The Boat Man’s Boat Shoes

Nantucket-based sailor Chad Hudnut wasn’t happy with his top-siders so he created something new altogether.

A boat may be the perfect place to wear boat shoes (we challenge you to find a more appropriate forum), but boat shoes aren’t always perfect when you’re piloting a boat. No one knows that better than Chad Hudnut, who sails classic yachts of Nantucket for a living. The 19-year-veteran of the schooner industrial complex is expected to wear top-siders because that’s what Nantucketers do. That represents a bit of a problem when the wind and waves get serious.

“Being out on the water, you go through a lot of shoes,” says Hudnut. “I’ve always been into clothes and I’ve got a nautical aesthetic. I found myself wanting shoes that worked better on the boat and that I could wear to town without looking ridiculous.”

Like most sailors, Hudnut had tried technical shoes, but he didn’t like the way they looked. Pessimistic about the products on the market and confident in his insight, he reached out to a friend at Atlantis Weather Gear and then Mike Rancourt, the scion of the well-respected Maine shoemaking family. Hudnut proposed a collaboration and the creation of a quasi-hightop that was a hybrid boat shoe and desert boot; something that looked seaworthy but clung to the ankle.

Rancourt and Hudnut made a total of eight prototypes before settling on a design that worked visually and nautically. Each was tested on the wooden sailboats – some big enough to require a crew of seven – Hudnut sails regattas and racing series.  Today, most of the guys he sails with are wearing his newfangled boat shoes. That matters to a guy who takes boats and the equipment required to handle them seriously.

“I grew up on a lake and my grandfather had boats and I’ve always been around boats,” says Hudnut. “I like these shoes.” [$325;]

Photos by Rancourt