Way back in the 1870’s, a new style of tennis shoes hit the scene. Crafted from Chinese or Brazilian buckskin, and complete with a leather sole, they were serviceable, though they weren’t exactly a technological marvel. Not shockingly, they’re not the sneaker of choice for the modern Wimbledon set. In fact, they fell out of favor among their originally intended audience early in the 20th century.
Where they did find favor was with the types of gents you might find sipping juleps or martinis on the well-manicured lawn of a weekend home, who shortened the shoes’ moniker to an easy-to-swallow “bucks” and developed a taste for a brick red, rubber sole in lieu of the old leather one. A few decades later, the shoes migrated—as many stylish things did at some point—to the halls of the Ivy League universities, where learned young men wearing the classic white (generally nubuck) or tan (a k a “dirty,” and made from suede) versions cemented their position as a quintessentially American warm weather shoe. Bucks have seen a resurgence or two since then, but don’t call it a comeback. They’ve been a staple of stateside summers for the better part of a century.
Now, the term “bucks” properly refers to any plain toe suede or nubuck blucher with a rubber sole—be it good ol’ white and brick red, or navy suede paired with neon yellow. And despite the longstanding history, there’s been a shift in the nomenclature recently. It’s not technically correct, but shoes like wingtips and chukkas that take their cues from the buck’s styling have earned the same name in common parlance. Whatever variation on the theme you choose, remember: Despite their sporting origins, it’s probably best to save your bucks for the porch, not the court.