The Bootmakers Making The Highest Quality Boots For Men
Classic Chelseas, rugged hikers, military stompers - whatever your boot preference, these are the men's boot brands stamping their authority on the industry right now.
What mostly started out as functional workwear in the early 19th century, today’s boots have come to play a key role in modern men’s fashion, being a conduit between style, heritage, artisanal production processes and modern technologies.
From rockers to rock climbers, boots are essential kit – but not all are made equally. So we’ve curated a list of some of our favourite bootmakers, all of whom have repeatedly demonstrated their consummate design skill over the decades.
Go for: brogue boots
If it’s the seal of heritage you’re after, there’s few better than Grenson, the British brand hailing from Northampton – widely acknowledged as the Mecca of shoemaking. Grenson has been providing the world’s feet with epic boots ever since 1876 and the quality has never dimmed.
Renowned for its casual brogue styles, the bootmaker has in recent years developed a more fashion-forward range of chunky military-inspired designs that will nicely complement a more urban shoe rotation.
Go for: Chelsea boots
Another Northampton stalwart, Church’s first foray into bootmaking dates back to 1873. Much refinement and technological prowess has since ensured – Church’s Goodyear-welted designs are second to none, specialising in “vintage inspirations, rock influences and devil-may-care combat styling”.
All we know is that they craft one of the slickest Chelsea boot collections around, most notably the polished Amberley silhouette.
Crockett & Jones
Go for: suede chukkas
Like its Northampton brethren, Crockett & Jones’s longevity is testament to the brand’s quality and evolution. With a boot collection that leans on the smart side, you can expect all of the classic shapes made with meticulous craftsmanship.
Go for: derby boots
Tricker’s Northampton heritage goes without saying, but the brand doesn’t rest on its historic laurels (or the fact it holds a Royal Warrant). Handmade to meticulous standards, Tricker’s is in the highest echelons of bootmaking, with over 260 processes involved in making each pair from start to finish.
Foremost among its collection is its much imitated but never surpassed Stow Derby ankle boot, which combines a sleek silhouette with the finest quality leather and perfect broguing details.
Go for: desert boots
As one of the more affordable boot brands on this list, Clarks might not have the luxury cachet of the Northampton shoemakers, but when it comes to history and value, the 197-year-old company is unmatched.
Although Clarks makes a broad spectrum of boot styles, it’s the Originals that get all the plaudits, namely the desert boot and Wallabees. The former can thank the Mods of the 70s for their fame, while it was the 80s UK ravers who had a penchant for the latter.
Go for: rugged Chelsea boots
Founded in the Australian outback in 1932, R.M. Williams has made a name for its boots handcrafted from a single piece of leather. Channelling a rugged, outdoors aesthetic, the Australian brand combines durability with artisanal production methods to produce designs that only get better with age.
It has one of the biggest, and frankly best, ranges of Chelsea boots that we’ve seen anywhere, including suede, burnished leather and soft yearling leather styles.
Go for: outdoor boots
As the brand itself states, “You don’t put on a pair of Danner boots to sit around the house”. Founded in 1932 in Portland, Oregon, Danner is all about manufacturing boots for big country exploration.
Rugged aesthetics combine with crazy-good functionality – think steel-toed work boots, camouflage hunting boots, Gore-Tex tactical boots, insulated hiking boots and every combination thereof. If you’re intending to put in some hard yards outdoors, Danner’s got your back.
Go for: mountaineering boots
When mountaineering boots meet luxury Italian design, the result is Diemme. Founded and managed by brothers Dennis and Maico Signor, Diemme handcraft boots in the famed Veneto region with an inimitable design aesthetic.
But make no mistake, these boots are as functional as they are fashion. Its flagship style is the Roccia Vet, a stunning hiking boot that comes in some bold colourways, but also check out its new Anatra and Balbi duck boots if you like your outdoor footwear with a twist.
Go for: leather hiking boots
Still based in the Italy region of Puglia, where the story started in 1908, family-run Fracap continue to produce some of the most exquisitely made leather hiking boots money can buy. Foremost among these is the instantly recognisable Magnifico boot, a sturdy but beautifully formed hiking boot that comes in a variety of leather upper and sole options.
Keep an eye out for its limited edition collaborations, too – the brand recently joined forces with sneaker kingpin Ronnie Fieg to create two slick versions of the iconic Magnifico M120.
Go for: 6″ boots
Is there a more instantly recognisable piece of footwear than Timberland’s unbreakable yellow 6-inch boot? The fact that this iconic waterproof workwear staple hasn’t changed in nearly 40 years tells you all you need to know about its design quality and durability.
Yes, the brand make lots of other styles of footwear, but none of them will ever surpass the 6″ – an icon that has pervaded many elements of popular culture over the years, most notably the New York hip-hop scene of the 90s.
Red Wing Shoes
Go for: moc toe boots
Named after the town in Southwest Minnesota where it all began in 1905, Red Wing Shoes continue to use artisan production methods to construct its world-famous work boots. Made from the finest durable leather, these icons of workwear have stood the test of time, becoming a hallmark of American manufacturing excellence, best evidenced by the iconic Moc Toe 8131 boots.
If you’re a fan of Americana workwear, a pair of these in your rotation is non-negotiable.
Go for: the iconic 1460 boot
Hailing from England’s shoemaking heartland in Northamptonshire, Dr. Marten’s boots are perhaps the most culturally significant and iconic on this entire list for the way they have been adopted by numerous and diverse subcultures since the 60s. From school kids to punks via police officers, Dr. Martens’ AirWair soles have certainly seen some action.
Virtually unchanged in design, DMs have remained as durable and relevant as ever. It’s also executed some superb collaborations recently with the likes of Neighbourhood and Goodhood to name but a few.
Go for: rubber boots
It would be remiss of us to not include a Wellington bootmaker in this list, so Hunter automatically secures a spot. Founded in 1856 and holding two Royal Warrants of Appointment to HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, Hunter is best known for its iconic tall Wellington boot.
Beloved by country folk and festival-goers alike, its wellies are a license to roam no matter how hard the elements try to put us off. In recent years, the brand really expanded its range to include commando boots, snow boots, Chelsea boots and slides.
Go for: duck boots
Handcrafted in Maine since 1912, LL Bean’s boots are noticeable for their heritage moccasin style and buttery-soft tumbled leather uppers. Designed for the great American outdoors, the Bean duck boots are beautifully constructed and very functional, with some styles featuring shearling, Thinsulate or Primaloft linings to banish cold feet.
With that unmistakable wedge heel and waterproof rubber upper, Bean boots are a must for outdoorsy, wet-weather style.
Go for: winter boots
Although a relative newcomer to the footwear scene compared to some of the other names on this list, Sorel’s footprint began in 1962 but it made a major indentation in the market in the 2000s when the Caribou winter boot became widespread.
Since then, Sorel has evolved its offering like no other, retaining superior build quality and functionality all the while developing a truly modern aesthetic that’s perfect for urbanwear. Although the Caribou will always be the poster boy, check out Sorel’s waterproof chukkas for a contemporary take on the classic style.
Go for: cowboy boots
For 158 years, American bootmaker Frye has stuck to its roots, handcrafting tough-looking boots with rugged style appeal. The company’s slogan is ‘The Authentic. The Original. The Only’, and it’s hard to argue with.
Frye’s boot styles often feature distressed elements, as if they’ve already lived quite the life, but they’ll only get better with age. The Logan cap toe is a perfect example – a tribute to vintage Americana on the one hand, a perfectly modern boot on the other. Workwear aficionados will be in heaven.