Like the Chelsea boot, chukkas are a terrific and subtle way to demonstrate your own unique and sophisticated sense of style.
But not all Chukka boots are created equally.
In this review and guide, we not only take a look at some of the most popular Chukka boots currently available on the market, but we also take it a bit deeper and review them based on the materials used in their construction (in order to ensure you find a boot that doesn’t simply fall apart after a single season of wear). We will also provide you with some tips on how to wear your chukkas (in order to avoid any embarrassing fashion faux pas) before wrapping it up with a quick guide on how to care for your new chukka’s so you always look your best every time you put them on.
Let’s get started:
Table of Contents
Before Buying Chukka Boots, A Few Considerations
As we began researching all the best chukka boot brands on the market, we had to find a way to compare them. Therefore, we broke out common features that men often think about when buying a pair of chukkas.
We recommend that you take a quick minute or two and think of each of the following features listed below – it will ensure that you find a pair of chukkas that work best for you:
One of the most important decisions to make when buying a pair of chukkas is around the material of the shoe itself.
Paying for a new pair of chukkas that rely on a poor grade of leather will not only lead to mild discomfort, but also a shoe that will fall apart rather quickly.
Therefore, we wanted to put together a few quick bits of information that clearly spell out all the key differences between the types of leather used in making chukka boots:
Top Grain Leather
One of the highest grades of leather will be those marked as top-grain leather.
Sourced from the outer most layer of the cow’s hide, this leather is quite strong.
But what separates this from full-grain leather (more on this in a minute) is that top-grain leather has been sanded down in order to remove any sort of surface imperfections that were on the cow (wrinkles due to weather or aging, branding marks, etc.).
If you are looking for a good pair of chukkas that will last you for several years, then those sourced from this leather quality will be your best pick. Just be warned, those chukka boots made from top-grain leather will often demand a much higher price point.
Full Grain Leather
While top-grain leather is made from the outer most layer of skin and was sanded down, full-grain goes a bit deeper and contains a larger cross-section of the hide.
This thicker piece of leather is much more durable, making it a great candidate if you are considering a pair of chukka work boots.
While the increased durability is welcomed, one of the biggest challenges of a boot made from this cut of leather will be the work-in or training period.
Wearing a new pair of boots made from full-grain leather will take quite some time before they begin to form a nice mold around the natural contours of your feet.
Lastly, the natural finish that develops with age.
With full-grain (and even top-grain) leather, as you wear (and care for) it over time, the two types of leather will develop a beautiful finish, commonly referred to as the patina.
Drawing upon the natural oils within the hide coupled with the exposure of natural elements, the patina in natural leather hide will give the boots that natural lived-in vibe that looks great.
One of the most confusing leather variants for men will be genuine leather.
It sounds nice and smells great – that classic leather scent we all so fondly love.
But here’s the dirty truth about genuine leather…
…it’s not that great.
In fact, genuine leather is considered one of the lowest grades of leather that you can buy.
So, what is genuine leather, and more importantly, how does it differ from top or full-grain leather?
Genuine leather is simply the left-over bits of the cowhide mixed with a binding agent.
According to the publication Materials for Interior Environments (source), the actual amount of leather in genuine leather can range anywhere between 10% and 90%.
Therefore, you theoretically can be wearing leather boots that are composed more of glue than of leather – giving a whole new meaning to the word gumshoes!
A unique leather variant all on its own, it would be fair to say that suede is a mix between both full-grain and genuine leather.
Sourced from the lower section of the cow’s hide, suede has been sanded to develop this velvety smooth finish that feels great to touch.
Unfortunately, given that it’s sourced from the lower part of the hide, it isn’t nearly as strong as top or full-grain leather – ultimately hampering its durability.
While many chukkas do come in a suede finish, if you want your pair of boots to last you for several years (instead of just a few), then you may want to make the upgrade to full or top-grain leather.
However, if you are fine with one that is a bit more temporary and will only last for a couple of years, then suede can work.
Another nuance about this cut of leather is that it stains easily. Caring for suede is completely different than your typical leather boot (stay tuned for the proper steps).
Whether it’s for during the snow season when you find yourself walking through deep piles of slush, or when your workplace is precarious, waterproofing on a pair of chukka boots is always a good thing.
When deciding on the best waterproof chukkas for you, make sure that you read through the product description for any indication on its resilience to water along with a quick inspection of a sole.
The last thing you want is a waterproof chukka boot with a slippery sole (i.e. one absent of any sort of ridges or traction grip).
When buying a new pair of chukkas, particularly those that cost several hundred dollars, you want to make sure that you are getting a shoe that will last you for a long time.
One way to quickly see if the chukkas you are buying was made with quality craftsmanship is to simply look at the outsole.
