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Are boots business casual? Can you wear boots to work? Well, it depends. This men’s style guide will help you decide when, if and how to wear boots to the office.
For more on what shoes you can and should wear to the office. Read our in-depth guide to Men’s Business Casual Shoes.
Types of Boots
As you may know, boots come in a multitude of different styles. Not all of these styles are appropriate for business casual attire. In fact, most boots should not be worn to the office.
The reason for this has to do with the fact that most boots that are sold today are designed to be rugged and casual. So they don’t pair well with business casual clothes.
With that out of the way, let’s get into the styles of boots you can wear to the office.
Business Casual Boots
1. Dress Boots
A dress boot is specifically designed, as the name suggests, to be worn with more dressy/formal attire such as chinos, khakis and dress pants. In fact, some dress boots can even be worn with suits.
So what makes a boot a dress boot? Without getting into too much detail, the general idea is that a dress boot is essentially a dress shoe with a shaft (the part that goes up your leg and makes the shoe a boot). As such, one of the easiest ways to tell if a boot is a dress boot is to just look at the upper and see if it looks like a typical oxford, derby or brogue shoe.
For example, consider these two lace up boots. The boot on the formal side of the spectrum has a streamlined shape reminiscent of a typical dress shoe. In fact, if you were to wear this boot with dress pants/chinos, the shaft would be completely covered the boot would look just like a typical brown dress shoe.
On the other hand, the boot on the casual side has a chunky design which a thick outsole. Even if you were to wear this with dress pants with the shaft covered, the boot would never look like a dress shoe because of its bulbous design.
2. Chukka Boots
Chukka boots have become really popular as of late. In fact, any reputable boot company is producing chukka boots in different styles and materials.
Not all Chukka boots are appropriate for business casual wear. There are some chukka boots that are on the casual side while others are dressier. Chukka boots made from leather and suede in a neutral color such as brown, tan, dark green can easily be worn in business casual settings.
The sole makes a huge impact on how formal or casual the boot is. Slim leather and rubber soles are the best for more formal business casual attire. While chunky rubber or crepe soles are more casual.
Clarks desert boot is one of the most popular chukka boots currently available. Personally, I would place the clarks desert boot on the more casual side of the spectrum owing to its crepe sole. But this doesn’t mean you cant wear it to the office.
Some business casusal workplaces have a more casual interpretation of business casual and you should be fine wearing the clarks desert boot if your workplace falls into this category.
3. Chelsea Boots
Chelsea Boots are a great option for business casual wear. They are inherently dressier than other styles of boots owing to their minimalist design and history. Chelsea boots are incredibly versatile, and the right pair can be worn with jeans all the way up to a suit.
But not all chelsea boots are made equal. For business casual wear, you want to go for a chelsea boot made from leather or suede in a neutral color. Black, brown, dark green, medium to dark gray and burgundy are great options. Personally, I think you should avoid black leather chelsea boots as your first chelsea boot. Black chelsea boots pair the best with suits and dress pants.
However, black chelsea boots are a bit too dressy and can look awkward when paired with jeans, khakis and chinos which are essential business casual pants.
Also keep in mind that the type of sole on the boot makes a difference when it comes to its formality. Slim and sleek leather/rubber soles are dressier than chunky rubber soles.
Both these boots can be considered chelsea boots, but one is perfectly fine for business casual attire while the other is not. The boot on the casual side has a thick sole along with a rather utilitarian upper which is not streamlined to say the last. While the boot on the formal side has a streamlined look along with an elegant sole and leather upper which would work well for business casual attire.
4. Winter Boots
This is a general category of men’s boots that are specifically made to keep your feet warm and dry in wet and snowy conditions. These boots typically feature either a synthetic or a water resistant leather/suede upper along with a grippy rubber outsole.
Generally speaking, most boots designed for winter are too casual to be worn in a business casual setting. Duck boots are made for rainy weather but they are too casual to be worn indoors in offices.
For example, Sorel nylon duck boots are great at keeping your feet warm and dry but they don’t pair well with business casual attire.
Winter Dress Boots
There are brands that make winter boots that are on the dressier side of the spectrum but they can be quite expensive. Prices typically range from $300 up to $500 and onwards. Personally it does not appeal to me that you would spend $400 on a pair of dress winter boots and commute with them knowing the risks of damaging them on your way to work.
Another thing to remember is that if you live in a place which gets -25°C and below along with plenty of snow and sleet then there is no point in wearing an expensive pair of boots in such conditions since they will get ruined over time. No matter how expensive or premium the leather is on the boots, salt and corrosion will eventually ruin in.
In such conditions, the point is to get to your work and back without needing your toes amputated from frostbite. Style here should take a back seat.
A pretty straightforward solution is to wear your regular winter boots for your commute and then have a dressier pair of dress shoes/boots at work that you can wear indoors when you get there.
With that being said, if you live in a place where in the winter you don’t get much snow or sleet, then it’s perfectly fine to invest in a pair of winter dress boots.
5. Boots with zippers
Again, this is a general category of boots that feature zippers for easy on and off. These can be boots with or without laces, they can also come in many styles and materials.
The way to tell if they are appropriate for work is the same. Cover the shaft of the boot and look at whether it now looks like a typical dress shoe. If it does, then its fine to wear to work. If not, then you’ll have to find another style.
The boots on the formal side look just like a typical lace up dress boot but with the added convenience of a zipper. These are great for business casual. The boots on the casual side however, have a chunky design which looks in no way like a dress boot.
I hope you found this guide to men’s business casual boots helpful. Let me know if and what type of boots you wear to your business casual workplace.
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