The whole concept of ‘office boots’ might sound a bit odd, especially if you’ve spent your whole corporate life wearing Oxfords. But boots in the office are totally standard these days, even in the starchiest white-collar workplaces. You just need to know which boots, and how to wear them without looking like you caught a horse instead of a train.
A good rule of thumb, before we get started: don’t wear the same pair of boots two days in a row. This isn’t a vanity thing. Leather absorbs a lot of moisture over the course of a day (even more when you’re racing a deadline) and boots need time to dry and recover. It’s best to have two or three pairs on rotation. Your boots will last longer, for one thing, and your colleagues will think you’re some sort of stylish, footwear maverick, which doesn’t hurt either.
Sit back and relax. Here are our best boots for men in the office.
Boots with suits
Boots with suits might sound like a Dr Seuss book, but it’s actually a legitimate style choice. A good Chelsea boot combines the professionalism of an Oxford with the attitude of a chukka. We try not to play favourites, but Chelsea boots are probably the all ‘round best boot for men. What you’re looking for is a mid-height or ankle-height boot, with tapered, clean lines and high-polish, good-quality leather. Suede is usually a no-no (although there are some exceptions).
Take a look at the toe of the boot too. The ‘pointiness’ will tell you what sort of boot you’re holding: a thicker, rounded toe means it’s good for chinos or casual wear, while a sharp, chiselled toe works better with suits.
The LAWRENCE is one of our dressier Chelsea boots, with a slim profile and slightly rounded toe. You can get it in brown or black, depending on the colour of your suit (see below for some notes on colour-matching). The other good option here is the MANNING. As you can tell from the leather upper and laces, this is a modern ankle boot, rather than a classic Chelsea. If elasticated side gussets freak you out, this might be a good transition from standard Oxfords.
Black suits with boots
Black suits obviously require black boots. Which boot you choose though will depend on a few factors. As a general all-rounder, the ARTIE or OSBOURNE 2.0 Chelsea boots are a great choice. A black leather chukka boot, like the ADAMS, can also work, but just be aware it’ll look a little less formal (and make sure your suit pants drop below the top the boot – you don’t want to be flashing any socks here). As a general rule, black suits work better with slim, tapered, low-profile boots. Think sleek and streamlined, rather than chunky and thick.
Grey suits with boots
Grey suits give you a little more flexibility when it comes to boot colour. Black is an easy choice, but don’t be afraid to experiment with brown leather here. Generally, the lighter the grey, the closer to tan you can go. A dark charcoal suit will work best with a deep brown leather – the OSBOURNE 2.0 and DEXTER are both good options. For a lighter spring grey, try the LUCCA in tan, or even the RANDLE in brown. Tan boots for men can be tricky, but it’s all about finding the right shade to match.
Blue suits with boots
There’s a reason navy suits are so popular: they work well with almost any accessory. This is one of the few times you can get away with suede and nubuck boots. The OSBOURNE 2.0 in tobacco makes a great dressed-down match for a mid-tone navy suit, or you could try something lace-up, like the JAMES in suede. Mixing textures like this is part of the fun of modern suiting. Just remember to pair your accessories accordingly: suede boots work best with more relaxed suiting, so maybe ditch the tie and try a textured leather belt.
Patterned suits with boots
Rocking a windowpane check or a houndstooth weave is a fantastic way to spruce up your suiting rotation. And these suits encourage a bit more creativity in the office boot department. We haven’t recommended any military boots yet, because they’re generally too heavy for modern suiting, but something low-profile, like the LAWRENCE, under a windowpane check navy suit can look fantastic. Save this look for winter and layer up with a scarf and woollen overcoat.
Smart Casual Boots
A lot of offices now, even the starchy corporate ones, are ditching suits all together. On the one hand, this gives you more flexibility with footwear, which is great, but it also gives you more choice, which can be daunting. Don’t stress – smart casual is where office boots really start to shine. Brogues, Oxfords and even loafers can look a bit stiff with chinos, but suede Chukkas or laid-back Chelsea boots fill the void nicely. When you’re styling these, keep an eye on your pants. Slim-fit jeans or chinos are fine, but avoid anything too skinny, especially if it hugs your calves. You want a nice, natural ‘break’ over the boot’s upper. That means the hem of your pants should rest gently on the top of the boot.
Chukka boots are a classic weekend staple, but there’s no rule against wearing them ‘round the office, either. We recommend the MANNING for this one, available in soft black or brown leather. It’s a nice, sharp, textural look. Just match them with tailored sand chinos and a crisp white shirt. For something slightly dressier, check out the LUCCA Chelsea boot, especially in tan or brown. That rounded toe, heavy rand and light leather would look wonky underneath a suit, but it’s perfect for chinos or denim.
The same rules for office shoes apply to office boots. In very general terms: darker colours go with suits, and lighter colours go with chinos or denim. Stick to that and you can’t go too far wrong. But calling them ‘rules’ is a bit misleading. They’re more guidelines, really. Here’s our take on colour matching your office boots.
Black Office Boots
If you’re wearing a black, grey or dark navy suit, black boots are probably the way to go. Black is still considered the most formal colour for office footwear, and it’s probably the one we’d recommend for job interviews (at least for the more conservative, white collar job interviews). Black boots tend to look a bit odd beneath chinos, but they can definitely work for denim, especially black or dark indigo jeans.
Brown Office Boots
Brown boots are more casual. That’s just how it is. But that doesn’t mean you can’t wear them with a suit. Dark brown Chelsea boots work fantastically with petrol or charcoal grey. And navy suits are even more flexible: you can pretty much get away with any boot, from dark chocolate through to tan. Brown boots are also your best friend when it comes to chinos: they’ll go with almost every colour under the sun.
Tan Office Boots
Tan boots for men are usually for casual Fridays. They’re the most laid-back shade, and tend to work best with chinos or jeans. Sure, you can just about wear tan leather boots with a navy suit, but you’re skating on thin sartorial ice. When it comes to suit colours, remember: the lighter the blue, the lighter the brown. Think about fabric too. Suede or textured leather is going to ramp-up that ‘casual’ factor.