Specifically, you will want to see if they are relying on either a Goodyear welt or Blake stitch. While some fashion-forward men may argue about the advantages of one stitch over the other, the important factor here to know is that these stitches are repairable.
Therefore, if you grow to love your new pair of leather chukkas but find that the outsole has been worn down after excessive walking, you can simply bring your shoes to your local cobbler and have a new outsole sewn on.
This greatly increases the life of your shoe while also keeping excess junk out of landfills – truly a win-win.
4. Style Intent & Colors
Your sense of style is completely unique to you – and you should select a pair of chukkas accordingly.
If you are a man that is looking for a pair of chukkas that you can wear to a rugged workplace, then a neutral, full-grain leather chukka can be a great choice.
Now, if you are a man looking for a pair of chukkas to wear to an office and only plan on wearing them occasionally, suede will be more than fine here.
Give a minute or two to give a good thought to what types of boots will look best on you and not completely out of place (i.e. black high-polished chukkas probably wouldn’t look good in an industrial setting).
Secondly, color selection.
As of late, companies have started to make chukkas in a variety of colors. Some of the trendier colors can be any of the following:
…and many more.
However, classic colors for chukkas that won’t go out of style with the season include the following:
These neutral colors not only are widely considered to be classic but can also work with most of your existing wardrobe as well.
With more and more men wearing chukkas, there never has been such a great time to buy a pair. However, as is the case when anything becomes even remotely popular, there is inevitably a lot of crummy products that make their way into the market.
When buying a pair of chukkas that contain trademark features like those listed above (i.e. quality material for the uppers, waterproofing, universal stitch on the outsole, etc.), you should expect to pay about $200 for a pair of chukkas.
There are certainly many more that cost significantly higher, but for baseline quality, about $200 is what you should expect to pay.
Of course, there are still great brands that can work with a more restricted budget. As you will see in our reviews, we found plenty of great chukkas that deliver exceptional value for under $100.
The Best Chukka Boots of 2020 Reviewed
With a calf leather upper paired with a rubber outsole that provides a great and stable grip, the Felix Chukka’s are both beautiful and reliable pair of boots.
When it comes to comfort, these chukka’s feature a Texon insole that provides a comfy bed for your feet to rest on.
While these chukka’s might be a bit pricier compared to the others on our list, they are worth the investment, especially if they see heavy use.
Relying on a Blake stitching, the outsoles for these chukka’s can be repaired when worn down – making them great for years rather than a few months.
Secondly, the quality calf leather will get a nice patina over time, showcasing this quality sourced material.
If you are looking for a great pair of chukka’s, it doesn’t get much better than the Rhodes Footwear Felix Chukka.
You said you’re looking for a perfectly rugged man boot that’s both masculine and refined?
Something you could wear to work and also to do some casual wood chopping on the weekends? Well, look no further my friend because Clarks has pulled through for you yet again! For under a hundred dollars, these Chukka boots are a steal. Genuine leather uppers and a lightweight sole makes them exceptionally wearable. If your trying to enhance your shoe wardrobe on a budget, then these are definitely for you.
Bridging the gap between both formal and casual wear, the Nisolo Emilio chukka boot is a sleek and a minimalist inspired shoe that can work for a multitude of occasions. Able to be effortlessly dressed up or down, this chukka boot features a nubuck leather upper coupled with a full-length soft leather insole.
Furthermore, the thin laces on the front are streamlined and help to elevate the fashion level of this chukka. On the bottom, the shoe relies on a leather outsole that is coupled with a rubber heel cap – which provide necessary grip during the winter months. Available in half sizes ranging from 8 to 13.5, they fit true-to-size. Furthermore, the Nisolo Emilio Chukka’s come in a variety of colors.
Handmade in Italy, this leather chukka by Astorflex expertly balances between both style and function. The premium leather uppers on the chukkas look beautiful and will easily last you for years (assuming you take proper care of your leather). Underneath the chukka is a 100% natural crepe rubber sole. This squishy outersole provides an excellent balance of both grip and comfort.
Available in a wide range of sizes (7 to 15) and in three different colors (nubuck, dark brown nubuck, and tan) you should have no problem finding the the perfect boot to meet your own unique tastes.
Where do I even begin with these bad boys! Red Wing Shoes have been absolutely on fire as of late.
These guys have really struck a chord with today’s style conscious men. Maybe it’s their rugged appeal—or rather, their unwavering commitment to quality without sacrificing their masculine edge, but either way you can’t go wrong with these Chukka boots.
Handcrafted in the U.S.A with locally sourced leather, their distinct color is reminiscent of a rich bourbon on the rocks. Originally designed for “light-duty labor”, there’s no doubt that these Chukka boots are made to last. Although not the cheapest pair of Chukka’s on our list, if you’re like me and don’t mind paying more upfront for craftsmanship that will stand the test of time then these have your name written all over them.
Who doesn’t want to get the most bang for their buck?
With quality and craftsmanship far above their $200 price point, these babies strike an awesome balance between supreme luxury and affordability.
Expertly crafted from fine materials and the unparalleled welt construction, it’s hard to find anything wrong with these cognac beauties. The thick soles deliver great support and the color is eye-catching yet versatile.
Italy is known for two things; their decadent food and their fine leather. Perhaps not quite as titillating as a cheesy Sicilian-style pizza pie, these Italian-made suede boots are equally tempting.
Although all desert boots are Chukka boots, not all Chukka’s are desert boots. These desert style Chukka boots have a crepe sole with distinctive two-tone stitching, giving them a traditional old-world feel. If you’re feeling brave and have the swagger to rock ‘em— FYI—they also come in red!
For guys who like to stay ahead of the trends, Tommy Hilfiger heard your call and man, did they deliver.
If you gravitate towards fashionable footwear with a sporty edge, then it is imperative that you get your feet inside these Jyler chukkas.
Constructed from leather and textile upper and made to be flexible and comfortable, these Chukkas are a welcomed style deviation from traditional Chukka boots. The blue fabric with contrast leather detailing and white soles give off a masculine touch of character and charm.
Frye has done it again!
Few names in footwear have managed to enchant the masses like these guys. They have truly succeeded at creating a craze-worthy lifestyle brand that is selling you so much more than just an average pair of shoes.
Their rugged western flair and city-slicker edge strikes the perfect balance in the Frye Jones Chukka boots. If you’re looking for a casual and refined boot, these would be the perfect addition to your wardrobe. Available in an oiled suede, vintage tanned leather, or Italian Nubuck; Goodyear’s welt construction guarantees long-lasting durability.
Rugged sophistication never goes out of style and Vance Co.’s Grey Manson Chukka Boots embody just that.
These Chukka boots are an awesome pick for my vegan and/or environmentally conscious lads as they are crafted from durable faux suede. Complete with a padded footbed designed for comfort at $39.99, you really can’t go wrong.
11. Weekender Chukka
There’s no doubt you’ll be able to transition effortlessly from work to the weekend in style with Red Wing’s top-rated Weekender Chukka’s.
Made with all of the traditional methods that have kept Red Wing at the forefront of men’s footwear; this boot is versatile, easy-going, and wearable. Constructed from premium weatherproof leather, the elements are no match for these Chukka boots. If you’re a self-proclaimed king of the outdoors, then look no further my friends because these study Chukkas are just what you’ve been looking for.
12. Scout Chukka
Thursday Boot Company’s ‘Scout’ is a modern take on the iconic British desert boot.
This refined boot is oozing with an all American flare that is both classic and contemporary.
Crafted from premium suede, a replaceable Goodyear welt, and studded rubber soles; this is one sturdy boot! Thursday does details right— these babies are lined with a buttery soft glove leather and weather proofed with a WeatherSafe Hydrophobic Coating. No matter where life takes you, these Chukka boots will ensure you can keep up with the best of ‘em.
How to Wear Chukka Boots
Due to the classic and timeless nature of chukka boots, you can easily wear them with a variety of outfits without ever feeling self-conscious.
Easily able to go either super casual to semi-formal, once you have a pair of chukkas, you are going to want to wear them with everything.
To help you see how you can wear them daily, here are a few sample scenarios where chukkas can be worn effortlessly:
When worn with a nice pair of skinny denim jeans along with a button-down or even t-shirt top, chukkas can work no problem.
The type of chukka you can wear in that scenario can either be a semi-polished leather chukka or even one made from suede – either should work.
Smart Casual Attire
Whether it’s at the office or going out for the evening, chukkas can also work here as well. Whether you wear chinos or dark denim jeans, the rounded toe and slightly higher ankle of the chukka (still not as high as a Chelsea boot) will still look quite nice.
Business or Semi-Formal Attire
In this scenario, you are going to be pushing the chukka to its limits.
Very rarely would we recommend wearing a chukka boot to anything business-related or in a semi-formal setting – instead a Chelsea boot will likely be a better choice here.
The only exception that we would make to the above is if the chukka boot is made from a higher-grade leather (full-grain, top-grain, or calfskin) and has more of a shiny or polished finish.
If you wear this type of chukka boot along with dark denim and a blazer, you should be safe. Like much in fashion, this is a judgment call.
How to Clean & Maintain Chukka Boots
While we spoke about the advantages of owning a nice pair of chukka boots at the start of this article, all that means nothing if you don’t take care of your boots regularly.
Chukka boots that have been neglected will not only have a significantly shorter life, but will also begin to crack, dry out, and generally look much worse.
Therefore, we wanted to put together this simple guide on how to clean and maintain your new chukka boots:
1. When Wet, Dry with A Towel
Particularly important in the winter months, you want to make sure that you get into the habit of drying off your chukkas once you get back home.
With roads and sidewalks regularly sanded and salted, these minerals (especially salt) will break down, dry out and ultimately deteriorate the leather over time.
To combat this, simply get a damp micro-fiber towel or a few damp paper towels and wipe down the boot.
It’s a small little step that will make one of the biggest differences in both how your chukkas look and last.
2. Deep Clean Monthly for Leather Chukkas
If you are wearing your chukkas daily, then you’ll want to give them a proper cleaning on a monthly basis.
For the monthly cleaning, you will want to do the following:
- Remove laces
- Brush thoroughly with a fine horsehair or boar’s hair comb (goal is to remove all surface debris)
- Wipe down with a damp cloth
- Use saddle soap for deeper cleanse
Removing the laces and using a saddle soap will lift any gunk or pollutants that might have accumulated around areas not regularly cleaned (shoe tongue and around eyelets).
3. Condition Leather Chukkas
After your chukkas have been cleaned, it’s now time to condition them. Conditioning should be done in all climates as any extreme amount of heat, cold or wetness can destroy the natural patina that develops on the surface over time.
Like cleaning your chukkas, we recommend that you condition monthly after cleaning.
Follow these steps for conditioning your chukkas:
- Read leather conditioner instructions (can vary one brand to another)
- Apply leather conditioner to the uppers with a micro-fiber cloth
- Let boots sit overnight (unlaced)
- Wipe off excess conditioner in the morning
- Replace and wear
4. Deep Clean Monthly for Suede Chukkas
If you own suede chukkas, then the steps for monthly cleaning are going to be much different than your typical leather chukka. You will want to follow these steps for best results:
- Remove laces
- Use a suede brush to lift debris and scuff marks
- Apply a suede spray to retain both texture and look
5. Boot Tree to Maintain Shape & Dry Your Chukkas
While boot trees may seem unnecessary, they are important to own, especially for leather shoes including chukkas.
A boot tree not only helps to keep the shape of the chukka boot intact, but it also plays a key role in preventing the boot of rotting from the inside out.
Typically made of cedar, this moisture-absorbent wood will draw away any sweat or condensation that your feet may have generated when wearing boots.
When placed within the chukka after wearing, it will help to ensure that the liner gets fully dry between wearing.
Lastly, a boot tree will also help to prevent the buildup of odor.
Common Questions About Chukka Boots
As we did our research on chukka boots, we kept seeing men have the same questions over and over. Therefore, we wanted to take a quick minute to address some of the most popular questions should any of them be currently on your mind:
Are chukka boots formal?
Chukka boots aren’t categorically considered to be a formal boot. Their rounded toe, lower ankle and generally more casual or relaxed appearance make them suited for casual, smart casual, or semi-formal attire at most.
If you are looking for a boot that brings a bit more sophistication, you may want to consider a pair of Chelsea boots instead.
What are chukka boots good for?
Given that they have a much more relaxed look and feel, chukka boots are great for daily casual or work wear. If you work in an office setting with a casual dress code, a pair of chukkas worn with dark denim and a button-down make for a great and balanced combination.
What is the difference between chukka boots and desert boots?
Commonly used interchangeably, chukka and desert boots are slightly different from one another.
Desert boots found their origins in World War II when the British soldiers wore them during the Western Desert campaign (source).
These boots were popularized by Clarks when they were introduced post-war in 1950 (source). These boots had suede uppers and were available in either tan or sand colors.
As evident in the chukka boots reviewed in this article, modern-day chukkas are now made from higher quality leather including full-grain, top-grain or calf-skin varieties.
How do I choose chukka boots?
Our best recommendation here is to find a pair of chukka boots that support your daily activities. Rather than buying a shoe that is to only be worn for an occasion that is circled on your calendar, instead, find a chukka boot that can be worn to work daily or on the weekends if you want to bring a bit more sophistication to your style.
The great part about chukkas is that they can be easily dressed up or down and work in a variety of scenarios.
How should a chukka boot fit?
While you always want to verify by checking reviews of other men, most chukkas will follow the Brannock scale. Most companies recommend that you size down by ½ a size from your tennis or athletic shoe size (these shoes typically run bigger and are worn with thicker socks).
Our Criteria for Choosing the Best Chukka Boots
With so many options out there, finding the best chukka boots for men of 2020 was tough. However, after looking at several brands, reviews and feedback, we are confident that our list above provides you with some great options.
When choosing these chukkas, we looked at a variety of factors including general reviews, materials used in the construction of the boot, welt used (Goodyear welt or Black stitch welt), waterproof abilities and many more.
Whether you are looking to get a pair of chukkas made from a quality full-grain leather that will last you years or are looking for some great picks under $100, you should find some that you will be happy with.
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