Men’s Style Essentials: From the Ground Up

Shoes are absolutely a foundation of any outfit. The entire tone of an ensemble can be set by what you wear on your feet. A nice pair of shoes can elevate a look from casual to dressy, or (with the wrong pair), serve to undermine the work you put into the rest of your look. In an ideal situation, they can provide an extremely solid starting point from which to build multiple outfits or looks. A good pair naturally lends itself to versatility — the right one can go with chinos and jeans, as well as dress trousers. Remember dark denim? Well, those jeans (along with chinos and some trousers) have met their match.

In that arena, there are few pairs more classically timeless (yet current) as the desert boot. A rather non-descript shoe with no-fuss eyelets and open chukka lacing, the desert boot has served as a style staple for decades, but has been enjoying a resurgence of sorts for the past few years. That’s partly because of their understated look, as well as their versatility and variety of of color options. However, typical desert boots are available in muted colors, and a good amount of time they come waxed, with a crepe sole. Although the sole isn’t the most durable with frequent wear on city streets (hence the term desert boot), the style should serve well in a weekly shoe rotation. For starters, Clarks makes some of the best desert boots on the market at relatively affordable price points. In fact, the brand is one of the few that’s become synonymous with offering a single product, and offering it at consistently high levels of quality, for years on end. If you’re starting out with a pair of desert boots, you can’t beat Clarks.

Old reliable tan suede desert boots by Clarks. Beat-up, but durable.
Old reliable tan suede desert boots by Clarks. Beat-up, but durable.

Dress-style desert or chukka boots are now widely available, too. Ideal for sprinting around a city or adding some visual interest to a well-tailored suit, boots with that type of open lacing are inherently more casual, but can definitely be dressed up. There are other benefits, too. The boot’s higher-ankle cut can help create a clean line between the break of your pants or suit trousers and the tops of your shoes; paired with a Levi’s 511, 513 or 514 jean or chino, the desert boot creates a slim silhouette that honestly flatters a good deal of body types.

Dress-style boot option by Steve Madden. Paired with Levi's 511 tan twill chinos.
Dress-style boot option by Steve Madden. With Levi’s 511 tan twill chinos.

And the desert boot pairs extremely, extremely well with the right pair of dark denim, or with tan twill chinos (as shown above — that subtle burnishing contrasts nicely with the faded, dusty-looking chino). With denim, take a selvedge pair for a spin with some Clarks; the two seem tailor-made for each other. When it comes to pairing other layers atop those two, brown leather or tan suede desert boots wouldn’t look out of place with some dark denim, a navy blazer, and an Oxford shirt. Rotating out the blazer for a v-neck sweater dresses down the outfit while still keeping the look cold-weather ready. For other options, it’s hard to beat a pocket tee or short-sleeve henley, still building off  that “desert boots and dark denim” base. Throwing in a pop of color in the form of a slim polo or T-shirt does the job nicely, too.

A closer look at cuffed pair of denim atop the classic desert boot.
A closer look at cuffed pair of denim atop the classic desert boot.

Once you wear those shoes, though, (and even before that), keeping them fresh out of the box is huge to prolonging their life. For just under $10, Kiwi Suede Protector goes a long way toward keeping those shoes safe from Mother Nature.  And as with any item, care is one of the biggest keys to ensuring you look your best. And keeping the pair clean actually expands the number of outfits you can wear them with; a cleaner boot works with everything from dressier, navy chinos to jeans.

So, going from the ground up, jeans and desert boots are about as versatile as you can get. Keeping everything affordable by using websites like Amazon  and keeping things clean using a nice suede protector ties the entire ensemble together in terms of affordability and flexibility. Pairing desert boots with other, classic items (like a slim polo or Oxford shirt) only adds to their appeal — finding pieces you love after a long search can be just as rewarding, something you’ll be reminded of every time you slip them on.



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