If you haven’t heard of the legendary Chelsea boot then your wardrobe has been missing out on one of the most reliable and stylish footwear options for men today.
What makes the humble Chelsea boot so popular? Predominantly, its ability to seamlessly transition between both the casual and formal wardrobe. It works with a suit as well as it does with a pair of jeans with the only rule being that it should be well looked after to retain its polished appeal.
With an illustrious ancestry extending back to the British monarchy, its design being conceived by J. Sparks-Hall, Queen Victoria’s personal shoemaker. The Chelsea boot (which wasn’t named as such in the early days) proved popular with horse riders due to their durable nature and lack of laces to risk getting tangled.
A quick walk down memory lane shows that Chelsea boots were originally intended as riding boots, but the little band you may have heard of, The Beatles, would eventually wear them on stage – as well as The Rolling Stones – launching them into the menswear essentials lookbook until the end of time.
But what should you look out for when searching for a new pair of Chelsea boots?
Chelsea Boot Material
The majority of Chelsea boots are going to be made from either leather or suede, with each material being better suited to winter and summer, respectively. Leather not only provides better protection against the winter elements of rain and snow, but it also moulds to your foot over time, making them more and more comfortable with each wear.
Suede, due to it being slightly harder to clean, is better suited to being worn in the summer months where they’re going to be less at risk of stains and rain. You’re more likely to find suede Chelsea boots in a wider range of colours too, so plenty of space for showing off your true colours.
Chelsea Boot Style
As with any boot, Chelsea boots can be styled in various ways. You can find boots that end at the ankle, or finish above it. The higher the fit the easier the boots are to wear with a suit as the top can be covered by your pants. Lower-fitting styles will end up showing more skin when you sit down, and nobody really wants that.
The style of the toe can differ from pair to pair too. Rounded toes are the perfect all-rounder, meaning they can be worn up or down, depending on the situation you find yourself in. Pointed toes are a harder style to pull off, and you’ll likely see these on the feet of mod-rockers and the more ‘rebellious’ types. Of course, they also lend well to more formal occasions.
Chelsea Boot Last
When searching for a pair of Chelsea boots, you’re likely going to come across the term ‘last’, particularly with pairs from the more high-end manufacturers. A last is a solid form around which the boot is moulded. You’ll see a number associated with a particular last, and this could be exclusive to a particular brand, your knowledge of a brand will come good here. Although, if you’re not entirely sure what each last means for each manufacturer, a visit to a store or a quick email will help you out.
With the resurgence of the Chelsea boot in the men’s fashion space, there’s no shortage of materials, colours and price points to choose from. Thankfully we’re about to make your job easier with a selection of the best Chelsea boots for men to buy right now. And once you’ve done that you can learn how to wear and style them.
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Not just one to rest on its minimalist white sneaker laurels, Common Projects, being a footwear brand first and foremost has a solid offering of Chelsea boots. This suede pair for example has all the makings of a pair that screams premium. Not only are they on the perfect side of minimalist – a skill Common Projects is a master of – but they use high-quality materials and colours to make them one of the most versatile pairs you'll ever come across. In true CP fashion, the style, colour and size is stamped on the heel.
Not just a manufacturer of tasty minimalist sneakers, Axel Arigato also has its fingers in the Chelsea boot game. Certainly entering at the more affordable end of the market, Axel's boots are equally as clean in their aesthetic, rocking suede and leather materials, with the brand's iconic gold-lettering found on the heel.
Oliver Cabell is another footwear brand all men worth their stylish salt should be aware of. Not only, like Common Projects, does Oliver Cabell produce a suitably sexy range of sneakers, but it too has some serious Chelsea boots to boot. Take this pair, finished in a rather unique truffle colour. The leather and suede that has gone into their construction has been sourced from Italy, before being hand stitched in Spain. Unusually for a luxury brand, Oliver Cabell breaks down the cost of making each pair of boots, so you can see exactly where your money is going. A well-made pair of boots and ethical production, sign us up.
Clarks is an absolute boss when it comes to footwear. The British-based brand may be known, in the UK at least, for providing school kids with their back to school essentials, but it should never be overlooked as a provider of quality footwear. With suede and leather options, you can easily score yourself a pair of Chelsea boots for both summer and winter. The Gobi is an ideal summer staple, being made from a sumptuous suede nubuck leather for the upper, with a full grain leather liner to cuddle your foot in ultimate comfort. Clarks' leather and rubber hybrid sole provides just the right amount of bounce and comfort, while also providing great traction.
British fashion label AllSaints sure does know how to make stylish clothing and footwear. A brand popular with famous faces around the world, AllSaints is known for its rebellious and biker-style, as well as its use of high-quality materials. The Harley Chelsea boots use a mixture of 100 per cent cow suede and goat leather in their make up, and are finished in either black or charcoal gray. In typical AllSaints fashion, these colour finishes are ever so slightly edgy, making them perfect to wear with skinny jeans and a leather biker jacket.
