A fully-stocked shoe rack is just as important as a well-balanced wardrobe. Good footwear sets the tone for any outfit, and while the right pair of shoes will do the trick some of the time, certain occasions call for something a little more robust.
Boots make up a huge percentage of your potential footwear options. They’re comfortable, casual, provide protection from the elements and can completely change the direction of a look when put in place of their less lofty counterparts.
No footwear selection could possibly be considered complete without at least a few key boot styles, and these are the ones you need in order to have all bases covered. From tough-as-nails workers to elegant Chelseas, here are the styles of boot no man should be without.
Ordinarily, hiking and luxury are considered mutually exclusive. After all, there’s nothing particularly luxurious about clambering up a muddy hillside in waterproof trousers with your lunch strapped to your back. However, in the context of footwear, the two worlds have collided and spawned some very wearable results.
Luxury hikers offer all the comfort and practicality of a traditional leather hiking boot, but in a package that wouldn’t look out of place with a smart-casual outfit, or even relaxed tailoring at a push. They’re sturdy and rugged, but also elegant and refined. A real paradox of a boot.
To style them, keep the rest of your outfit relatively low key. These boots are a little out of the ordinary and command attention, so don’t let anything else steal the limelight. Raw denim, neutral knitwear and a simple overshirt layered underneath a winter coat should do the trick.
Classic, wedge-soled, moc-toe work boots are as all-American as apple pie, Abe Lincoln’s beard and hot-dog eating contests. These workwear workhorses are built to take a punishing on a daily basis and, as a result, are some of the most durable boots money can buy.
Brands like Danner, Thorogood and Chippewa all produce fantastic US-made options, but the most popular label manufacturing this style is Red Wing. This historic company provided boots for soldiers in two World Wars and has established a name for itself as the best in the business.
A casual style through and through, it should be worn as such. We’d suggest teaming a pair with other workwear staples, such as a flannel shirt, chore jacket and worn-in denim.
Black Derby Boots
On the whole, boots tend to be less formal than shoes. But Derby boots are the exception. This is a style of boot that is sleek and sharp enough to be worn with tailoring, yet wouldn’t look out of place with a pair of jeans at the weekend.
A Derby boot in black leather is about as close to the perfect all-rounder as it’s possible to get. If you’re going to buy one pair of boots to see you through the winter months, make it these. They’ll keep the weather out, look the part with everything in your wardrobe and last for as long as you take care of them.
It’s difficult to think of a way in which these boots shouldn’t be styled, but they excel as part of a smart-casual or business-casual outfit. This considered, try wearing them with a roll neck knit, wool trousers and an unstructured blazer.
Those luxury hikers might look great out and about around the town, but when it comes to actually scaling mountains, there are far better tools for the job. Keeping fit is a big part of looking and feeling good and there are few better ways to stay in shape than by getting out for a hike. This is why a pair of proper, purpose-built hiking boots is a must for any self-respecting gent.
Take care to really look into the specs when shopping for any type of performance footwear and ask yourself how you’re going to be using it. Is it waterproof? Is it stiff? Flexible? What sort of insulation – if any – does it have? What are the soles made from?
Styling is less important when it comes to this type of boot unless you’re very keen to make leave a good impression on any sheep you happen to pass while out there on the trail. Just make sure they fit and wear them with other practical, performance garments.
Suede Desert Boots
If the term “smart-casual” were a boot, it would most likely be this one. The desert boot is nothing short of a menswear icon and has been for many decades. First created by Clarks, this boot has, as the slogan puts it, often been imitated, but never bettered – and we’d be inclined to agree.
The Clarks desert boot is a design classic that has strode across generations, remaining relevant and stopping off at every conceivable youth subculture along the way. There are leather versions out there but suede is the classic choice. Go for the Cola colourway if you’re worried about spilling wine on them, sand if you’re not.
Leather Chelsea Boots
Slick, suave and eternally stylish, there’s an air of cool around the Chelsea boot that every man should experience. This low-profile boot is smart but not without a hint of rock ‘n’ roll attitude. It’s the sort of boot that you use to dress up on a first date or kick over amplifiers on-stage while shredding your guitar. And believe us when we say that there aren’t many boots like that.
With a mid top shape, elasticated side panels and laceless design, the Chelsea boot is just the right amount of stripped back. It’s not crying out for attention, but at the same time never fails to be noticed.
To stay true to that innate rebellious streak, set a black pair off with grey slim-fit jeans, a Breton top and a leather biker jacket. Or, for something a little smarter, go for a blazer, knitted polo and dress pants instead.