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The military has brought us some of the best things about menswear: white t-shirts, aviator sunglasses, the peacoat, and combat boots. Whether you’re lacing up black leather ones for a punk show, or weatherized vinyl ones to brave the elements, the best combat boots will make every march down the street that much more enjoyable. The look is still a mainstay in the punk music scene, combat boots are now also found on the red carpet and in the office. Pharrell Williams even wore a pair of Dr. Martens when he received his honorary doctorate from NYU in 2018.
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Today, they’ve each been reinterpreted hundreds of times to look cooler and get better mileage. Lauren Zhang, a Product Design Manager at Bruno Marc, says modern design has propelled them into the spotlight. Zhang told Spy the best men’s combat boots encapsulate “classic and fashionable fusion with some additional design and embellishment, such as punk style and metal elements.”
While the best combat boots right now can run up to $250 or more, they remain a reasonable buy at any price. Dr. Marten’s combat boots are still leading the charge since their mass appeal of the old punk scene. But a handful of both modern and classic brands like Allen Edmonds and Blundstone, have been gaining street cred for their interpretation of the classic style.
What The Experts Are Saying
Zhang stressed the value that men’s combat boots can have in an era of men’s style that prioritizes versatility. “I personally think that first of all, the combat boot style is simple and fashionable, which can match different types of looks,” Zhang said. But combat boots still serve the military. Retired Brig. Gen. John Hammond told Spy that, far beyond style purposes, the Army and the Marine Corps are most likely to wear all-purpose combat boots these days, and service members have the option to purchase their preferred combat boots from approved retailers. Hammond added that when choosing their combat boots, soldiers look for a durable, supportive 8-inch shaft height, tough “flesh-out” leather, and Vibram outsoles.
“The level of comfort and durability of today’s boots are ten-fold better than what I was issued in 1981.”
This directly translates into how guys should approach buying combat boots when solely for style—by prioritizing durability, support, and traction.
Bruno Marc Engle Lace-Up Motorcycle Combat Boots
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Though boots tend to be a wise investment, most people welcome finding a deal. Bruno Marc has become the godfather of the men’s shoe scene on Amazon, making offers that shoppers can’t refuse by way of the lowest price imaginable for a pair of boots. These Bruno Marc combat boots are under $75 and offer a little bit of everything including a durable rubber lug sole, a faux fur lining for warmth, and an eye-catching side zipper. They’re available in four color options up to a size US 15.
BEST LIGHTWEIGHT OPTION
Blundstone #1931 Lace-Up Original Boots
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Some combat boots can be way too heavy. But for a lightweight-yet-rugged design and top-tier performance, it’s tough to pass up a pair of Blundstone boots. The brand is known for its rugged designs, like rubber outsoles with great traction and supportive insoles, and that holds true for this lace-up take on the OG Blundstone chelsea boot. In traditional combat boot fashion, it also comes in an edgy all-black design.
BEST WEATHERPROOF OPTION
Allen Edmonds Chapman Weatherproof Combat Boots
By their very nature, men’s combat boots are meant to be broken in and kicked around a bit. But as Zhang mentioned, combat boots have been leveled up into a new realm of style. The Allen Edmonds Chapman Boots are the best combat boot to invest in for a navy wool suit or stretch chinos at the office. They’re weatherproof for good measure, but streamlined enough to wear with fine tailoring from one of the most trusted names in American shoemaking.
BEST AMERICAN MADE BOOTS
FRYE Prison Boots
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It seems with each passing year, it gets more difficult to find boots made in America, let alone a more niche style like the combat boot. But the good folks at Frye have been handcrafting boots in the States for well over a century, and that extends to this durable, vintage-style lace-up boot built in the US. Each pair already features a touch of subtle distressing, but part of the fun is adding more character with a personal touch of wear and tear.
BEST TACTICAL BOOTS
Oakley LT II Assault Boots
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Some mainstream brands make combat boots that get as close as possible to the real thing. These Oakley combat boots are great for trips off the grid, overlanding, or somewhere in between. The speed-lacing system ensures a snug fit. It also boasts mixed-media detailing throughout the upper that delivers serious abrasion resistance alongside the outsole that provides traction and springy support on rocky terrain.
MOST INNOVATIVE DESIGN
Naglev Combat Waterproof Boots
Every well-made pair of combat boots, from the sole to the shaft, is versatile enough in its own right. But what about combat boots that look sleek enough to cruise around New York and then stomp through the Catskills on the weekend? The remarkable Naglev Combat Boots, a fan favorite over at Huckberry, provide next-level versatility thanks to the relatively sleek profile. Plus, features like the durable shaft, the Kevlar exterior shell, breathable waterproof membrane, and, the minimalist speed lacing system pair together to form the Megazord of innovative boots. They check all the right boxes, and they’re a steal for under $300.
BEST LEATHER OPTION
Drury Military Boot – Nero 42
The ideal modern combat boot is the no-fuss, no-frills black leather option. It’s dressy enough to wear with a dark charcoal suit, think “Peaky Blinders,” and badass enough to wear with grey jeans at a rock concert. But for something truly sharp, there’s nothing cooler than an eye-catching pair made from supple black leather with a touch of shine. It reiks of old school militaria with the vintage boot details guys crave like an extended shaft height and a flexible rubber cleat outsole.
BEST SPLURGE OPTION
To Boot New York Burkett Combat Boots
For guys who stick to styles like the chukka or wingtip boot, splurging on a pair of combat boots might not seem desirable or smart. But, To Boot New York’s combat boot might be the exception. The brand’s quality speaks for itself, as does the look of the understated, dressy rich brown suede of this style. The tread outsole delivers crucial grip, while the contrast stitching stands out nicely against the suede upper. Plus, a cushioned footbed delivers comfort and rebound.
Frequently Asked Questions About Men’s Combat Boots
What’s the best way to style combat boots?
The easiest way to style men’s combat boots is to wear them with dark blue or black jeans, since a combat boot often has a plain, more casual upper with minimal adornment. The style can be dressed up with twill or cotton-blend trousers or chinos. And while iconic styles like a Dr. Martens combat boot come in inky black, plenty of colors are on the market. The style has some common DNA with ankle boots, Zhang added, making the style “a little more chic compared to other boots and formal shoes.”
Are combat boots good for hiking?
Technically, combat boots are designed to traverse any kind of terrain, so they could work for hiking. Boots with a flexible, durable and lightweight vibram outsole closely mimic real hiking boots. However, some combat boots are intended purely for fashion purposes and would be as good for hiking as stilts would be for skiing.
Do combat boots need to be polished?
Guys who prefer a super-shiny, dressy look might polish their combat boots regularly to add a high level of luster. But guys who want their boots to show more wear and tear won’t polish them, and that’s cool too. Be sure to wipe off dirt and grime, even if you forego the polish.
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