Since launching in 2009, the Italy-based company Hey Dude Shoes has been operating in stealth mode. Stealth, as in the shoes are hard to find in the U.S. beyond the brand's online retail site, but also stealth because, in a pair of Hey Dudes, you're going to be stepping so lightly, you'll end up accidentally sneaking up on friends and coworkers.
Created to blend Italian design with California comfort, Hey Dude's shoes showcase two big innovations: flex-and-fold technology means that they not only work with your gait and feel refreshingly freeing on the foot, but they can also be balled up like socks and stuffed into precious space in your luggage (new materials allow these sneaks to weigh in at just over 5 ounces). These qualities make them ideal to tuck into your weekend bag.
But which of the Hey Dude models to get? The Vinci is a 6-ounce brogue that smartly pairs lightweight military canvas with Italian suede. The Wally is a strange, all-fabric chukka-loafer mash-up that somehow works. But since the days are still long, we’re liking the bare-bones, playful Brunico sneaker: what Hey Dude calls a "beach shoe" for a passing resemblance to the jute-soled espadrille. In durable canvas with an ultralight outsole, this pair will serve all your gumshoe-on-the-beach functions and beyond. Think Elliott Gould as private eye Philip Marlowe in Robert Altman's 'The Long Goodbye,' shambling up and down the L.A.-to-Tijuana route – but shot out of the high-cartoonish seventies and into the technically advanced 21st century. [$40; heydudeshoes.com]