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How to Wear Combat Boots (Without Stealing Valor)

One thing’s for certain: You’re gonna have to kick the skinny jeans out of your closet

The inception of pretty much every menswear staple — from pants to belts to jackets — can be traced back to the military. Even the humble T-shirt was, in its original form, issued by the U.S. Navy. Not to mention, we got the name “chino” from American soldiers stationed in the Philippines who wore light cotton pants made in China. Then, of course, there are combat boots. That one’s pretty obvious — it’s right there in the name for god’s sake.

By most definitions, combat boots are black (though there are plenty of tan ones, too) with laces and a thick rubber sole. To be super obvious once more, those in civilian circulation are generally of the “fashion” variety — that is, they’re not actually military-issued boots. 

According to one redditor, however, if you’re okay with the stylings of modern military boots, which aren’t necessarily made of leather and are generally bulkier than they’re more fashion-friendly brethren, you’ll be able to find a pair at your local military surplus store or online for under $60. “These will be durable U.S.-made boots from companies like Belleville, Danner, Altama, etc., and for modern boots, usually with a Vibram brand sole,” he writes. “Local surplus dealers and online surplus stores are alright, but I’ve had my best luck with eBay. You’ll have an easier time finding odd sizes (anything smaller than an 8, anything in narrow) since people tend to pick over the lots quickly and snag anything that fits them.”

Along those lines, there’s considerable consensus amongst the well-dressed men of r/MaleFashionAdvice (MFA) that for genuine military-grade combat boots you can’t go wrong with either Altama and Corcoran. That said, there’s also a pervasive belief that they’re not easy to pull off (sartorially speaking, not literally — though they’re not exactly slippers either). “Most of them just look like stiff cinder blocks,” one MFA member laments. “I love the style of boot, but I have no patience for the majority of what’s out there.”

Yet another hurdle is that there’s a serious lack of midrange combat-boot options. “On one hand, you have entry-level offerings like Doc Martens, Solovair or the various fast-fashion combat boots from Zara & Co, which lack in either quality or design,” writes another MFA member. “Then there are designer combat boots from luxury brands with an edgy aesthetic like Ann D [Demeulemeester], SLP [Saint Laurent Paris], Carpe Diem, Guidi, which are great in every aspect, but cost so much I would be afraid to actually wear them.”

Speaking of wearing them, style YouTuber Parker York Smith, whose combat boot of choice is the classic Dr. Marten 1460, says, “I like styling them with some dark denim and a white T-shirt, maybe with a flannel shirt over the top. Straight leg or wider leg jeans with a slight cuff at the bottom looks really great. The boots themselves are a bit clunky, so you don’t want to wear them with a slim pair of pants because it can make them appear bigger.”

But if you are able to surrender your skinny jeans, there’s a good chance that the fit battle will have been won.