5 min read

Sailboat Style Secrets: Pro Tips for Nautical Chic

Imagine standing on a sailboat deck, the breeze tugging at your clothes. Dress right and conquer the seas - let's steal tips from the pros on nailing that perfect sailor's attire!

Tobi Miles
October 9, 2022

Sailing is the perfect balance of peacefulness and adventure. If you enjoy spending the day on the water and seeing many sights, sailing could be the right activity for you. However, before you get ready for a day at sea, you'll want to ensure you're prepared. After all, if you're not in suitable clothing, things could get uncomfortable. So, what should you wear on a sailboat?

The most important thing to wear on a sailboat is a life jacket. You should also wear a waterproof shirt or jacket, along with waterproof pants. Deck shoes or plastic sneakers are your best choice for footwear. It's also important to make sure you're protected from the sun. Don't forget to wear a hat and sunscreen.

Ultimately, the clothes you should wear sailing will depend on the weather. Sailing is just enjoyable in the midst of winter as it is on a nice summer day. To make sure you have an enjoyable experience on the water, you should choose clothes that will keep you dry and comfortable.

Today, we're going to discuss what to wear on a sailboat. In this guide, we will break down what you should be wearing during each season. We will also let you know which items should be left at home. Keep reading to find out more.

What To Wear On A Sailboat

Are you planning a sailing trip? Choosing the right clothing is important for your own comfort. If you're damp and cold, sailing won't be a fun experience. This is why waterproof clothing is the best choice. Many people picture sailors wearing striped shirts and bell bottoms. However, experienced sailors prefer to wear spray pants. These pants keep people dry for a full day at sea.

With that in mind, there are no set rules and restrictions on what you need to wear. Your biggest concern when choosing clothes for sailing is your own level of comfort. Always choose your clothes with the notion that you will be around water and in the sun and wind for an extended period of time.

There is one important item that every person on a sailboat needs to wear. Sailors of all experience levels must wear a life jacket on the boat. It doesn't matter if it's your first day at sea or if you have 40 years of sailing experience. Accidents can happen at any point. A life jacket is the #1 way to prevent drowning if an accident does occur.

What To Wear On A Sailboat In Spring

In spring, the air is warming up but the water remains cold. For this reason, you will want to wear lightweight waterproof clothing. Unless it's early spring, you likely won't need a jacket. However, you should consider a long sleeve thermal top.

Neoprene Pants

Neoprene pants are a lighter waterproof option. If it's too warm to wear spray pants, neoprene is a comfortable alternative. These pants are very similar to a wetsuit. You will also be able to wear them comfortably underneath spray pants if it gets cold while you're on the water.

Spray Top

A good-quality spray top is essential for staying warm and dry. These tops allow people to wear layers underneath. You will be able to adjust your layers for the right amount of insulation for what the weather brings. However, they are also very breathable to wear on warmer days.

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What To Wear On A Sailboat In Summer

Sailing during the summer allows more flexibility with what you wear. It's recommended to wear breathable fabrics so you don't get too hot. You should also focus on clothing that will protect you from the sun.

However, every sailor is different in their summerwear choices. Some sailors stay casual in cargo shorts and a light t-shirt or blouse. Other sailors continue to wear spray gear in the summer season. Of course, you can judge your summer outfits on your personal preference.

Sun Protection

Your #1 concern in the summer should be sun protection. Always wear a waterproof sunscreen that is at least 30 SPF. We also recommend choosing a sunscreen that is sweat resistant. For a longer sailing journey, make sure you bring sunscreen onboard to reapply it as needed.

It's also important that you wear sunglasses and a hat. Sunglasses will help to reduce glare and protect your eyes from UV rays. There are many types of hats that are suitable for a day of sailing. It's recommended that you wear a lightweight hat that's also breathable.


Experienced sailors have a wetsuit in their closet for sailing activities. The reason why they prefer a wetsuit is that the temperature of the water is typically much colder than the air in summer. They will remain cool on board, but won't get too cold in the water.

