Utilitarian, lace-up ankle boots are a staple that you wear year after year without giving much thought to their sartorial value — they’re weatherproof and practical, never out of fashion, but not usually categorized as something patently trendy. That is, until now. The latest designer collections have propelled the chunky shoe into this year’s trending top slot, taking it from inclement-weather standby to one of the most coveted, wear-everywhere items for 2021. And already the fashion crowd is illustrating how to wear combat boots with absolutely everything this season.
While heavy, lug-sole boots may be rooted in the gritty vibes of military garb or the irreverence of the punk-rock scene, recent outfits, courtesy of Instagram’s finest fashion mavericks, showcase a greater range beyond the traditional rough-and-tumble aesthetic. Some fashion girls are exemplifying a nonconformist, girly-meets-grunge clash by paring their sturdy combat boots with dreamy, almost saccharine dresses.
Others, meanwhile, allow their footwear to provide the statement impact of their outfit and opt for boots like Prada’s cargo-pocket style that are absolutely dripping with cool-girl appeal. And, of course, there’s always a trusty pair of Dr. Martens — aka the grunge-inspired blueprint for lace-up footwear, which pairs flawlessly with nearly any garment imaginable.
Whether you contrast your sturdy stompers with something soft and feminine like a printed maxi dress or a pastel color palette, or lean into the army theme with a structured jacket and tucked-in trousers — or assemble an outfit that's somewhere in between — now is the time to go all-out G.I. Jane.
We only include products that have been independently selected by TZR's editorial team. However, we may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.
All About Balance
Tough boots are perfect for balancing out the dreamy vibe of a puffy-sleeved dress. For an extreme clash of feminine and grunge, try one of Selkie’s airy and voluminous frocks paired with a boot in a trendy platform design.
For a less severe look that feels more “classically minimalist” than “lead singer of an underground garage band,” opt for an earthy color palette (think brown, olive, and tan) and sophisticated, timeless silhouettes — like the structured look of a crisp trench coat.
Checkered prints and clunky combat boots are a match made in grunge heaven. Update the ‘90s throwback look by swapping out the standard flannel shirt for a patterned dress. Slip into a pair of platform boots, like Dr. Marten’s vegan leather iteration, accessorize with a printed ascot scarf either around your neck or in your hair, and you’re ready to rock and roll.
Pop Of Color
A bold color calls for a bold shoe that can keep up. Start with a tailored trouser in a playful hue and then ground the eye-catching garment with hefty moto boots — like Prada’s pair, which comes with a handy micro pouch that can hold anything your heart desires like, say, your AirPods or a light snack.
Day To Night
Never have austere military boots felt more elegant than when you put them with a dressy frock that exudes polished sophistication. For this unexpected combination, choose a boot style that's on the slicker, more polished side of the spectrum. Case in point: Stuart Weitzman’s neutral and low-heeled pair.
If you’re a minimalist at heart, subscribe to the combat boot trend in a way that suits your simple, color-averse aesthetic but still boasts plenty of style power. On the bottom, try pairing leather trousers with a sleek ankle-length combat boot. For the top half of your look, stick to light neutrals to balance everything out. The below jacket from The North Face’s collab with Gucci makes for an easy-to-style, muted option.
A Non-Black Boot
If you’d like to replicate the anti-colorful look of a black combat boot but want to veer from tradition (which, let’s be honest, is a tenet at the core of grunge ideology) try a shoe in a light cream colorway. Continue the brightly-hued momentum via your clothing by piecing together a monochromatic ensemble in a dusty pastel hue.
Take your style cues from a late-‘90s Kate Moss and wear your favorite silky slip dress with some lace-up, take-no-prisoners combat boots. A slip and boot combo is ideal for colder weather since you can layer other garments underneath and atop your dress until your heart’s content. Pick up a purse that boasts the It-girl approved pastrycore design — à la JW Pei’s ruched croissant-like Gabbi Bag — and then stomp on out the door.
If all else fails, express your inner biker chick and sport an all-leather look. For an additional dose of edge, opt for a leather lace-up boot in a knee-high silhouette.
Whether you're going back into the office or still working from home, consider pulling your favorite suit out. But instead of leather or loafers, give the polished set an edgy touch with a pair of combat boots.
Combat boots may not be the most obvious partner for a billowy midi dress, but together they become this cool mix of insouciant go-getter and graceful bohème. And on those days wear the chill in the air is a bit too strong to bare your legs in the open, throw on a pair of opaque black tights.
This article was originally published on