I guess my posts are just long now, deal with it.
For those of you who follow my instagram account, you’ll know that I’ve been looking for a good pair of suede chukka boots for a little while now. They’re a classic piece of menswear that can go with almost everything in your wardrobe (no surprise there). After considering my options, I finally got some. They’re actually the first piece of footwear that I’ve paid full price on.
I don’t have to get into the history or description of chukka boots, do I? You’ve probably seen them around plenty of places as the go-to shoe for “smart casual” ensembles (though most guys will pick the desert boot, since it’s more casual due to subtle design differences). This is partly because of their design. The chukka’s boot nature makes it perfect for jeans while the actual shape (which in some cases can be slim, comparable to a dress shoe) means that I could be worn with chinos or odd trousers. Basically, if you want a shoe that can work for almost anything, you should go with the chukka.
Because the chukka is so easily confused with the desert boot, I was weary of getting some for myself. I mean have you seen how popular the desert boot is? I know I’m not normally one to turn off certain pieces because other people do them, but it still affected me. Perhaps I saw the boots as too basic, a piece that was neither formal or casual. If felt that you want to dress up, wear wingtips; if you want to dress down, wear derbies. The only boots that I owned were clearly for casual stuff: workwear and slight SLP vibes. However, I began to get some inspo by seeing the boots worn by people that I actually look up to, like Drake’s or The Armoury. These images blew me away.
It can be done well in a true “classic menswear” way, right? There isn’t that pseudo, #dapperbro style. It works seamlessly with denim, chinos, and wool trousers. But these combinations are not a contemporary invention. Imagine my surprise when I found that chukkas were worn with suits even back in the 1930s!
After retiring my suede Zara derbies (they lasted 4 years but they’re slightly too big for my tiny feet) I now knew that I had to have a pair. I wanted to be specific; I wanted a brown suede (not leather, because I have enough leather shoes) with a shape that wasn’t too pointy nor too “dull” that it would look like a desert boot. Obviously thrifting or eBaying a pair of suede chukkas was my first thought, but it’s pretty hard to find these types of boots. Most of the ones I came across were either too fashiony and pointy, or they looked like Clark’s desert boots. Plus there wasn’t anything listed that came close to fitting my tiny 7E feet. I finally decided that buying these boots new instead of used was the best way to ensure that I get a shoe that I know I’ll love. Thanks to my inspiration images and different threads on Reddit, I already had a few options to check out.
The first one was the Alden unlined suede chukka. These dream chukkas are the ones you saw spammed above. Alden is one of the finest crafters of footwear in the world and as such, I’ve heard great things about these shoes, whether it was people on Styleforum or friends on Instagram. While I did get a chance to feel these in person during my trip, the price is what killed it for me. £495??? This translates to $635! Even the U.S price from the Alden store was too high. I’ve never spent more than $90 on a pair of shoes (until this post of course).
The next one suggested was the Meermin Chukka. While the price was right (180 Euros), I wasn’t too keen on the shape. That and the fact that I couldn’t try them on was a deal breaker; if I’m going to pay full price, you bet your ass that I want to try them on first! This feature also counted out the Allen Edmonds x Massdrop chukka ($230), which I’ve heard slightly mixed reviews about. While I love Allen Edmonds (almost all my shoes are from them, bought used on eBay), I’m wary about how their last works. I don’t have access to an AE store and thanks to the multitude of shoes I have from them, I know that my tiny-wide feet fit differently across their products. When you add in the fact that the Massdrops aren’t returnable and that the promotion is temporary (and you won’t get the shoes for a few months), I didn’t want to commit to anything.
I was almost shit outta luck until an instagram follower (and now internet friend!) recommended that I look at the Loake Kempton suede chukka. The price wasn’t too bad (£195, which is about $230 after VAT removal) and the shoes looked good! They feature a Danite rubber sole that is goodyear welted, so I was pretty keen on getting them. Luckily there were two Loake’s shops in London, so I would be able to try them on before buying!
I went to the Loake’s Jermyn street shop during my first free day and asked to try to their Kempton Suede in a 7UK. Unfortunately it was too big. I then asked for a 6.5 but they didn’t have them in the store! They said that they could try and order it for a Friday delivery (which was my last day), so they took my information. Unfortunately they never responded. I called them the next day for an update and they couldn’t recall my interaction with them; they basically said they couldn’t do it since the shoes were “in production”.
Not wanting to give up, I called their Bow Lane store and spoke to a sales associate named Dave. He also told me that the 6.5 wasn’t in store, but he could call their manufacturer and get them by Friday. Amazingly, he put the order through! It was also around this time that I found out about the Pimlico boot, a which was another Loake chukka in a slightly different last and shade of brown. I gave Dave a quick call to see if he could get these in as well, and the said he could. Dave certainly came to the rescue.
When I got to the Bow Lane store, I was greeted by Dave who gave me both shoes to try on.
It’s hard to tell, but the Pimlico boot is slightly narrower than the Kempton, which makes it more of a “city” boot than a “casual boot”, as stated by Dave. Also, the current Pimlico model is a super fucking dark brown which has an almost grey/ash hue. Seeing this stark difference immediately made up my mind: I was walking home with the Kempton boot. Again, the £195 price wasn’t too bad.
The Kempton Suede Boot
I already tried on the boots in the store, but there’s something about opening them up again at home that made me feel so giddy! Like I stated earlier, I haven’t purchased a new shoe in over 5 years (besides sneakers). I hardly remember what it’s like to open a shoe from its box instead of a random re-used Amazon box that an eBay seller used to ship me their shoes.
