flops and can look stylish when dressed up with a nice button-up and airy drawstring pants.

What color sandals should you buy: Keep it simple. Stick to black or brown, which will go with nearly every outfit. 

My favorite men’s sandal brands right now:
Mr. P

The Knit Sneaker

mens summer shoes casual knit sneakers
mens summer shoes casual knit sneakers greats

Knit sneakers are incredibly lightweight and ultra-breathable, making them perfect for hot summer days. You can find knit versions of essentials styles I’ve recommended in the past, like Stan Smiths.

Greats make a great (no pun intended) version of their minimalist white sneaker in a knit body.

They can be a little tricky to clean, but Greats has a helpful short guide on Youtube that makes it painless.

What color knit sneakers should you buy: White will be the most versatile of the bunch. If you go for another color, keep it on the lighter side, like grey or tan. 

My favorite knit sneaker brands right now:

The Minimalist Sneaker

mens summer shoes casual minimal sneaker
mens summer shoes casual common projects

The minimalist sneaker has transformed into an all-season, all situation shoe. 

You can thanks offices relaxing their dress codes, and brands like Common Projects putting a clean, luxe take on the sneaker. 

The key to picking a sneaker that can from board meeting to date night is making sure you go minimal. 

Avoid any large logos, details, or tons of colors. For a more refined look, opt for styles with more of a sleeker silhouette.

What color minimalist sneaker should you buy: A minimalist white sneaker is a shoe I buy for every one of my private client’s wardrobes. If this is your first time buying a minimalist sneaker, get white first.

For additional colors, stay on the light side for Spring/Summer. Grey leather or soft colored suede is an excellent 2nd option.

My favorite minimalist sneaker brands right now:
Common Projects

The Best Summer Shoes For Work

Dress shoes in the summer tend to be lighter in color and relaxed in their materials. 

The Suede Loafer

mens summer shoes work suede loafers
mens summer shoes work suede loafers

Suede is a softer type of leather made from the underside of the animal skin. Suede is usually thinner than traditional leathers, making them much more breathable. 

That, combined with the fact that summer dress shoes are unlined, makes for an ultra-comfortable dressy shoe you can wear with anything from jeans to a suit. This is my personal go-to business casual summer shoe.

What color suede loafer should I buy? A Med brown is the best and only color option you need for suede.

My favorite suede loafer brands right now:

The Unlined Classic Leather Loafer

mens summer shoes work unlined loafers
mens summer shoes work unlined loafers

For days where you need something a bit more traditional, pick up an unlined classic leather loafer for the summer. 

While it won’t be as comfortable as the suede loafer, going unlined will help with the breathability while keeping your polished, professional look. 

What color unlined loafer should I buy? Stick with either black or brown for versatility. For a second pair with a more of a summer feel, go with a lighter shade of brown. 

My favorite unlined loafer brands right now:

The Debry (aka The Plain Toe Blucher)

mens summer shoes work derbys
mens summer shoes work derbys

If you want a dress shoe that isn’t a slip-on/loafer style, the derby (sometimes known as the plain toe blucher) is my pick.

It gets its name from the plain toe style, as opposed to decorated cap or wingtips. The minimal design makes them easier to pair with everything from chinos to tailored pants. 

Derbys are less sleek than oxfords and have an open lacing system, making them more casual. But you don’t have to worry. With the more relaxed dress codes nowadays, nobody will blink an eye when you adopt it as your summer dress shoe.

What color derby should I buy? Brown is my favorite choice for your first pair. For a more summer feel, try a med brown or tan in suede. 

My favorite derby brands right now:

What Kind of Socks Should I Wear in The Summer?

mens summer socks

Cotton socks First, make sure you’ve switched over to cotton for all your socks. Casual cotton socks are suitable for when you want more coverage while wearing sneakers. While finer cotton and blends, like cotton/silk, or cotton/linen, are great for dress shoes.

Invisible Socks I also recommend picking up some invisible socks for both your casual and dress shoes.

You’d be surprised how baring some ankle in the warmer months can help cool you down.

They also create a barrier between you and your shoes, preventing blisters.

Invisible Casual Socks Make sure you get invisible socks and not ankle socks. 

As the name implies, ankle socks end at your ankles, while invisible socks are cut lower to remain hidden. 

The rule for colors is that they should match the lining of your sneakers. I’ve found a few pairs of white, gray, and beige should be enough.

My favorite casual invisible sock brands right now:

Invisible Dress / Loafer Socks

Invisible dress socks, often called “loafer socks”, are the same as invisible casual socks except they’re made specifically for dress shoes.

Like longer dress socks, they’re made of finer cotton. Another key difference is that they’re cut even wider to mimic the loafer opening and stay invisible.

When it comes to colors to buy, the same rules apply. Match your invisible dress sock with the lining of your dress shoe. Since most dress shoes are lined with black or brown leather, black and brown/ beige invisible dress socks are all you’ll need.

My favorite invisible loafer sock brands right now:

Need Some Outfit Ideas For These Summer Shoes?

Check out my guide to building a spring/summer capsule wardrobe. It includes an 88-page “Lookbook” with 50+ outfit ideas for work, dates, and hanging around using the shoes featured in this post. 

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