At this time of year, your choice of footwear is more important than in any other season. As the days get shorter, colder and wetter, key considerations for any (sane) man should be comfort, weather resistance and warmth. Boots tick all these boxes effortlessly. But with so many boot options on offer – Desert, Chukka, Biker, Worker – it can be difficult to know which way to turn.
The subject of this article was inspired by a recent jaunt along London’s Mod Mecca, Carnaby Street, where 60s and 70s icons such as Mick Jagger and The Beatles helped cement the Chelsea Boot as a serious men’s footwear contender.
In an ideal world, this trend article would have been published before Will’s excellent guide on how to wear the Chelsea boot. However, if that article failed to convince you of the Chelsea’s current fashion credentials, hopefully this breakdown of the trend and the fact that some of the biggest names in the industry are behind the silhouette will sway you, just in time for the harsh winter weather.
In all honesty, I am not a massive boot fan. Before researching this article, I didn’t find the traditional Chelsea boot particularly appealing as I felt they were almost too feminine for a man to successfully carry off. Weirdly enough, historically, the Chelsea boot was designed as an easy to remove riding boot by Queen Victoria’s shoemaker for the Queen herself. Back then, the most important feature was the ease of which the boots could be removed – hence the signature elasticated side panels and lightweight sole.
However, it was during the 60s and 70s that the Chelsea boot became popular amongst men, thanks to popular figures such as The Beatles adopting the style. The likes of Lennon, McCartney and Mick Jagger teamed the short ankle boot with sharp, slim-fit Savile Row tailoring for a modernist, stylish look.
The Beatles even asked theatrical footwear company Anello and Davide to design what became known as ‘The Beatle’ boot – essentially a Chelsea boot with a slightly higher than normal heel. These variants of the Chelsea boot became hugely popular during the 60s and early 70s, and fans included renowned composer Sir Peter Maxwell Davies and famed artist Andy Warhol.
If we look at the AW12 Fashion Weeks and collections from high fashion designers, the Chelsea Boot continues to remain an extremely popular choice. This season alone, designers such as Grenson, Paul Smith, Jimmy Choo and Ralph Lauren Black Label have all featured Chelsea boots in their collections.
Focusing our attention on the AW12 Fashion Weeks, Balenciaga illustrated the Chelsea boot as their key footwear silhouette, showcasing versions in striking white leather and oxidized silver snakeskin. Pringle of Scotland followed suit in a slightly more subtle fashion, with two-tone Chelsea boots featured in unlikely colour combinations such as teal/baby pink and oxblood/blue:
Even more recently, collections for SS13 have also featured Chelsea boots prominently, illustrating that the style is versatile enough to transcend the seasons.
Again, in their SS13 collection, Balenciaga have included a reworking of the AW12 Chelsea boot in a sleeker, sharper design with a modernist cut-out panel. Similarly, Christopher Kane also featured Chelsea boots with zings of fluoro colour on the elasticated panels in his SS13 showcase:
Turning to the fashion press, it is clear to see that the Chelsea boot is stamping its authority. Men’s Health write the “Chelsea is a King among boots”, and Details magazine recently featured The Rolling Stones in its “How to dress like…” series, placing an emphasis on the Chelsea boot as an essential item. GQ describe the Chelsea boot as “The One Boot You Need This Autumn” and write that Chelsea’s “…blend the urbanity of a good dress shoe with the all-weather protection of a good leather boot.”
Similarly, the most recent version of Esquire magazine included a feature on the Chelsea boot and its resurgence as a popular footwear choice – especially for autumn/winter 2012. The one tip Esquire magazine offer is that, when wearing Chelsea boots, the accompanying trousers should hang no lower than an inch over the top of the boots, unless Jeremy Clarkson is your style icon – an ideal most of us wouldn’t share.
Of course, the high street have been quick to pick up the trend, with designer brands following suit. Below you will find inspiration from a variety of current brand lookbooks and campaigns, with everyone from AllSaints and Ben Sherman to Mango and Zara getting in on the action:
The amount of options currently available on the high street and online proves that they are a hugely popular choice right now. There are more affordable options available in high street stores such as New Look, H&M and Burton – where you can pick up leather versions for under £50.
At higher price points, Mr Porter has an excellent range of Chelsea boots available in more contemporary shapes. The range includes different textures – from leather to suede to shearling lined to rubber soled – and a variety of different colours from black to brown to tan to light grey.
The variation continues with multiple ankle and heel heights available, as well as other features such as contrast sole colours.
The beauty of the Chelsea boot stems from its versatility. Simply put, they are easy to dress up with sleek, slim-fit tailoring or down with jeans and knitwear at the weekend. The key is to remain simple with outfit choice and pair the Chelsea’s with uncomplicated, unfussy clothes in subtle, dark hues – avoiding garish colours and patterns.
So – what do you think? Have I managed to convince you to invest in a pair of Chelsea boots this AW12? It sure looks like they are THE footwear silhouette of the season, with both the industry and fashion press huge advocates of the style.
Looking forward to next year, their popularity is only set to grow, so can they be crowned current ‘King of the Boots’?
Let me know what you think in the comments section below…