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, taking it from inclement-weather standby to one of the most coveted items for 2021. Already the fashion set is exemplifying how to wear combat boots with absolutely everything this season.
While heavy, lug-sole boots may be rooted in the tough, gritty vibes of military garb or the irreverence of the punk-rock scene, recent versions showcase a greater range beyond the traditional rough-and-tumble look. The Row debuted refined, inconspicuous renditions in keeping with its signature brand of understated luxury, while Prada’s cargo-pocket statement-makers are absolutely dripping with cool-girl appeal. Still, you can never go wrong with a trusty pair of Dr. Martens.
Whether you contrast your sturdy stompers with something soft and feminine like a floral maxi or voluminous babydoll dress, 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.
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How To Wear Combat Boots: All About Balance
Tough boots are perfect for balancing out the preciousness of a puff-sleeved babydoll dress with just the right amount of rebellion.
How To Wear Combat Boots: Polished Separates
For a less severe look that feels more "classic menswear fatigues" than "garage band", opt for an earthy color palette (think brown, olive, and tan) and sophisticated, timeless silhouettes.
How To Wear Combat Boots: Cool Checks
Wooly Buffalo checks and clunky combat boots are a match made in grunge heaven. Update the ‘90s throwback pairing for modern wear by swapping out the standard flannel shirt for a cool draped scarf, and instead of faded black denim, some technical cargo pants.
How To Wear Combat Boots: Day To Night
Never have austere military boots felt more elegant than when you put them with an embellished satin gown that oozes Old Hollywood glamour. For this unexpected combination, try to choose a boot style that's on the slicker, more polished side of the spectrum.
How To Wear Combat Boots: Pop Of Color
A bold color calls for a bold shoe that can keep up. Start with a tailored mini dress in a daring hue, then ground the eye-catching garment with some lug-soled moto boots.
How To Wear Combat Boots: Monochromatic
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. Monochrome separates may not be anything out of the ordinary, but a sleek white boot instead of the usual black makes the entire outfit feel extra cool and modern.
How To Wear Combat Boots: Head-To-Toe Leather
Classic combat boots, like Dr. Marten's lace-up style, can almost pass for professional when paired with a sleek leather dress.
How To Wear Combat Boots: Allover Polish
Complete a preppy ensemble with lace-up boots that feature elevated design details, like a glossy finish and brogue-style toe. Preferably with thin white socks peeking out from the tops.
How To Wear Combat Boots: Modern Bohemian
Combat boots may not be the most obvious partner for a flowing floral maxi dress, but together they become this cool mix of insouciant go-getter and graceful bohéme. Up the edge by adding a studded leather belt around the waist and selecting boots with substantial uppers or extra hardware.
How To Wear Combat Boots: '90s-Inspired
Take your style cues from a late-‘90s Kate Moss and wear your favorite silky slip dress with some ultra-chunky, take-no-prisoners platform combat boots. Throw on a well-worn leather jacket and stomp on out the door.
How To Wear Combat Boots: Cool Grunge
Distressed denim and classic Doc Martens are two staples of the grunge phase that are definitely worth revisiting. Put a fresh spin on the vintage duds with a snakeskin outer layer that feels entirely of-the-moment and on-trend for 2021.