An eternal icon within the fashion universe, the Chelsea boot has seamlessly transitioned through ages, adorning the feet of the common man and style icons alike. Embarking on a long but eventful journey, we take a look at the tale of this timeless boot, tracing its roots from the Victorian era all the way to its place in contemporary street style.
But first, Do Chelsea Boots Actually Fit into Streetwear?
When you first picture streetwear, you may think of baggy sweaters, baseball caps and sneakers. So how do boots even fit into this? What are the best mens boots? Well, you may recall some more “rustic” or “combat” looks, that are planned around chunky boots. Well, you may recall some more “rustic” or “combat” looks, that are planned around chunky boots. Typically, yes sneakers are a go-to choice for streetwear styles, but this genre of fashion isn’t so one dimensional and more niche spokes of the style have become popular.
It’s worth noting that streetwear style emerged (and continues to emerge!) from grassroots communities and pockets of society, often on the fringes of style and made up from a very diverse community. It is less about trends being set by established fashion designers and more about the immediate expressions of “the people”, on a day-to-day basis. Streetwear is also not static, e.g. a country/western look references a particular time and location, whereas streetwear is constantly evolving and isn’t associated with one time or place.
Styles are often themed, such as an athletic look, rustic, outdoorsy, or even techy / cyberpunky. Due to this, boots really come into play when the rustic or outdoorsy looks are achieved. A good example here might be David Beckham, who famously wears Blundstone Chelsea boots, a clear evolution of the original Chelsea boot, as it was adapted for Tasmanian farmers, making it much more hardy and suitable for all weather conditions.
Another important point is that streetwear tends to be ahead of the curve when compared to mainstream looks, with high street shops and designers often mimicking and amplifying the emerging styles in the streets – though always a year or two late. There really are no rules!
Classic Meets Contemporary
Streetwear looks are able to successfully reference classic pieces and include them with looks to contrast modern items of clothing. One of the key ways streetwear incorporates classic fashion is through the “high / low” mix. This is when pieces traditionally associated with high fashion or formal wear, such as blazers or trench coats but then put with casual pieces like baggy hoodies, tees and trainers.
Chelsea boots have been around for a little while, so it makes sense that people use these as part of that “upper” mix to provide some contrast. A popular way of doing so is by wearing baggy jogging bottoms or chinos, tucked into a pair of Chelsea boots.
Rewind: The Invention of the Chelsea Boot
Whether people realise it or not, when sliding on a pair of chelsea boots (because there are no laces!), they’re walking through a lot of history. It’s fun to see streetwear outfits referencing this, as it adds a significant story to a simple look.
You may be surprised to learn that Chelsea boots are traced all the way back to the Victorian era (1830 – 1900). This was a fast time, where lots of developments were taking place in the textile/fashion industry and the Chelsea boot was just part of this in Britain. Strangely enough, it was the Queen’s cobbler who actually patented the design for a laceless boot, using an elastic side.
The inventor’s aim was actually to create a pair of shoes that were easy to slip on and off, for horse riding. In contrast to this, the working class typically wore heavy boots with laces, designed to put up with long hours of hard work. Today, people idolise celebrities and that includes the royal family, so it’s no surprise that average people back then also wanted to wear Chelsea boots after they saw the royals and upper classes wearing them. The fact that they were also practical for working, made them instantly desirable.
Chelsea Boots: Footwear of the People
When reflecting on the timeline of the Chelsea boot, it is amazing to think about how it has changed from a equestrian solution for Victorian royals to becoming a fashion staple for streetwear styles. We didn’t even touch on the inbetween, where the likes of The Beatles popularised them further, by making them trendy in the Mod scene, with their own term “Beatle boots”.
This just goes to show how fashion changes and adapts over time. The Chelsea boot has somehow floated across several genres, countries and classes and are amazingly just as popular today. Regardless of one’s social standing back in the Victorian era, or your beginnings in the world today, the Chelsea boot is a symbol of style, comfort, and individual expression, worn by rock stars, fashion enthusiasts, and everyday individuals alike. Its transformation from an upper-class accessory to a universal fashion item attests to fashion’s power to transcend class boundaries and adapt to societal change.