Fall’s Most Affordable Boots, Blundstones
A couple of years ago, I started seeing Blundstones pop up in my Bay Area neighborhood. Superficially, they’re a workwear version of a Chelsea boot. Made with wide elasticated gussets, rugged leathers, and slip-resistant TPU soles, Blundstones were originally a favorite of Australian workers and farmers. Nowadays, however, they’re a style signature of the occupationally hip. From San Francisco to New York City, you can barely make it out of an art gallery or a cafe without seeing pair of them.
Blundstones are unmistakable. In a sea of Chelsea boots, they stand out with their chunky silhouette. There’s little discernable shaping from the toe box to the shaft, which makes them like the bulbous shoes you see in cartoons. In certain contexts, however, that silhouette can also be very stylish. When I first spotted them in the Bay Area, they were mostly worn by certain women — often those sporting their version of workwear or boho-chic. Think of French coats layered over Shaker sweaters. Or the bohemian-hippie style that peaked in the early aughts, but has since resurfaced in various guises (e.g., a revival of Zooey Deschanel’s thrifted look, Diane Keaton as Annie Hall, or the remixing of ’80s sportswear with folk influences).
In recent years, Blundstones have also seeped into menswear — and for good reasons. Like a lot of workwear, the style’s utilitarian roots allow them to communicate something specific. Throughout the 20th century, blue-collar workers are often depicted as standing opposed to what Upton Sinclair once described as the “sniveling scriveners of white-collar middle-management.” Factory workers, farmers, and outdoorsmen are seen as unaffected in manner, simple in ambition, and dependable in work. Their clothes then get wrapped up in this romanticization, which is why so many city-dwellers adopt the same uniform. As an outback shoe, Blundstones have a lot of that same credibility and appeal.
Sebastian Tarek, a London-based bespoke shoemaker who was born in Australia, says they’re a “staple back in Oz.” “In a country with not a lot of footwear heritage, they have a relatable place in a lot of people’s hearts — maybe a bit like Chuck Taylors to Australians,” he says. “RM Williams are what country boys wear to the local bachelors and spinsters balls. They’re like your black oxfords for guys who only own two pairs of shoes.” Blunnies — which is the affectionate term for Blundstones in Australia — are seen as a bit more down-to-earth and casual. “Aussie blokes will often have both. But lots of people will only wear Blunnies and think of RMs as being a bit ‘Ralph Lauren.’”
Blundstones also fit neatly into the many modes happening in menswear right now: the widening of silhouettes, the remixing of workwear, and the rise of gorpcore (i.e., wearing your standard jeans with Patagonia fleeces). Additionally, the rugged, weatherproof boots have a real-world, fashion-as-function appeal that has always been popular with men. They’re simply a great, practical shoe for fall/ winter if your casualwear wardrobe leans in certain directions. They wear well in the slush and rain, and are often a bit better off with some salt stains. For $180 or so, you could hardly do better.
Lawrence Schlossman, the man behind Four Pins and current Brand Director at Grailed, says he wears them upwards of five times a week. “Blundstones are the purest distillation of form meets function, it’s as simple as that,” he says. “We’re talking about a classic footwear style that not only looks good with nearly everything in your wardrobe but is also going to hold up to fall/ winter elements. Not to mention, they’re affordable.”
I like them with the sort of looks you see above. They go naturally with the rustic English look of Margaret Howell, Americana style of Freemans Sporting Club, and offbeat Japanese workwear from Engineered Garments. They go just as well under a pair of slim-straight, LVC 1947 501s as they do with wider legged pants from labels such as E. Tautz, Phlannel, and Olive Clothing. You can wear them with waxed cotton Barbour jackets or Kaptain Sunshine’s traveler coats. You’ll mostly want to stick to rugged fabrics, such as cotton canvas and heavy wools, rather than slick Tencel or lightweight linen. I think of them as Fall’s Birkenstocks.
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