Italian brand Astorflex has been producing footwear since the 1800s and has often been credited with making "the best desert boots in the world." Now in its sixth-generation of family ownership, the company strives to be as ecologically-friendly as possible. The Bitflex is a standout model in the company's lineup. Taking the traditional Chelsea boot silhouette, Astorflex has given it a memory foam footbed for super soft strides and a ventilated elasticated side panel for sliding them on and off with ease, and for improved breathability. With virtually every colour option you could want being available, you may want to start stocking up.
British footwear brand Grenson has been fitting the feet of people the world over for more than 150 years. It's no wonder then that it has taken the Chelsea boot and given it its own special twist. The Declan for example is an exquisitely made pair of leather boots, using calf skin leather for their upper and a single piece of leather for their sole. Exhibiting a slightly pointer toe than some other pairs on this list, the Grenson Declan are perfect for those who continue to champion the mod-scene style.
If there's one label you can count on for menswear classics with a fashion-forward and unique look, it's Alexander McQueen. The British brand is known for its quirky take on staple pieces, with inspiration regularly taken from the gothic scene. When it comes to footwear, McQueen likes to go large, with a chunky sole being the order of the day. This pair of Chelsea boots clearly exemplifies that attitude, taking the conventional Chelsea boot upper (with this pair in particular being made from suede) and fitting its iconic rubber wedge sole to the bottom, making them recognisable from a mile away. Expect both comfort and head-turning looks.
Continuing the domination of the British labels is Paul Smith. The fashion designer is regularly associated with the impeccably dressed gentleman, providing everything from well-fitting sweaters to must-have bags. The same goes for its Chelsea boots, with all manner of styles and materials being used to cater for the style-minded man. We love these brown suede Canon boots for their just-above-ankle fit and rounded toe. Colour-matching elasticated side panels and soles add their premium look, while the flush-sitting heel tab gives them an overall more streamlined look.
To Boot New York
To Boot New York is a footwear brand that hails from America. With footwear-specialist Adam Derrick at the helm, each season's drop encapsulates what consumers look for is a new pair of shoes, sneakers or boots. Leathers are sourced from France or Italy, where they're hand-selected and hand-cut to ensure you, the customer, receives only the very best. If you're after a pair of luxurious brown leather Chelsea boots, To Boot has you covered with the Shelby. With a low-cut fit that makes them easy-as-pie to take on and off, they'll happily accessorise any casual or formal outfit. They benefit from a Blake stitch, which sees the outer sole stitched directly to the inner, making them more lightweight than pairs that use the Goodyear welt.
Tricker's is Britain's oldest shoemaker, having been in business for more than 190 years. Every single pair of Tricker's is made from start to finish at the company's factory in Northampton, England, a practice which it has carried out ever since its founding. That therefore means you receive a quality product, such as the Lambourn. Made to resemble a Jodphur boot – a Chelsea boot made to be a riding boot with a rounded toe and heel – they're equal parts casual and formal. An extra tab on the front of the foot opening helps you slide them on, and once you do, you won't want to remove your foot from the 100% leather lining.
For yet another luxury option for all your Chelsea boot needs, avert your gaze on to Church's. This British brand has been in business since 1873, remaining one of the dominant shoemaking forces in the Northampton area. Today the company produces around 5,000 pairs of shoes each week, the majority of which are shipped to international countries. They may be a tad more expensive than some other pairs on this list, but you're paying for outright quality, such as with this pair of Dixton boots. They employ a Superbuck upper and the company's Last 173 fit. Church's branding can be found inside and on the sole to let everyone else know how entitled you are.
Synonymous with Australian Outback culture, R.M. Williams is one of the master producers of leather boots. With an esteemed history and age-old production techniques still being used today, when you buy a pair of RMs, you're investing in something of top-quality, that has been handmade from start to finish. The Craftsman boot is the iconic RM that adorns the feet of Australians everywhere, as well as international consumers who know quality when they see it. They're from a supple Yearling leather, and in true RM style, are made from a single piece, stitched together at the back. A Goodyear welt is used to provide the ultimate in waterproofness and durability, although it also allows them to be resoled should you ever need to.
Crockett & Jones
If you still don't think there's a British boot maker for you, maybe Crockett & Jones will be able to charm you. Another centuries-old company, being founded in 1879, the footwear company is a champion of the Goodyear welt, ensuring all its shoes are weatherproof and durable. C&J must be doing something right, as Daniel Craig's James Bond wore its shoes in Skyfall. For a classically-styled pair of Chelseas, Crockett & Jones has just the thing, with the Goodyear welt remaining a defining feature, this pair of black wax calf leather boots will happily protect your feet during winter. A rubber sole ensures you remain planted to the ground and their streamlined look allows them to be dressed up or down.