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What To Wear On A Sailboat In Autumn

Sailing in autumn allows you to enjoy the beautiful fall foliage around you. This time of year, you should focus on wearing insulated layers. You can expect cool mornings with warm afternoons. This is why you should wear layers to adjust.

Thermal Tops

Thermal tops are a great choice during the autumn months. We suggest wearing one underneath a spray top or jacket. Thermal tops offer warmth without bulkiness. Experienced sailors recommend thermal wear because the material helps to keep moisture away from the skin.

Neoprene Gloves

While the autumn air may still have some warmth to it, the water usually doesn't. One thing a lot of first-time sailors aren't expecting is how cold their hands will get once they are on the boat. Neoprene gloves are the best option to consider for autumn sailing. They will keep your hands warm while also providing a good-quality grip.

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What To Wear On A Sailboat In Winter

Sailing is still a popular activity during the winter months. In winter, you will want to wear protective layers from head to toe. Make sure you wear water-proof outerwear and keep your skin covered. With freezing temperatures, you will want to make sure you're protected from the water to avoid frostbite.

Dry Suit

The best thing to wear while sailing in winter is a dry suit. This is a one-piece suit with long sleeves that you will wear over your regular clothes. Keep in mind, it offers no warmth, so you will need insulating layers underneath.

The purpose of the dry suit is to keep you completely dry if you get submerged in water. This suit seals at the neck, wrist, and ankles to prevent your clothing from getting wet.

Sailing Hat

You can purchase winter hats specifically for sailing. A sailing hat will keep your head warm while also repelling water. However, you don't have to purchase a sailing hat. You can still remain warm on the boat with a regular winter hat. We recommend choosing a wool hat because the material still keeps you warm while wet.

Related Read: What is the Transom on a Boat?

Thermal Socks

Thermal socks will keep your feet protected from water. If you enjoy sailing in the cool weather, you should have a pair (or two) of these socks in your drawer. The great thing about thermal socks is you can buy ones for different types of weather conditions. We recommend having moderate-weather thermal socks and a pair for extremely cold conditions.

What Gear Is Required For Sailing?

A life jacket is the only piece of gear that is required for sailing. However, experts recommend also bringing a whistle, goggles, and gloves.

Life Jacket

A life jacket is the most important thing a sailor should wear, any time of year. You should always wear a life jacket that's fitted and comfortable. When you choose a life jacket for sailing, you will need to make sure that you have a full range of arm movement. Your life could depend on this item if you're ever in an accident while sailing.


A whistle can be a great way to send signals while sailing. Many sailors use their whistles when there's reduced visibility. It can also be used in case you need help. Blowing a whistle 3 times is a distress signal. If you need help, blow 3 times, wait for 30 seconds, and then repeat.  


Goggles can protect your eyes from the water. If you're sailing on the ocean, you will want something to cover your eyes from the saltwater and high winds. Many experienced sailors prefer sailing sunglasses, which are goggles and sunglasses in one.

What Shoes To Wear On A Sailboat

There are several types of shoes that are appropriate for sailing. Always wear shoes that are non-slip and have non-marking soles. If you sail often, you can benefit from investing in sailing boots. However, plastic sneakers, deck shoes, rubber boots, or even tennis shoes are suitable options.

What Are Sailing Boots?

Sailing boots are insulated non-slip boots that are also waterproof. They are typically made from neoprene or rubber. Even if these boots get wet, your feet will stay dry. On top of keeping your feet dry, they also offer ankle support. They are also lightweight with durable soles.

Best Type Of Sneakers For Sailing

You don't have to have sailing boots to enjoy sailing. There are several types of sneakers that are suitable for the boat. The best type of sneakers for sailing are ones with non-marking rubber soles. We suggest wearing a pair of deck shoes or plastic shoes for the best grip. Make sure the soles are white or a pale color to avoid scuff marks on the deck.

Can I Sail Barefoot?

It's not safe to sail barefoot. This is because there will be no grip or protection for the bottom of your feet. You will be at a higher risk of falling and getting hurt. There's also the risk of stepping on a sharp object, like shells or stones. Instead, you should wear good-quality water shoes. These lightweight shoes offer protection while allowing you to feel close to being barefoot.

