Honestly, if we could only recommend one staple for men's boots fashion, it’d be the humble Chelsea boot. Especially suede Chelsea boots. They’re versatile, comfortable and built like very stylish tanks. Suede Chelsea Boots can suit both a formal and casual outfit, Which is pretty much everything we’re looking for in men’s footwear.
First invented in the 1800s, Chelsea boots became a British mod staple in the 1960s, and quickly morphed from Cuban-healed novelty to the boot worn by every smart-casual foot in the world. (We’ve written a little Chelsea boot history guide over here, if you’re interested.)
Today, we’re talking all about men's suede chelsea boots fashion. What they are, how to style them into your outfit, and how to look after them—always a tricky thing with suede.
What are Chelsea boots?
The Chelsea boots style comes in various silhouettes, sizes and materials, but they do share a few things in common. Technically a Chelsea boot is any close-fitting, ankle-high boot with an elastic side panel. They’ve got a mid-height profile, and their uppers are made from two pieces of leather sewn together: the front (AKA ‘vamp”) and the back (AKA ‘quarters’). If you’re looking at something with laces, you’re not looking at a Chelsea boot, as they are the perfect slip on boots.
What is Suede Exactly?
You’ll often hear people refer to the benefits of ‘leather vs suede’ (we’ve done it ourselves), but this isn’t totally accurate. Suede is a type of leather, after all. It’s just got a soft ‘napped’ finish—that raised, slightly fuzzy feeling. Suede is made by sanding the underside of the animal hide, which is softer and more flexible than the outer layer, but way less durable. This is why suede maintenance is so important. In between wears it's in your best interest to spray the shoe with a suede shampoo and let it rest for a few minutes before going in with a suede brush in the direction of the natural grain. Add a shoe spray at the end and dry overnight.
Suede or Leather?
The biggest differences between suede and leather are going to be upkeep and general luxuriousness. Before you wear suede Chelsea boots for the first time, you really need to spray them with a good-quality waterproofer. Honestly, this will save you so much heartache down the track. While suede feels much softer than traditional leather, that softness comes at a price. Suede absorbs everything thrown at it, including water, dust, dirt and mud. It’s good practice to wash your suede Chelsea boots regularly with Aquila's suede shoe care range.
Men’s Chelsea boot styles & outfits
Chelsea boots have been popular in men's fashion since the 1960s for a reason. They’re incredibly versatile. So when you’re styling men’s Chelsea boot outfits, don’t get too caught up on ‘rules’. It’s hard to make mistakes with this particular boot. Dress suede Chelsea boots up or down, they look good both ways. The only thing to watch out for is how you style the pant drop: you want to make sure the cuffs are sitting just below the top of your Chelsea boots. If the break is too severe, you’ll kind of ruin the Chelsea’s smooth, elegant silhouette. And if you cuff your pants too high, it’ll look a bit odd. There is also an art to styling these boots with the right socks. Chelsea boots tend to look best when worn with cuffed pants; try your jeans with a strong double cuff for an effortless look.
Smart casual Chelsea boots
So, what can you wear with suede Chelsea boots?There are no hard and fast rules here, but generally speaking, suede Chelsea boots are going to be more casual, and leather Chelsea boots more formal. Take something like the DEXTER or the LEROY: either of these would look fantastic under jeans or some dark chinos. Perfect for roadtrips, pub nights, or even smart-casual parties. Suede boots tend to come in more varied tones and colours too, like tobacco, which are less suitable for suiting and formalwear.
Formal Chelsea boots
If you’re working in a corporate office, black leather Chelsea boots like the OSBOURNE 2.0 or BRONSON are probably going to be your best bet for the perfect corporate outfit. But can you wear suede chelsea boots with a suit? if styled correctly, they can indeed be worn under a suit. Our DEXTER khaki suede Chelsea boots are a good example. They’re subtle and sophisticated, with a nice clean silhouette. They’re never going to be as formal as patent leather brogues, but match them with a slim-fit charcoal suit, and they’re not going to look out of place in the boardroom.
Think about shape
The last consideration is ankle height. Some suede Chelsea boots are taller than others, and this can influence your entire outfit. Our LENNON boots, for example, have a higher profile and larger heel, so they’ll work better with fitted denim, rather than loose chinos. Our OSBOURNE 2.0 Chelsea boots are a good in-between, mid-height option—you can wear these with almost anything. Our LUCCA boots have the lowest profile, so just be aware of your cuff length. When wearing low cut boots, you don’t want any ankle showing above the shoe.