By Samantha Critchell
Sure, you can slap an anchor motif on a sweater and call it nautical.
But truly sea-worthy looks are likely to have some real relationship to water. Here’s what some designers say defines nautical for them:
• Karen Pitts, vice president of Sperry, maker of the famous Top-Sider deck shoe: The signature of a nautical shoe is the hardware — the grommets, roping, braiding and knots, she says.
While Sperry’s famous boat shoe with its rubber-sole and razor-sharp treads hasn’t changed much since 1935, the company has designed new kinds of shoes for other watersports, she says.
"Water is not just the ocean, there are lakes and rivers. And it’s as much a state of mind. Water is universally soothing and if people can tap into that, it’s something we really see as resonating," Pitts says.
• Todd Snyder, J.Crew’s vice president of men’s design: It’s the classic braided rope bracelet that shrinks to fit your wrist that adds that genuine touch to an outfit, he said.
He also likes sun-washed polos worn with white jeans right now. Not strictly nautical, but the clothes do give the impression they’ve spent some time, along with their wearer, in a boat.
• Jenna Lyons Mazeau, J. Crew’s vice president of women’s design: The nautical look is really more about a combination of elements, usually three, she says.
"It can be as simple as a navy T-shirt, white shorts and a red belt. It’s that third element that completes it. Just the shirt and shorts might not be ‘nautical,"’ she says.
Adding items with motifs — anchors, stripes and wheels — makes the look a little more obvious but also a little more fun, she says.
And don’t forget the windbreaker.
"It’s obviously from sailing. It keeps the water and wind off, but you do not get hot," she says.
• Mirian Lamberth, creative director for Nautica: She points out that nautical is not a summer-only style. Think of fisherman sweaters with beautiful anchor buttons or a navy cashmere hoodies, she says, and a garment in white or cream can look even fresher in the fall or winter.
And what about yellow? It figures into sailors’ foul weather gear and also play boldly against gray skies in the brand’s fall ad campaign.
"Real sailors do sail year-round. Fishing, sailing, coastal living — they’re all our inspiration. It’s about a lifestyle," she says.