Should I Wear Rubber Boots?

Rubber boots are a good choice if the sole is non-slip. However, we recommend only wearing rubber boots in mild conditions, like spring and early autumn. During the colder months, you will be more comfortable wearing boots with better insulation.

Can I Wear Sandals While Sailing?

Only certain types of sandals are appropriate for sailing. You should only wear non-slip sandals that offer protection for your feet. The best choice is a closed-toe sandal in case you stub your toe (which happens more often than you would think). Crocs are a better choice than sandals because they are breathable and protective.  

What You Shouldn't Wear Sailing

There are certain types of clothing and material that aren't a good choice for sailing. Always avoid wearing cotton because it stays wet longer than other materials. You should also remember that your sailing clothes should be more about comfort than style. You'll want to avoid long skirts, denim, white clothing, and high heels.


During the summer months, it's fine to wear cotton. However, when it's cold out, you'll want to avoid it. Cotton is a poor insulator. This is because cotton easily absorbs water. The moisture fills up the air pockets in the material, leaving you cold and damp.

Maxi Skirts/Dresses

You may be thinking that a loose maxi dress is a perfect choice for a summer day sailing. They are flowy, breathable, and comfortable.  However, maxi dresses and long skirts aren't safe for sailing. When wearing a long skirt, you're at risk of tripping when climbing on board or snagging on cord belts.


Denim is very uncomfortable while wet. When choosing your clothing for sailing, always consider what the material will feel like on your skin when it's wet. Jeans can retain a lot of water and feel very heavy when wet. In case you didn't know, denim is made from cotton. Save your favorite jeans for when you're on land.

White Clothing

Don't wear your favorite white shorts while sailing. You shouldn't wear white clothes sailing because your clothes can easily get stained. Sailors that have worn white on board have ended up with lines, marks, and other stains. Despite how glamorized sailing may look in photos, it can get dirty at times.

High Heels

High heels can cause damage to the boat. Most boat owners don't want people wearing high heels on board because they can leave marks and scratches on the deck. This rule isn't just for sailboats. Yachts and other types of boats often require people to wear soft-soled shoes.

What Is The Best Type Of Jacket For Sailing?

Windbreakers are the best type of jacket to wear while sailing. When choosing clothes to wear onboard, most people consider what will protect them from water sprays. However, they don't think about what will protect them from the wind. There are many days on the water where the wind can be just as harsh (if not worse) than the water.

Experienced sailors prefer windbreakers because they are lightweight and offer more flexibility for layering. They allow great mobility. During warmer months, these lightweight jackets won't make people hot. In the cold, you can wear insulating layers underneath to stay warm and dry.

How To Protect Your Face While Sailing

During the cold months, you should wear a face or neck guard while sailing. This is an excellent way to protect your skin from the freezing cold spray. The guard will act as a shield, blocking water from your skin.

If you're sailing in the summer, always wear sunscreen. A wide-brim hat is another great way to protect your face from the sun. What you may not have known is that how you treat your skin after sailing is just as important.

Make sure you wash your face immediately after sailing when you get home. The combination of saltwater and sunscreen can cause damage to your skin. We recommend using a light moisturizer after washing your face to prevent your skin from drying out.

Can I Wear Jewelry Sailing?

Jewelry can tarnish if it's exposed to ocean water. Sterling silver, gold, and platinum jewelry may be able to withstand a small amount of exposure to water. However, any plated jewelry or jewelry with stones is at a high risk of getting damaged. We strongly recommend removing all pieces of jewelry before going sailing.

Should I Wear A Swimsuit Sailing?

During warmer months, you may be comfortable wearing your swimsuit on board. Certain swimsuits are better suited for sailing than others. We suggest choosing a bathing suit that has strong straps. You should avoid strapless swimwear or bikinis with delicate straps because you will spend the majority of your sailing journey adjusting your swimsuit.

Article updated:
January 5, 2024

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