The Kemptons were certainly stiff, especially when you compare them to the unlined suede chukkas from Alden. I am certain that this will loosen up over time but honestly, the tight feeling was a welcome one since I’m pretty much used to used leather on my pre-owned shoes.
They sit pretty high, ending above my ankle bone, which took a little getting used to! I also have tiny ankles, so tightening up the laces as much as they could was needed to prevent my ankle from sliding around. My toes are about an inch and a half from the tip, which made me think that I should have ordered a 6 (instead of the 6.5 that I got) but I simply put an insole inside to make them fit a tad better. Lastly, the last isn’t super aggressive, but certainly gives form to your foot more so than cheaper (or fast-fashion) chukkas/desert boots. I couldn’t wait to incorporate them into outfits.
Worn With Separates
I’ll be honest with you guys; I’ve always been wary of wearing boots with anything other than denim. Denim can always be rolled up (to make way for the higher “top” of a boot) while trousers typically have a set length. I don’t want to have separate boot and dress shoe trousers, so that’s why I never really had a “dress boot” until now! I’m not a fan of stacking in almost every way since it doesn’t jive well with my clean silhouette (which I prefer) but much to my surprise, these chukkas work well with chinos without any breaks!
As you can see, they are a perfect match for this pseudo-Drake’s ensemble. The way the high-waisted chinos fall cleanly over the chukka’s make the boots much more subtle, than if I wore denim. I think its the combination of a slightly wider leg opening (I think these are 7.5′ or 8″) and a slight/no-break that make this combo work. I’ll also say that the fact that the chinos are cuffed helps maintain the “dressy” nature of this, since most of the time, guys wear plain hem chinos.
The success of this outfit only solidifies the fact that these chukkas are pretty damn versatile. I think they make the outfit slightly less dressy as a whole. If I approached this with the typical Ethan mindset, I would have worn white socks with loafers to make it more “ivy”.
1950’s Jacket from Roxy Deluxe Vintage, Brooks Brothers Shirt, 1930’s tie (eBay),
Pleated chinos from Banana Republic, Loake Kempton chukka
The real challenge was making it work with a suit. While boots work well with denim and chinos to be an almost year-round pair, I always felt that a boot + suit combo needed texture. This normally means tweed or flannel, since those are the most common “textured” suits on the market. However, it’s summer in SoCal right now and even though it barely gets over 80F, there is no way I’m breaking out my winter pieces for this post. What was I to do?
Luckily I had the Camoshita fleck suit. Even though it has the appearance of a smart tweed (dare I dashing?), it’s a super comfortable wool-silk blend that is extremely light weight; the fact that it’s soft and unstructured definitely means that I can wear it in this semi-mild LA weather. Anyway, the green color definitely is a natural match for the brown suede and the ensemble it creates is a very great example of comfortable suiting. Wearing loafers may be the “better” choice, but I like the chukkas here. Note that the trousers fall cleanly over the chukkas as if they were any regular dress shoe. No breaks again!
While I think this is a pretty cool ensemble, I probably would have worn the boots with a cotton suit (which I don’t own) or my light brown wool Southwick number that I got on eBay for $25.
I’ll talk about my styling a bit here. Since the suit is pretty densely patterned (all of those flecks!), I went with a plain light blue OCBD. Obviously this shirt is pretty versatile, since it can be worn with both warm and cold weather outfits. However, I felt that the outfit was leaning toward fall a little too much; that’s when I decided to break out this crazy rare 1940’s seersucker tie. The double check design and the pop of red and blue over the cream make it a great summer piece. Cream ties (or yellow-ish) in general are pretty hard to wear since they can look pretty 1980’s yuppie, but I adore their color. Getting ones like this that aren’t foulard to paisley and wearing them without stripes might be a good way to break them out of the 80’s mindset.
This last picture was directly inspired by the 1930’s chukka advertisement I referenced above. Hell, even the trouser color/pattern is pretty close! On a second look, they appear to be more desert boot-like than I thought; the use of only two eyelets is a dead giveaway.
Camoshita suit (thrifted), custom OCBD from Natty Shirts, 1940’s Seersucker tie (eBay), Loake Kempton chukka
This wasn’t an official shoot, but I thought I’d share a more Drake’s inspired look for the chukka. When you compare it to the inspiration pictures at the beginning of the article, you’ll see that I hit all of the check points: soft 3-roll-2 jacket, OCBD, repp stripe tie, high-rise selvedge cuffed denim, and the suede chukka boot. Can you get the idea that these are versatile yet?
I’ve heard the argument that chukkas are useless since they can always be replaced by any other shoe. If you want to dress it up, go with wingtips or oxfords; if you want to dress down, go with loafers (or canvas sneakers). I think that’s the appeal of the chukka here: they are a conscious choice that goes against the grain of expected footwear. The boot nature make it semi-casual (especially the lack of multiple eyelets) but the slightly aggressive last make it appropriate to wear with tailored clothing!
After searching everywhere and considering my options (mainly my wallet), I am glad that I went with the Loake Kempton suede chukka. It really fit almost everything I was looking for and has found a great place in my collection. Hell, I’ve worn them almost everyday since I bought them because they’re so versatile.
I know that I may be late to the chukka game, but I really recommend that you add them to your wardrobe if you haven’t already. There are plenty of days where I get bored of my lace-ups and loafers yet I still need to wear something sleek and “cool”. The suede chukkas certainly came to the rescue.
Unfortunately, I’ve heard that Loake doesn’t export to the US anymore, which is why I was heavily recommended to buy them while I was in London. I don’t shop new very often or go into any stores, so I’m really no help in locating Loake’s. However, I hope you enjoyed getting some inspiration for the brow suede chukka boot and reading my story on how I came to get mine!
Always a pleasure,