Photo illustration: Jeremy Allen/Bloomberg Business; product: Mr Porter via Bloomberg

How to Wear Sandals If You’re a Man (and Not Terrify Small Children)

Think Espadrilles and Birkenstocks are tricky? Try a pair of Grecian sandals... or don't

Even trend-averse, or normal-minded, people can make controversial footwear decisions.

Take everyone in my high school in the late 1990s, who decided simultaneously to endorse the Adidas unisex slide shower sandal. I’m talking about the one with a sole made of tiny black massage nubs intended to be worn after sports to sooth foot aches. Fifteen-year-olds didn’t have foot aches; we just wanted to wear the noisy slip-on shoe so we would match the sound of everyone else walking down the north corridor. (Me, being the trendsetter I was destined to be, wore mine with babydoll dresses and, when wanting be be extra cute, socks. Shudder.)

Source: Shoebuy.com via Bloomberg

And now a warning. Guess what footwear trend reentered the style scene this season?

Yep, the shower shoe—although of the nub-less, velcro-less variety. But before you stretch your sartorial muscles to try (retry?) the slide, or attempt other questionable shoe choices, such as the Birkenstock Arizona or Grecian sandal, I have a few guidelines. It's easy to file what's below under “things fashion people like that no one else gets,” but with the right planning, you too can pull off these tricky summer shoes. Just leave the babydoll dresses to the professionals.  

Teva-Style Sandals

Source: (from left) Crocs via Bloomberg; Bergdorf Goodman via Bloomberg

Avoid: Actual Tevas, unless you’re white-water rafting. The Crocs version (sense a pattern?). Or anything too high-end that is trying to be sporty

Try: A simple crisscross-strap sandal with a back strap, like this pair by Balenciaga. For a sportier option, consider this backless, nylon pair by Prada

How to Wear: With a jewel-toned cotton suit (for the crisscrossed leather sandals). Again, wearing real Teva sandals requires a paddle or some hiking shorts, and even then .... 

Espadrilles

Source: (from left) East Dane via Bloomberg; Soludos via Bloomberg

Avoid: Espadrilles that are also slippers, especially novelty-print ones. 

Try: Espadrilles, au naturale—not any of the newer slipper-espadrille hybrids, nor their bastard cousin, the boat shoe hybrids of slippers or boat shoes. The brands Del Toro and Stubbs & Wootton both make great ones (plus more warm-weather slip-on staples, such as drivers, boat shoes, and loafers).  

How to Wear: Dressed up, for a funky, special-occasion look. This natural straw option by Stubbs & Wootton is a great non-lace-up option for wedding season. Or try soft suede or canvas espadrilles—such as this pair by Soludos—for a more casual look. 

Grecian Sandals

Source: (from left) Neiman Marcus via Bloomberg; Ancient Greek Sandals via Bloomberg

Avoid: Options that are too strappy, that have too many buckles or embellishments, or that wraps up your ankle. Ankle-wrappers are almost the worst offense, ever, in men’s warm-weather footwear—second only to using the word "mandal." 

Try: A simple crisscross sandal, as mentioned above. The Ancient Greek Sandals Kritonas is also a simple, all-sunny occasion shoe for beginners. Pick a pair that is dark, like chocolate brown, navy, or black—never white, red, or "natural." If there's sand between your toes, nothing beats a pair of classic Havaianas flip-flops.

Wear With: Tailored shorts and a tan. 

Birkenstock Arizona 

Source: Mr Porter via Bloomberg (2)

Avoid: Anything your retired mom in Boca Raton would wear while tending her tomatoes. Or designer versions of the classic, two-strap utilitarian sandal—like the above floral-print option by Givenchy

Try: Matte, black leather with silver (or tonal black) hardware. 

Wear With: Your passport and a pair of resort pants. 

Shower Slides

Source: (from left) Modell's Sporting Goods via Bloomberg; Mr Porter via Bloomberg

Avoid: The Crocs versions. Anything too technical. Socks of any kind. 

Try: The original shower shoe—without nubs—the Adilette by Adidas Originals. Or their amp’d up pair by Raf Simons in either black (sleek and ninja-like) or blue and green (more punched-up and preppy).

How to Wear: With a swimsuit at the pool or a towel at the Turkish bath house. These slides aren't street legal. 

Nic Screws is the style director for Bloomberg. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram, or e-mail her any of your fashion concerns or questions at: nscrews@bloomberg.net.

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