As the crisp chill of fall settles in for good and the days grow shorter and shorter as winter approaches, many people put their Sperry’s and sandals away for the season and break out their boots. For the past few seasons, the Chelsea boot has broken away from the pack as one of the many stylish alternatives to the bulky Timberlands and hard-nosed military-style boots that dominate the wardrobes of many cold-weather dwellers.
The Chelsea boot can trace its lineage back to Victorian England where men and women turned to this elastic-sided boot as a practical alternative to the finicky button-boots that were common at that time. Queen Victoria, favored it as a riding boot due to its ease to put on and take off. The Chelsea boot would not see a resurgence of popularity until the 1960s, when it was picked up as a fashion item by young British men who were called “mods.” Men like Michael Caine and members of The Rolling Stones and The Beatles all brought the Chelsea boot into a new renaissance and back as an item of fashion. The boot’s longer vamp and sleek, slim lines fit in perfectly with the slimmer cuts and higher hems that were popular at the time.
Today, the Chelsea boot, much like the slimmer cuts favored in the 1960s, have made a comeback in both men and women’s fashion. For men, the Chelsea boot harkens back to the early days of rock and roll, where suited musicians paraded across stage in well-cut suits. As the cut of men’s clothes continue to shift closer to the body and with higher breaks, the slim styling makes the Chelsea boot fit in seamlessly with most, if not all, outfits. Also, because it isn’t bulky like Timberland boots or other purpose-driven boots, it is just acceptable to wear them with suits, as it would be to wear them with jeans and a t-shirt.
In womenswear, the Chelsea boot with a higher heel offers a more feminine alternative to other styles of boots. Much like menswear, the women’s Chelsea boot can be worn with jeans and cropped trousers, like in Philip Lim’s F/W 2013 collection, or even with shorts or skirts, like blogger Ebba Zingmark did with Mark McNairy boots. Also, like many other shoes borrowed from menswear, the women’s equivalent is sometimes seen in loud patterns or colors that do not often appear in the world of black and brown leather and suede that dominates menswear, thus making the already sleek boot a statement piece when paired with a relatively subdued outfit.
Like most pieces of footwear, skimping on quality is probably not the best option when purchasing a pair of Chelsea boots, mostly because they will be taking the most beating out of any piece of clothing that you will have on. Check specialty shoe stores or online retailers that specialize in clothing to find a pair of sleek, stylish and, most importantly, well-made Chelsea boots. They look great and will stand up to the rigors of an impending Great Lakes winter. Another great place to find great boots would be thrift stores; they tend to pull in gently-used and well-made clothes, and they are going to sell it to you on the cheap.