Style 101: Chukka Boots vs. Desert Boots

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If you’re prone to hunting high and low for the best men’s boots, and especially if you’re prone to scouring street style forums, perhaps you’ve come across a pair of stylish desert boots, a timeless menswear classic. Perhaps you’ve also come across the age-old debate: Chukka boots versus desert boots? Which style is better? What’s the difference? And why exactly might you need a pair of both in your stylish footwear rotation? We’ll answer all those questions in today’s Style 101 entry. 

The History of Chukka Boots and Desert Boots

The chukka boot finds its roots in the military, the same as with so many classic menswear items made current for today’s modern man. Desert boots were pioneered by British soldiers who needed — you guessed it — shoes to take on the desert abroad. That led to the casual structure, now made of suede or beeswax leather most often, plus the soft, comfortable crepe sole, but it didn’t take on serious traction until about 1950, when Nathan Clark launched the first of what would become the brand’s classic-yet-modern desert boot. Plenty have followed, but it’s tough to beat the original. 

In fact, the Clarks Desert Boots remain, to this day, the best example of this style and a menswear icon worn the world over by average guys, style aficionados and world travelers. Anywhere you go in the world, classic desert boots are just going to work — plain and simple. Of course, the chukka boot also fits this mold (and that’s why we think you need both). That being said, the desert boot is decidedly more casual, and that’s one key difference when it comes to the chukka boot. Keep in mind that not all desert boots are created equal — nor are all chukka boots, as luck would have it.

And as with a silhouette that’s been around for so long and spawned plenty of brands offering up their own takes on the style, what’s the difference between chukka boots and desert boots? Plenty of debate exists — believe me. Chukka boots typically feature a dressier, sleeker silhouette, for starters — Thursday Boots Chukka Boots deliver on that front. 

Chukka Boots vs. Desert Boots – Construction

Most chukka boots have the same 2-eyelet lacing system as their desert boot counterparts, but chukka boots can feature significantly sturdier construction (like the Dainite rubber sole found on Thursday’s chukka boots) or else Goodyear welt construction (a replaceable outsole like the one found on Allen Edmonds chukka boots). And naturally, proper chukka boots are made of dressier leathers, ranging from Horween to European full-grain — classic deserts boots in their true form are done up in suede. We also love the rugged rubber outsole of the Florsheim Foundry Chukka Boots, made to provide traction on slick city streets. 

Does that make either one more appealing than the other? We leave that up to you — chukka boots are both dressy and highly versatile, wearable with everything from dark denim and a white henley to your best navy worsted wool suit. Desert boots, too, represent an air of rebellious cool and classic style — and while we think both are needed in a well-rounded men’s footwear collection, the debate about desert boots versus chukka boots just might rage on for years (to say the least).