When it comes to fall and winter clothing, most of us think of outerwear.
Sure, the coat we wear is incredibly important, but accessories can complete a look.
That doesn’t just mean leather belts or a nice watch – you’ll also need a great pair of boots.
Not only do they protect your feet from the cold, but they’re also the perfect complement to your winter wardrobe.
Some choose equestrian-inspired riding boots, while others go for a lace-up combat or hiking style.
But the most useful and stylish boots for men are Chelsea boots.
Finding the best boots is like finding the best silk pajamas: comfort is always the key like the quality, a quality pair can last for years.
Chelsea boots are the best option for quality, usefulness, and longtime wear, but how do you choose a pair? What material and color is best?
Find out everything you’ve ever wanted to know about men’s Chelsea boots in our definitive guide.
What Are Chelsea Boots and What Are the Benefits?
Chelsea boots are crafted in an ankle-high profile with a slight heel. The shape is usually finished with a curved toe.
They were originally invented by Queen Victoria’s shoemaker, but they really became popular in the United Kingdom in the 1950s and 1960s.
The name “Chelsea” comes from an area of southwest London with the same name.
Though they’re traditionally closure-free and made with elastic on the sides, some Chelsea boots will also include zippers.
They have a close, streamlined fit. Most will feature a pull-tab at the top of the shaft, making it easy to slip them on and off.
Most pairs have a long-lasting leather sole, but you’ll also find options with a crepe rubber sole or a lug sole (the grooves create added traction on slippery surfaces).
To go along with comfort and ease, there’s another huge advantage to Chelsea boots: like a good scotch whiskey or a well-trimmed beard, they never go out of style.
Types of Chelsea Boots by Material
To choose the right material, think about your wants, needs, and of course, your wardrobe.
Should your boots be long-wearing? Is affordability the most important factor? Or at the end of the day, do you want what’s most practical?
Here are your options when it comes to materials:
A traditional pebbled leather is a solid bet for long-lasting, wear-anywhere Chelsea boots.
This lightly textured leather feels classic, refined, and always right. Plus, it’s the easiest material to dress up or dress down, getting the job done for any occasion.
Everyday wear is easy with jeans, but if you have an important meeting coming up, they’ll do just fine with your new suit, too.
A patent-leather Chelsea boot offers similar durability to pebbled leather, but the glossy sheen can feel a bit dressier (and they’re more water-friendly, too).
As an added perk, this material adds a noticeable statement factor without getting too over the top (sometimes the best statements are the subtle ones).
But if you do want some extra edge, it’s easy: wear them with your favorite biker jacket.
Suede Chelsea boots provide comparable longevity to classic leather.
The material offers a more sophisticated look and feel, and its lighter weight can improve the overall comfort of the boot.
For a businesslike look, wear suede boots with a peacoat.
When selecting your material, look for short-pile suede, as long-pile suede is more likely to get scruffy.
For those who avoid animal-sourced products or don’t want to tackle the care and upkeep of leather and suede, faux leather is a great option.
While they may not be as resilient as genuine leather, they are still useful and often the most cost-effective option.
Plus, they’re the easiest to maintain and don’t require any specialized leather cleaners.
Chelsea boots can tackle the rain, too. Many shoe manufacturers offer ankle-high rain boots made from ultra-sturdy rubber.
It’s the perfect blend of practicality and style. On these styles, look for a stacked heel, a resilient lug sole, and an ultra-comfortable canvas lining.
Types of Chelsea Boots by Style
Once you’ve selected the right material, the next step is deciding on the perfect color and style.
Whether you’re wearing your boots to the office or heading out for a drink on the weekend, you can’t go wrong with a sleek black boot.
If you’re into neutrals but you’re sick of black, there are other alternatives that are still incredibly functional.
Dark brown or a medium cognac are tried-and-true choices. And to branch out a bit, give gray a try.
It’s another useful neutral, yet there’s something unexpectedly sophisticated and a bit edgy about gray boots.
If you want something that’s a little outside the box but still incredibly handsome, try saturated jewel tones like burgundy, navy, or hunter green.
Your style is just that – yours.
Your hair has been styled with the best pomade for men, your jeans have been perfectly broken into work with your stride, and now you’re ready to find the right shoes for your distinct style.
When it comes to selecting the perfect pair, it’s all about deciding exactly how you want to look.
With so many options to choose from, you can pick the style that best speaks to your personality and wardrobe.
Sometimes the most valuable aspect of a pair of boots is their simplicity.
Classic pairs are tried and true—and sure to coordinate with all beard styles.
A day-to-night, no-frills Chelsea boot does just that. And for added style and sophistication, wear with silk socks.
Since they go with nearly everything, classic Chelsea boots are actually as versatile as natural hair clay (Messy beard and laid-back outfit? Neat beard and pinstriped suit? You’re still covered.)
Western-inspired Chelsea boots offer comparable appeal to classic styles, but they also bring in a rugged quality.
When it comes to Western-style accessories, distressing adds to the appeal.
It’s the Chelsea boot with a twist; studs, buckles, and intentional fading take simple footwear on a little adventure.
With lumbersexual style comes the need for Chelsea work boots. Think super-sturdy leather, a welted sole, and an outdoor-ready look.
