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How to find the perfect pair of work boots

How to find the perfect pair of work boots

You no longer have to be a construction worker or a lumberjack to pull off workwear boots. The practical footwear has solidified itself as a tried-and-true fashion staple for everyone from hip hop greats (see B.I.G. and Kanye) to your outdoorsy, bearded neighbour. Whether you’re working in an office, going to the pub, or heading out for a hike, the work boot is the perfect choice for transitional seasons. The larger shape is ideal for facing the elements, while a commando tread is a good way to break up the shape of standard boots and is useful for winter, as it gives more grip than a leather sole and is more durable than a crepe sole.

Rising higher on the ankle than brogue or Oxford boots, work boots will get you where you need to be through rain, snow, and yes, even mud, and they won’t look out of place at parties or other casual occasions. Choosing a pair with a durable leather finish means you can wipe them down to wear for work the next day. 

It’s not always easy to strike the right balance between style and function when it comes to footwear, but that's what makes the work boot such a wardrobe MVP, and choosing the right one means balancing both elements. 

When shopping for work boots, look for a pair that does more than just function – you don’t want to look like you’ve just walked off a building site or come down a mountain," says Thread stylist Toby Standing. "Wearability is key when choosing your perfect pair, as part of the sell is that they can be suitable for almost any occasion.” 

Overly designed boots with features that might be needed for actual work but become a hindrance in daily life, such as metal hooks or steel toe caps, will overwhelm your look and can be difficult to get on and off. Keep it simple and let the boots speak for themselves.

“You want your boots to be sturdy and stripped back,” Toby says. “Classic work boots aren’t going out of style any time soon, so it’s worth investing in a quality pair. It won’t come cheap, but footwear is the most tested item in your wardrobe.”

If you want a trusted brand, Red Wing and Grenson are classics that look great with denim, but stick to brown or black for longevity. For a more classic workwear look, a pair of Timberland boots in traditional tan are sure to go the distance.

“Work boots aren’t one-size-fits-all,” Toby says. “A moc toe detail is great for smart casual dress codes, whilst a pull-on Dr Martens Chelsea boot is sleek but still rugged. Remember that your boots should be the most ‘workwear’ piece in your outfit, so pair with flannel trousers or neutral chinos for work. The contemporary silhouette of selvedge denim is great if you want to give a nod to workwear without going overboard.”

You should also avoid trousers with skinny fits, which will look off-balance with chunky footwear. Pair them instead with regular-fitting jeans and dress the look up or down with a smart Oxford shirt, or a t-shirt and bomber jacket, and you’ll put a rugged but refined foot forward this season.


Words: Ella White
Photography: Lola & Pani
Styling: Toby Standing