Sandals are enjoying a renaissance of late. Time was when you might only wear them on holiday or at the gym, but these days they are fair game in the city as much as on the sand.
Open-toed footwear comes in many forms, so deciding how to wear sandals really depends on your personal style and what kind of look you’re after. For streetwear fiends there’s hiking-style sandals or sliders; for those after comfort, Birkenstocks are ever-popular; and for those looking for something smarter, designer and high street stores are rarely short of smart leather sandals that can be dressed up further with tailored trousers.
However, with a growing range of acceptable sandals comes greater scope for getting things wrong. Make one foul move, and you’ll end up looking like a lost German tourist on the way to Disneyland. Do them well though, and you’ll be both stylish and comfortable under the summer sun, ready to tackle a city break or head from the beach to the bar and even dinner with ease.
In traditional circles, the idea of tailoring and sandals being worn together is sartorial sacrilege. As long as a few caveats are taken note of, however, it’s no longer a pairing that will see you handed an Anti-Social Behaviour Order by the Savile Row society.
The first rule is no socks, especially not white ones designed for sport. The sandals you choose are also of the utmost importance. Avoid flip-flops, which are too casual to fly with lapels, and instead opt for a discreet pair in black or navy which are free from logos or patterns.
Next up is the tailoring that you pair with your sandals. Suit separates will de-formalise your look, lessening the severity of the high-low contrast. Choose dark trousers which match your sandals to keep a clean line. For balance up top, throw on a neutral blazer, and finish with a grandad collar shirt in white to hit the sartorial sweet spot on the smart-casual continuum.
If you have any lingering doubts about how easy to wear sandals have become, try them with the simplest outfit in the entire canon of summer menswear: chinos and a T-shirt. This pedestrian pairing actually becomes a little more interesting with the addition of sandals, and you can steer one of two ways with your choice of colours and how functional the footwear is.
Blacks, greys and earthy shades give you vague man-of-the-world vibes, even if you’re a metropolitan commuter shoulder-charging tourists out of your way en route to the office. For that look, a chunky sandal like a Birkenstock is your best best. Alternatively, go coastal with some cropped stone chinos, a tucked-in tee and Clubmasters. Here, the Riviera playboy in you will demand dressier sandals, so look for something strapping and strappier in fine black leather.
Unless you reside in a permanently tropical locale (rather than an island regularly described as ‘soggy’), it stands to reason that you might struggle when the mercury begins to rise. But wearing sandals doesn’t have to mean pulling a complete wardrobe 180. In fact, it’s entirely possible to wear sandals with the pieces already hanging in your wardrobe. Case in point: jeans.
Though sandals and full-length denim worn in conjunction might bring to mind images of frat bros (particularly ones who call flip-flops ‘thongs’), done right, the two can make for an extremely handsome pairing.
Light wash jeans in a slim fit are inherently more casual than selvedge types, and therefore make for a wise choice that won’t jar with laid-back footwear. Slipping into jeans also probably means that shorts feel a little too optimistic, so bolster your defences up top with some lightweight summer knitwear and maybe some minimalist sneakers in your bag because you never know (except you do).
Smarter than the flip-flop and sliders, the technical-looking hiking sandal is as formal as you need to go for beach holiday footwear.
Granted, being covered in straps you lose that slip-on and go functionality, but what you gain with the extra fabric is the ability to transition far easier to the bar and even the restaurant without getting side-eye from other guests.
To avoid looking like, how do we put this, a total creep looking for the nearest nudist beach, this is not a sandal style to pair with speedos. Stick to tailored swim shorts and a dark neutral top to bring out that newly formed tan.
While they may not be the first shoe you consider slipping into with a smart pair of trousers, sandals are surprisingly easy to pair with a sharp bottom half. You just need the right pair of each. For the trousers, think a slightly wider leg, but with a gentle taper down to a cropped ankle, which should finish an inch or two above the sandals.
This isn’t going to be an office look, despite the trousers’ formal lean. But a leather strapped pair of sandals extracts as much smartness as possible, meaning, when worn with a Cuban collar shirt, this is an outfit firmly in the realm of smart-casual attire.
For the sandals themselves, go for black or brown leather and opt for a chunkier rubber sole, which will offer better impact protection against thin leather soles, and should ideally last longer.