The Boot Styles You Should Know

From Chelseas and chukkas to hunting and hiking boots.

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The handful of boot styles listed below are the ones you absolutely must know — ones rich with history, ones heralded for their comfortability, ones trusted to do dirty work without wavering, and every type in-between. Not only have we offered brief histories for all of them, but there are visual references, too. Get into it, and get on with finding the right pair for you.

Styles

Ankle Boots

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Ankle boots might be the coolest footwear ever made — which makes them that much more difficult to pull off than their closest cousins, the Chelsea boot. They’ve graced the feet of rock stars and, in doing so, complemented the tightest pants mankind has had to offer for decades. The silhouette is similar to the Chelsea boot, but the Ankle boot utilizes zippers or straps, instead of elastic panels, to ensure a secure fit around the ankle.

Chelsea Boots

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Chelsea boots began life in England in the mid-19th century and didn’t stray far from home until recently. The elasticized wonders were a staple of the mid-’60s mod scene and protected the feet of seemingly every British invader from John to Ringo. Recently they’ve seen a revival on many of menswear’s best dressed. The silhouette is very slim and features elastic side panels and heel pull-tabs.

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Chukka Boots

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About as casual as all-leather boots get, the chukka (or desert) boot was first worn by British soldiers in Africa during World War II. Afterward, they made their way across the Atlantic, becoming a casual staple for the second half of the 20th century and still gracing the feet of stylish men in the cooler months. Clarks made the originals, but upmarket offerings only improved on the formula. They lace up just above the ankle and traditionally feature a soft crepe sole.

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Cowboy Boots

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Like many Americana wardrobe staples, cowboy boots are rooted in function. Pull them on, wear them hard and use them for years. There are two mains styles: traditional cowboy boots that feature a riding heel (taller and angled) and roper boots that have a shorter heel, designed to handle a day of walking. The pointed toe and tall shaft make this boot instantly recognizable.

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Engineer Boots

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The original engineer boots were designed to protect the feet of men who fed coals into steam engines. It melded the tall pull-on style of horse riding boots with the supportive arch and sole of a work boot. A buckled ankle strap distinguishes this style from other pull-on boots.

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Hiking Boots

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For the purposes of this guide, we’ve kept a respectful distance from the more technical versions of this style, but the best pairs of old-school hiking boots boast the same alpine prowess that made them popular in the first place. Sturdy soles, heel support and lace-to-toe closures mean these boots are as hardworking as they are good-looking.

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Hunting Boots

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For actual hunting, you may want something more technically advanced, but the hunting boot is a staple in the Northeast and has ensconced the feet of everyone from frat boys to Nobel prize winners. The traditional style features a hand-sewn moc-toe, a lace-up closure and a durable grippy outsole.

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Trench Boots

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Worn since World War I, the trench boot (sometimes called an army or officer boot) is a handsome staple that’s shaken its military roots and manages to look a bit more cleaned up these days than it did stomping into Flanders. Similar to the work boot, this silhouette has a lower profile that is easier to incorporate into a variety of wardrobes.

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Wingtip Boots

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The wingtip, whose brogued details bring a touch of formal embellishment to casual footwear, is dressed up enough to be worn with a suit and laid back enough to end up under denim or a pair of cords. But they’re not a mullet shoe: they’ve been around long enough to look equally good in either context.

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Work Boots

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Strong, long-lasting and just stylish enough to stay on your feet for most of the colder months: that’s all a work boot really needs to be. Little wonder that the design was more or less perfected half a century ago. The no-frills lace-up style protects the lower legs and feet and usually features a durable lug sole.

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