For styling, pair the best suspenders for men with a set of work boots, and all that’s left is the buffalo-check shirt!
Don’t be afraid to get them muddy, too.
Elastic Side Panels vs Zipper
Traditional Chelsea boots tend to feature elastic side panels instead of a zipper.
Also known as a gusset, the elastic panels ensure a snug yet comfortable fit.
These elastic gussets also assist with longevity, as a zipper is often the first part of a shoe to break down.
Are you looking to make an even stronger statement? Select a pair with elastic in a contrast hue, like a medium brown with a bold black gusset.
These two-tone styles work particularly well with denim (try a dark-wash selvedge – it’s always a win).
How to Fit and Wear Chelsea Boots
Ideally, your boots should feel snug, but not overly tight.
Boots that are too loose or too tight could result in blisters, so it’s important to take the time to get it right.
The side panels should have some flexibility, and getting the correct size is crucial to ensure that you feel comfortable in your boots.
When it comes to the soles, you’ll find options in leather, rubber, or synthetic materials.
All options have their perks and can last for many years – or footsteps.
A leather sole is not only the most popular option but also the one that is most likely to stick around for the long run.
Wearing Chelsea boots is easy because they truly work with any look.
Sporting khakis? Donning a tailored suit? Kicking back in shorts?
The boots still work – especially if they’re a lightweight suede, which somehow still feels right even when the temperature warms up.
Even with jeans and undershirts for men, Chelsea boots can go the casual route and look right at home.
Brand-wise, the choice is yours. With the ongoing popularity of this type of boot, the options can seem endless.
For some go-to boot brands with quality reputations, check out Kurt Geiger, Loake 1880, and Common Projects.
How to Clean and Maintain Chelsea Boots
Taking care of your boots is equally as important as styling them well.
There are several failsafe approaches for cleaning and maintaining your Chelsea boots, regardless of their material.
Rubbing leather boots with leather conditioner will help maintain the material by restoring its moisture.
To condition them, start by removing the dirt with a brush and diluted Woolite.
Let them dry, then rub in the leather conditioner. When dry once again, finish it up with a light buff (a horsehair shine brush does the trick).
Suede is suppler than regular leather, and its natural flexibility causes it to become prone to scuffing.
A suede brush helps preserve the overall surface of suede Chelsea boots, and specialized suede protector spray will help you avoid unwanted stains and marks.
Simple household materials like a damp towel and white vinegar can also come in handy for removing marks on suede.
Whatever method you choose to clean and sustain your suede, be gentle!
Shoe polish helps preserve and enhance the shine of your leather Chelsea boots, and many polishes can also help mask stains and scuffs.
Available in a variety of colors, shoe polish can be selected to perfectly coordinate with the shade of your boots, ultimately enhancing their overall color.
For best results, apply with a soft cloth and give them time to dry before wearing.
Be it rain, snow, or sleet, using a waterproofing spray will help your Chelsea boots withstand inclement weather.
Waterproof them before the first wear, then apply a thin coat every three to six months to encourage longevity.
Some of the most beneficial boot maintenance comes from what happens when you’re not even wearing them.
With cedar shoe trees, you can help your footwear sustain its shape and absorb moisture buildup.
Want to avoid dust? Tuck your boots into cloth shoe bags to keep the dust out of sight.
Proper Shoe Storage
Storing your boots the right way will help preserve their shape and overall appearance.
Extended heat contact can cause leather to crack. To prevent this, make sure you store your Chelsea boots away from a heat source (like a radiator).
Additionally, keep them out of the sunlight (especially if they’re made of suede), as prolonged exposure can cause fading or mildew.
Chelsea Boots vs Chukka Boots
If lace-less Chelsea boots aren’t your thing, try working some of the best Chukka boots into your wardrobe.
You may also know these boots as “Chukkas” or “desert boots.”
Whatever you call them, they’re a solid alternative to Chelsea boots (or a welcome companion, as there’s surely room for both in your closet).
Since both styles are ankle-high, snugly fit, and typically made of leather, there are many similarities between Chelsea and Chukka boots.
They both originally gained recognition in the United Kingdom, too, but the popularity of Chukkas started first.
A significant difference between the two is the closure, as Chukkas are traditionally crafted with a lace-up shaft, while Chelsea boots will have elastic or a zipper. Chukka boots are also traditionally unlined.
While most Chukka boots will have a leather sole like Chelsea styles, it’s also common for them to be crafted with crepe rubber soles.
This crepe sole styling is most commonly associated with the “desert boot” name, which was first popularized by Clarks.
Like many menswear essentials, the desert boots have military roots and are commonly associated with the attire of British soldiers.
Like Chelsea boots, Chukkas are easy to dress up or dress down. Whether it’s a sharp suit or a laid-back lumberjack look, there’s always a place for these versatile boots that go with almost everything.
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- What Are Chelsea Boots and What Are the Benefits?
- Types of Chelsea Boots by Material
- Types of Chelsea Boots by Style
- Elastic Side Panels vs Zipper
- How to Fit and Wear Chelsea Boots
- How to Clean and Maintain Chelsea Boots
- Chelsea Boots vs Chukka Boots