I prefer Sebago docksides. I think they are much better constructed than the topsiders. They are stiffer when you first get them than the topsiders, but once broken in they will last 5 times as long.
I just bought a pair and would suggest you get them in person so you can size them correctly wearing thin socks to simulate no socks. The place I purchased mine had several makers and when compared side by side it was an easy decision.
Normal people have been wearing them for years, but now and again the fashion crowd picks up on them - that might be what's happening now. It's no bad thing - I liked the sleeker lines some designers introduced in their versions of the boat shoe a few years ago. I don't think you'd need to spend 200 bucks on boat shoes. My Paraboots were about €80 and you can get good US brands for even less. They're meant to be treated fairly roughly - they're going to be soaked in sea water, sand and so on, which is murder for leather, but spotless boat shoes look suspicious.