The Best Chukka Boot Guide You'll Ever Read by Marcus Jaye from Fashionbean
The most wearable boot style known to man
A casual ankle boot that got its name from the game of polo, the chukka boot was once solely associated with off-duty Sloanes in mustard colored trousers. Fortunately, it’s possible to scrub that out of your mind these days and embrace what is one of the best easy-wearing footwear styles.
“The chukka boot is a simple, low-ankle boot with three main pieces of leather in the pattern and either two or three eyelets,” says Tim Little, owner and creative director of Grenson. The exact origin is unknown, but the assumption is that ‘chukka’ refers to a polo chukka, which is a seven-minute period of the game. Opinion divides as to whether polo players wore this type of boot to ride or whether it was what they wore after a game.”
The chukka boot originated in India among the British army units that played the ‘Sport of Kings’ there and subsequently found its way to the west, hence the thoroughbred heritage. Not that any of that really matters today: it’s now one of the most comfortable and versatile boots to wear, pairing with work trousers, jeans and chinos alike.
The Difference Between Chukka Boots & Desert Boots
Confusingly, all desert boots are chukka boots but not all chukka boots are desert boots. The easiest way to tell the two apart is by looking at the sole.
Desert boots, which were adopted by British forces during World War II and later exported back to the UK by British footwear hero Clarks, feature a natural crepe rubber sole.
This spongy material (made from layers of latex) makes the style more comfortable and practical, but also more casual.
How To Wear Chukka Boots
Traditionally made from unlined suede calfskin on a thin sole, chukka boots today come in all manner of fabrics and colours. Whatever you opt for, it’s a style of boot that sits comfortably in modern wardrobes, versatile enough to be worn to the office and the pub. They’re one of the best boots to wear with jeans, but you can also play on the style’s upper class heritage.
“They are known mainly as a smart-casual crossover, but it does depend on the leather. A light suede can create a very different feel from a highly polished black version,” says Little. “They tend to look best with a narrow trouser leg, either kinked on the shoe, or nowadays, more likely an inch or so above the boot.”
Chukka boots are most commonly found in shades of brown, so you could go full-on polo chukka with pale or white trousers and a navy sweater without looking like one of Prince Harry’s boozed-up lackeys. To avoid all connotations of horsing around, the boots pair best with knitwear and casual trousers, says Philip Goodwin, men’s footwear buyer for John Lewis.
“Chukkas look equally good with jeans or chinos, and more formal versions help dress down a suit for a more relaxed look,” he says.
Want to style them up? Stick to darker hues and avoid contrast colour soles where possible. “Black suede desert boots look good with a simple flat-fronted pair of trousers, a little flash of sock and a button-up shirt,” adds James Datlen, a men’s buyer for footwear retailer Schuh. “For more casual, day-to-day wear, you can go with some selvedge denim or a pair of Dockers Alpha. A crew neck sweatshirt works well, too.”