The Intelligent Consumer: Is it worth it? - Sole to sole
At pounds 50 a pair, Polo Ralph Lauren's deck shoes are definately for the fairweather mariner who is more concerned with style than substance
Sunday 18 May 1997
For the part-time, style-conscious mariner, Polo Ralph Lauren is offering a ladies' boat shoe at pounds 50. This is a pleasant item with a navy, canvas upper, a rubber sole, fine laces and eyelets. "Skid-resistant sole" screams the inside of the shoe, immediately drawing a ready customer-base of ladies afraid of landing half-mast on their derrieres. But isn't it a little pricey when you can get a perfectly adequate deck shoe in the high street for under pounds 30?
It was time to test it against the real thing - an authentic Sperry Top- Sider boat shoe from Ocean Leisure at pounds 29.95.
Both have razor-cut, slip-resistant soles, but the Lauren shoe looks less classy than it's cheaper rival. With its canary-yellow piping on the side and over-large Polo logo at the heel, it looks more Hong Kong than Bond Street.
The Lauren shoes are comfortable, if rather flimsy, and fluffy white laces poke through solid-looking eyelets. They are the closest a deck shoe could ever come to being pretty. It is the turn of somebody more practical to offer an opinion.
"Razor-cut soles are okay, but you've got to put your foot down straight to get a grip. You can't slide your foot at an angle or you'll slip," explains Colin Mitchell, ocean navigator and writer for Sailing Today. As we speak, he tests them out rather rigorously on his tiled patio floor and I can see what he means. "Also, you can pick up very fine grains of sand with the soles. You need to wash them out, otherwise you'll rub them into somebody's beautiful, teak, boat-deck." Tut tut, Ralphie didn't think of that, did he?
"There's no real difference between the two," continues the thorough Mr Mitchell. "The Sperry sole is more securely fitted into the shoe than the Lauren, where it's not quite a perfect fit. So, sooner or later, the lining will come out of the shoe. The stitching on the Sperry is more robust, but the Lauren eyelets are tougher and bulkier. The side lining of the Lauren goes right through to the toe, so they look slightly better and will look nicer for longer, and the tongue is padded for comfort. Whether it lasts for longer is another matter."
Neither of these shoes are for the Francis Drake in us. "They're shore accessories," opines Mr Mitchell. "They are made to go with a handbag and undoubtedly do look very nice. Frankly, I can't see pounds 20 worth of difference between them, only that Ralph Lauren have done a bit more `comfort work'."
So, come on Ralphie's lot, justify your existence. "We're not allowed to talk about design aspects," says a spokeswoman. "Only Mr Lauren can and he's not going to talk about canvas shoes. He feels the product just speaks for itself."
Well, if the Polo Ralph Lauren deck shoes do talk, they're saying very little.
Life & Style blogs
McDonald’s launches clothing line using Big Mac prints
Facebook to test 747-sized drones that will beam broadband to the entire world
The distress of some Zayn Malik fans is real, and they need support, say experts
Chair-bound workers 'should move around every hour to reduce physical and mental health risks'
The truth about student sex workers: it's far from Belle Du Jour
Nigel Farage brands LGBT activists 'filth' and 'scum' and accuses them of scaring away his children after they invade his local pub
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Russia threatens Denmark with nuclear weapons if it tries to join Nato defence shield
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Germanwings plane crash live: Andreas Guenter Lubitz intentionally crashed flight 9525 into the Alps in act of mass murder and suicide – latest
- 1 Germanwings crash: Police make 'significant discovery' at home of co-pilot Andreas Lubitz
- 2 Germanwings captain Patrick Sondenheimer tried to break into locked cockpit door 'with an axe' as plane was descending
- 3 Zayn Malik already working on solo material, just days after quitting One Direction
- 4 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 5 #FreeTheNipple: Women in Iceland bare breasts in solidarity with trolled student
£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...
£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...