It’s not exactly a well-kept secret that you no longer have to be a weather-beaten railroad worker, with hands like sandpaper and a cigarette surgically attached to your bottom lip to rock workwear on a daily basis.
For several seasons now, American-inspired utilitarian clothing has been entrenched in modern menswear. And with its ability to lay tracks somewhere between form and function, it’s not difficult to see why.
Obviously, there’s a line; we’re not saying you should start striding around town, emulating Kanye’s infamous ‘binman chic‘, but there are certainly some workwear elements that can (and should) have a home in your wardrobe. Case in very stylish point: the work boot.
With the fashion world’s seemingly endless appetite for appropriation and the world of menswear’s thirst for anything vaguely heritage, it was only a matter of time before the humble work boot went from functional workwear stomper to must-have footwear staple. Couple this with its ties to hip-hop royalty and you’ve got boots that are made for trending.
But let’s forget about the work boot’s credentials as a fashion icon for a second and take a look at it for what it really is at its core: that is, one of the few real ‘buy now, wear forever’ essentials.
“Work-related brands are popular today because there is a growing interest in quality,” says the design team at American heritage bootmaker Red Wing. “These brands already have durability [built-in] as a feature. This means as a consumer you know what you’re getting, and in a few years you’ll still have a product that is up to date.”
A reassuringly sturdy pair of work boots has the potential to last a lifetime, owing to their strength and stripped-back, timeless design, but only if you put the work into looking after them.
Caring For Work Boots
A work boot is only as good as the leather it’s made from, so you’ll want to invest in some leather oil or a good conditioner, as well as some leather protector to keep it in perfect shape.
Always start by removing any excess dirt with a soft bristle brush and cloth soaked in warm water. After, use a clean, dry cloth to gently rub the oil or conditioner into the leather in small, circular motions. Finish by spraying the boots with a hearty dose of protector, which provides an invisible shield from the elements.
This whole process should be repeated around once every two weeks in order for the boots to look more worn-in than worn-out. Of course, looking after the leather doesn’t mean having to keep them pristine.
“Some like clean, polished boots and some just put oil or cream on if when leather turns dry,” says the team at Red Wing. “It comes down to what the owner of the boots feels comfortable with.”
The Best Men’s Work Boot Brands
When you hear the words American work boots, it’s impossible not to think of Red Wing. Founded in 1905, the century-old company is steeped in a rich history and was the biggest supplier of footwear to the US Army during World War I.
Today the brand’s expertly crafted boots are just as popular with the style set as they are workers and have gained something of a cult following among denimheads on account of their ability to look great with a pair of dark jeans.
If you’re looking for a pair of work boots to keep your feet warm throughout the winter months, ask any Canadian for their advice and they’ll no doubt point you in the direction of Sorel.
The Ontario-based brand made its name manufacturing rugged, rubber-toed boots with thick linings for taking on snow, but has since expanded to include a wide range of styles, suited for pretty much anything mother nature could throw at you.
If it’s heritage you’re after then Grenson will will not disappoint. Founder William Green started making boots by hand in a Northamptonshire loft in 1866, and in the years that followed, his company became known as one of the finest shoemakers in the land.
Alongside sleek Oxfords and stylish Derbies, the brand also turns out work boots, with added features such as a chunky commando sole for great traction and weather resistance.
Work boots can be expensive work, but the high street is a great place to start if you want to get the look without having to sell a kidney.
Menswear grandaddy Topman is one of the best when it comes to affordability-meets-quality, and with a broader range of styles than most retailers, you can’t put a foot wrong.
Work boots probably aren’t the first thing that spring to mind when you think of preppy American label Tommy Hilfiger. However, it turns out the New York brand makes some of the best-looking boots around.
Granted, Tommy Hilfiger’s offerings err on the side of form as opposed to function, but who cares when they look this slick?
Founded in 1931 by Ed Viberg, the Canadian bootmaker is now in its third generation and remains entirely family-owned and operated. Today, things are overseen by Glen Viberg, who carefully inspects each and every pair of boots that leave the factory’s doors.
Of course, that level of dedication comes at a price, and Viberg’s boots are definitely at the upper end of most budgets. Still, you get what you pay for.
Any company that has been designing heavy machinery for hundreds of years is bound to be a dab hand at work boots. Rugged, durable and functional, Cat’s range of footwear comprises some of the best around.
Expect a heavy dose of classic, no-bullshit work boot styling with a few modern comfort elements thrown in. Still not sold on their credentials? Just nip down to the nearest building site and see how many pairs you can spot.
Having nailed the outdoors with its range of down-filled jackets, Italian luxury label Moncler (an abbreviation of the French Alpine town Monestier-de-Clermont) turned its attention to boots built for the outdoors.
While it may not be what the label is best known for, Moncler’s sturdy all-weather footwear isn’t short of all the usual features and finishing touches that fans of the brand have come to expect. We’re talking premium materials, next-level craftsmanship and, of course, that Iconic tricolour branding.
Arguably the byword for work boots, Timberland’s iconic 6” boots have gained a loyal and diverse following over the years – from builders to Biggie, crane drivers to Kanye, all have made themselves known as fans.
And it’s easy to see why. As well as being a fashion statement, the brand is packing functional features to boot, meaning they’ll have a place in wardrobes for many years to come.
One of the oldest shoemakers in Britain, Tricker’s has been crafting quintessentially English footwear to exacting standards for almost 200 years.
In that time the Northampton-based company has made a name for itself as one of the leading names in bootmaking. Expect superior quality, traditional designs and boots that are bursting at the seams with personality.
High street favourite River Island is always a safe bet when looking for the perfect blend of style, variety and value for money. The retailer’s great-looking and affordable work boots are no exception.
Classic colourways and minimal branding make it hard to separate the range from pricier options at a glance, and they’re as kind to your wallet as they are to your eyes.
It’s an odd thought to buy a pair of work boots that will quite possibly outlast you, but that’s what you get with Thorogood.
The Milwaukee-based company set up shop in 1855 and produces some of the most hard-wearing, purpose-built work boots money can buy. Buy from them and you’ll be met by a classic moc toe construction, iconic rubber sole unit and shock absorption footbed, all resulting in boots that are second to none.
Kurt Geiger has been a name synonymous with quality footwear for decades, crafting upscale shoes for the mass market as well as adding its own unique twists and tweaks to silhouettes since the 1960s.
Buy your work boots here and you’ll leave with something timeless, but not without a dash of modernity, all served up at a price point that won’t leave you high and dry.
Officine Creative is so much more than just a shoemaker. The items crafted by the Parisian brand in its Montegranaro ‘laboratory’ fall somewhere between apparel and art.
Expertly rendered in hand-polished Italian leathers and brushed suedes, with flawless attention to detail – Officine Creative’s work boots are the number one choice for any well-heeled footwear connoisseur.