For a man who acknowledges that his own shoe collection has always been excessive – and in truth, is now simply out of control – my collection of boots is surprisingly modest; one pair of black, and one pair of tan Chelsea boots. Generally speaking, boots, though comforting, cosy-looking and deliciously toasty, have never really appealed to me. Aside from a few rare (and generally very expensive) examples, the lace-up styles are not particularly graceful; clumpy and commando soled, they are only really suitable for trekking or après-ski. Unless you are Orlando Bloom, they will look absurd in a metropolitan context.
Chelsea boots are an altogether different thing. Not only do they have the boot-advantage of keeping foot and ankle warm, they also have a distinctively elegant style which is as passable with midweek suits as it is with weekend casual. Purists might scoff at the use of boots with a turned-up worsted trouser but boots have a greater connection with formal attire than any other shoe – it wasn’t until the 20th century that the shoe replaced the boot in this regard. The Chelsea boot retains the toe-shape of such a boot but replaces the buttoned side-fastening with elastic. A good pair of Chelsea boots will have a narrow enough shaft to wear with a slimmish pair of suit trousers.
Their versatility and warmth are not the only reasons to invest; they are also very easy to maintain and generally excellent value for money. For the quality and quantity of leather you are purchasing, Chelsea boots – requiring less bench-work than a pair of shoes – are reasonably priced. The elastic siding also makes them comfortable to wear and easy to remove. The real question is not why you should buy a pair of Chelseas but why you shouldn’t. As Hardy Amies said “Elastic-sided boots are more comfortable to wear, easier to put on, nicer to look at, and better integrated with the rest of one’s clothes than the lace-up kind. They seem to have just about everything in their favour.”
Because of the beautifully uninterrupted expanse of the leather, brown burnished boots are particularly attractive. The leather takes on a glorious depth; from light tan notes to deep chestnut. Though black boots are more popular and more practical for midweek wear my weekend browns, lightly burnished from years of use and polishing, are without a doubt one of my greatest winter comforts.