The Gentleman’s Guide To Jodhpur Boots: History & Defining Characteristics

The Gentleman’s Guide To Jodhpur Boots: History & Defining Characteristics2018-06-12T22:59:29+00:00

Top And Side View Of Jodphpur BootsJodhpur boots are equestrian-inspired ankle boots with a strap-and-buckle fastener that wraps around the boot’s shaft.

They’re very similar to chelsea boots, and some versions even have non-functional leather straps and buckles that don’t wrap all the way around the boot’s shaft. In fact, some brands refer to chelsea boots as “elastic jodhpurs.” We feel that this isn’t technically correct, but you should be aware of the practice.

Available ready-to-wear and custom made in a multitude of colors and materials, they’re an exceptional dress boot for a discerning gentleman. Their rarity compared to chelseas and chukkas lends them a certain je ne sais quois, and as such they’re an easy way to add a lot of style points to your wardrobe.

Please keep in mind that the term “jodhpur” also refers to a specific style of trouser made for horseback riding. Any time you see the term used in this article, it will refer to the boots unless otherwise noted.

Jodhpur Boots Infographic

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Jodhpur Boot History: Colonial India

Like many articles of clothing we wear, jodhpurs have an equestrian history. We must first discuss jodhpur pants to get the full picture of how jodhpur boots came about.

Before 1890 or so, trousers for riding horseback required knee-high riding boots. This was to protect the calves from rubbing against the sides of a horse while riding. As you can imagine, the chafing this causes is uncomfortable and negatively affects the rider’s experience.

Though aesthetically pleasing, knee-high riding boots had neither laces nor buckles.  They were a chore to get on and off, requiring either a boot jack or a staff to help you in and out of them.

In 1890, jodhpur pants were invented. Named for the city of Jodhpur in modern-day Rajasthan, the region has a rich equestrian history, both as it relates to military and sporting affairs (polo has Indian origins).

1920s Woman In Jodhpur Pants

A woman in jodhpur pants

These trousers were very baggy around the thigh, which allowed for excellent freedom of movement for the rider at a time well before the invention of stretch fabrics. Most importantly for this discussion, however, is the fact that these new pants were reinforced from the knee down. The rider’s calves would be protected without the need to wear knee-high leather boots.

Jodhpur boots as we know them were already around; people wore them mostly to walk around their stables. Now, they could be used for horseback riding, and they were much easier to get on and off.

To sum it up: jodhpur boots are so named because they paired perfectly with jodhpur pants.

How To Wear Jodhpurs

In modern times, jodhpur boots are on par with dressy chelsea and chukka boots. The proportions are slim and handsome, and it’s probably the most unique style of ankle boot available on the market. They’re not incredibly common with most low-to-mid-range shoe retailers, but you can generally find a pair or two if you go with a high-end maker.

Note that the jodhpurs we discuss in this article are “fashion” jodhpurs. They can be fitted with spurs for actual horseback riding if you like, but our preference is to pair these with nice trousers, not Clydesdales.

Formality

Jodhpurs are definitely on the dressier side of things nowadays. They may be a bit much for casual chinos, and under no circumstances should they be worn with shorts. Below we offer a few suggestions based on material and color shade:

  • Suede: Dark denim (light or dark color boots), odd jackets & trousers (darker color boots)
  • Leather (black, brown, or burgundy): Dark denim, odd jackets & trousers, suits
  • Exotic skins and / or non-standard colors: Dark denim, odd jackets & trousers. Not for the faint of heart!

Seasonality

Being a boot, jodhpurs should only be worn about six or so months a year. Exceptions can be made for particularly cool spring days, but they shouldn’t be on your feet from April through most of September.

  • Spring: Tan or light brown leather (early spring only)
  • Summer: N/A
  • Autumn: Medium brown leather or suede
  • Winter: Dark brown or black leather

Best Jodhpur Makers

As we mentioned above, it’s tough to find jodhpur boots from budget brands. They tend to be the territory of bridge brands and higher-end luxury brands, so if you’re on a budget, look for sales or save up over time to pick yourself up a nice pair. Here are some of our top choices:

Custom Jodhpurs

If you have the funds, time, and eye for style, you may want to consider getting a pair of jodhpurs custom made. Not only will these offer you a superior fit, but you’ll be able to select the hide, color, last, and little details like buckle shape and color.

John Lobb is a classic bespoke shoemaker, and E. Vogel is known for custom riding shoes. If you go through their bespoke process, please share your experience with us!

Final Thoughts: Should You Buy Jodhpur Boots?

Yes, but not necessarily as an introductory pair.

For a man who’s just starting to build his wardrobe, a jodhpur can wait. You should focus on acquiring decent oxfords, bluchers, monkstraps, and chelseas or chukkas before jodhpurs.

However, for a guy who already has those bases covered, a jodhpur boot will lend a certain sophistication to his look that no other style of shoe can really match. If you’re already nine or ten shoes deep, treat yourself to a jodhpur.

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