What Are Casual Men’s Boots?
When it comes to boots, the stoic lines of formality can become somewhat blurred. This is largely because boots were originally considered only utilitarian footwear and it wasn’t until recent years that they’ve started to be worn formally.
Although fashion is known for its fickle ways, it appears that boots are very much here to stay. As such, how do we make the distinction between dressy and casual boots?
Firstly, it’s important to think about your surroundings and your wardrobe. Boots are still highly regarded as generally casual footwear and something that tends to be worn in more liberal environments.
If your profession takes place in a very conservative workplace, then it’s likely that all boots bar a few exceptions will be considered casual. In this case, the only real exceptions that come to mind are Chelsea boots, which have enjoyed a higher status than others thanks to their 1960s origins.
Therefore, could we simply suggest that all boots are casual? Well, times are changing so it’s no longer as black and white as that. In fact, dress boots are considered quite versatile and can be worn across many dress codes with the proper wardrobe.
Nevertheless, the best practice is to keep in mind the boots’ characteristics and how they will fit into a scale of formality.
Style Formality: From Casual To Dress Boots
Always keep in mind the boot style and how it is generally perceived. Some styles are very casual by default whilst others have a greater potential to be formal.
In the following list, we’ve arranged the common styles from the most formal to the most casual boots:
- Chelsea Boots: Thanks to their association with Mod suits and the Beatles, Chelsea ankle boots have enjoyed a status of greater formality over the years; even after all these years, they continue to impart impeccable style to those who wear them. Yet, this doesn’t stop them from being worn casually when the opportunity arises.
- Wingtip Boots: Essentially an old-school work boot featuring brogue details, this traditional ornamentation helps render a boot more refined and dressy. Conversely, brogue shoes are usually seen as less formal than regular Oxfords.
- Cuban Heel: A homage to Latin footwear, smooth and streamlined Cuban heel boots feature a subtle side zip for easy opening. Their design is quite dressy but they’re seen as avant-garde and niche footwear.
- Monkstrap Boots: As it’s a relative newcomer to men’s style, monkstrap boots have a formal appearance but could be considered too unorthodox. However, they borrow from formal styles to create a very dressy boot.
- Blucher Boots: The most iconic and classic boot style, their origins are steeped in blue-collar tradition. As a result, the blucher style is the foundation for the traditional work boot. Based on the classic Derby shoe, they’re considered to be quite casual. However, depending on their design, ornamentation, material, and colors, they can be rendered quite formal.
- Chukka Boots: Undoubtedly the most casual boot style, Chukkas, and Desert boots are starting to become seen with suits.
Bear in mind that boots are a lot more dynamic than shoes, which have their own established designs that date back generations. Manufacturers enjoy a greater range of freedom, which allows for greater expression in designs.
These slight variations can alter a boot’s formality. For instance, adding a Balmoral cap toe, which is a hallmark of Oxford shoes, will render them much dressier. Likewise, boots that are Goodyear welted or possess a leather sole will usually appear more formal. Meanwhile, chunkier soles or rounded toe boxes will make them more casual in appearance.
Boot Material Formality
Before considering the material itself, note that the way its treated plays a role too. For instance, full-grain leather is an otherwise formal leather. However, if it’s been given a matte or burnished finish, it becomes more casual. The level of shine plays a vital role here.
Again, from the most the least formal:
- Patent Leather: Very rare to find with boots, patent leather features a distinctive shine. However, you’ll unlikely see patent leather boots.
- Full-Grain Leather: As mentioned above, this is the most formal leather grade that’s used for boots. With its high quality and tight fibres, it’s a very smooth and formal leather.
- Pebbled Leather: A remarkably stylish leather, pebbled leather is robust and much more casual, which makes it a great option.
- Suede & Nubuck: Although products of different side of the hide, their appearance is similar. Suede leather is a very casual type of leather.
- Canvas & Wool: It’s becoming popular for some boots to feature canvas or tweed panels on the sides. Whilst the tweed can sometimes be worn relatively formally, it’s generally perceived as a casual material.
Remember that the way the leather has been treated makes a huge difference. Burnished and painted leathers add complexity but also reduce formality. Similarly, boots are often treated to create a distressed or vintage look, which is equally casual.
Casual Boot Colors
A medallion at the toe of a button boot.
Finally, the boot’s color plays a significant role in its overall formality. As a general rule, the lighter the leather, the more casual the boot. However, let’s again rank the most to least formal:
- Black: Classic black is guaranteed to be the most formal. This doesn’t mean that it’s unwearable in casual attire but it will be harder to incorporate it into your wardrobe.
- Burgundy & Oxblood: A marriage of brown and red, the dark and distinctive shade of either Oxblood or Burgundy can actually be very formal depending on the way the leather was treated.
- Brown: Although this can come in several shades, brown is the most versatile of colors. Remember that the lighter the brown, the more casual the boot.
- Tan: The least formal in the shades of brown, tan leather is probably one of the best options for casual wear.
- Other Colors: By default, as soon as any footwear isn’t black or brown, it’s considered very casual footwear.
Having now explored the best casual boots for men, consider checking out some of our related shoe and boot guides: