Harry Styles, Kayne West, David Beckham, David Gandy, and, er, the British prime minister. No, this is not a spoof fashion show frow (or April fool’s joke for that matter), but a group of men united over the Chelsea boot. Imagine.
You may have missed the earth-shattering news that the prime minister is the latest adopter of 1960s boot style once popularised by the Beatles. The Chelsea boot –thought to have been originally designed for horse riding – picked up its moniker during the swinging Kings Road era. However, nothing trumps the fact that the original Star Wars stormtroopers all wore Chelsea boots sprayed white. Which if you think about it, in fashion terms, is so terribly Margiela, no?
Cameron, who has been in the shoe spotlight previously for his dedication to black loafers even on his holidays, recently sported a pair of black leather Chelsea boots with a suit and tie to the unveiling of a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Parliament Square. One can only imagine what Theresa May, the unofficial shoe-con of Downing Street, thought about this hogging of the Tory shoe limelight.
Meanwhile, I polled a panel of Chelsea-boot experts on this latest sartorial-political statement: First, Teo van den Broeke, Esquire’s senior style editor, who is often snapped by street style photographers in Chelseas, says the shape of the boots on Cameron is good “but he’s not wearing them well. There’s something about a flappy suit trouser breaking over the face of a slick fronted boot that looks particularly dated.”
GQ.com fashion editor Nick Carvell, who only wears the Chelsea – “They’re simply the smartest, most versatile boot a man can have in his armoury” – applauds Cameron for trying to modernise his wardrobe. “The man looks good,” he says. “I like the fact that he’s chosen black as opposed to brown, which would have been far too casual with a suit for a formal event. And while I don’t think it will boost the boot’s reputation particularly, it boosts his style.”
Lastly, I talk to Marc Hare, whose Mr Hare collection features the Trane Chelsea boot, which features zips on the sides instead of the customary elastic panel for “razor sharpness”. He pulls no punches on what he thinks of Cameron in Chelseas: “The same way I feel about every action of Cameron’s. Disaffected, marginalised and less rich. The Chelsea boot has been around for a very long time and I think the history books will show in time that Cameron is probably just a fad we are going through.”
Chelsea boots have long existed outside the frippery of fashion weeks and runway shows because essentially they are a well-designed classic that work in a variety of contexts and pretty much go with anything … well, not shorts, but still.
However, there are certain nuances to consider. Leather is generally considered more formal than suede – Loake do an excellent pair in brown – so suiting dressed with suede Chelseas can jar. Though suede (see Marks Spencer’s brown suede version) looks brilliant with a wool overcoat and hacked-off or rolled-up jeans – and even better if the boots are a bit worn in. Van den Broeke is a fan of them worn with slim cropped trousers, though he notes: “It’s important for the hem of the trouser leg to meet the top of the boot when standing.”
Carvell, meanwhile, wears his Chelseas with denim and suits. His favourite pairs are from Russell Bromley and Red Wing and his next Chelsea purchase is likely to be from Saint Laurent – the Parisian label that totally owns the drainpipe-finished-with-a-boot-swagger runway look. Theirs actually come with a Cuban heel for both extra rocker boy raciness and height. And yes, let us all hope that Dave doesn’t find out about those bad boys any time soon or else the whole country will draw to a gobsmacked standstill.
Simon Chilvers is men’s style director of Matchesfashion.com