Chukka boots probably get their name from the chukka (or chukker), a period of a polo game lasting a quarter of the total duration. The mystery is what the link to the footwear is because the game is played in knee-length riding boots, not ankle-highs. A theory is that they were worn after the game, but in truth, nobody knows.
What we do know is that the chukka boot is now a footwear staple, worn in both formal and casual settings. The original chukka was a light brown and had two or three lace holes, the upper reaching the ankle. Nowadays, the term is a lot looser and can mean a range of ankle boots with no limit to the number of lace holes, and a choice of colours. So how do you wear chukka boots? Let’s have a look.
What do you wear chukka boots with?
Because chukka boots can be formal or casual, they can be worn with jeans, trousers or a suit. Generally, the khaki suede ones go best with jeans, whereas polished black or brown leather chukkas have more formal undertones. Just make sure the trouser leg isn’t narrow at the ankle. Chukka boots can also give a pulled together smart casual look with chinos.
The high ankle of the chukka boot means you need to be careful when you choose the width of your trousers or jeans. Too narrow and they’ll get bunched up at the bottom as they won’t slide over the boots. Too loose and you could end up adopting a kind of 1970s hippy look. The chukka will always lend your outfit a smart edge, even if you’re quite informal, so always keep your legwear long. Shorts don’t tend to work.
What are chukka boots used for?
In modern times, chukka boots are an everyday pair of ankle boots that can be either formal or relaxed, but never completely laid-back. In the past, they were used by soldiers in the North African campaign to help keep the sand out while not being too heavy.
“Chukka boots” is an umbrella term for a wide range of styles, so you can wear them on formal or semi-formal occasions, such as the American Craft chukka; they can be casual, like the Adventure 2.0; or they can be active, like the Newmarket chukka.
Can you wear chukkas in winter?
Chukka boots can be worn all year round – in fact, they’re ideal for winter as the high sides offer some protection against the chilly ground-level air. Be careful with classic suede chukka boots, though – they can lose their finish in rain and snow.
If you’re looking to do more wintry things than commute or hang out, like heading into the countryside or doing some outdoor work, you might want to consider the outdoor style chukka boots we have in our collection. They share many characteristics with hiking boots but have a more urban sole.
What is the difference between chukka boots and desert boots?
The main difference between chukka boots and desert boots is the sole. Desert boots have a flat but rough crepe sole with a small heel. Chukka boots have either a leather sole or a more normal grippy rubber sole, depending on the formality.
In fact, desert boots are a kind of chukka and can trace their history back through the style. Desert boots are never really intended for formal wear – they are a much more rough and ready design, even when they are expertly made. Desert boots are almost always in a sandy or tan colour with a suede finish, a nod to their wartime desert roots.
Are chukka boots waterproof?
Chukka is a shape of boot, not a specific brand or product. Therefore some are waterproof, and others are not. It depends entirely on their intended use. Outdoor sports chukka boots will be waterproof and a formal pair might not be, and in the middle are general-purpose water-resistant chukkas.
The outdoor style boots mentioned above are waterproof to tackle the wet and snowy terrain. However, some of our other street chukka boots are waterproof, too. Take the Larchmont Chukka, for example – it’s 100% waterproof and has a good, deep grip so when it pours, you’ll still be dry and sure-footed.
Are chukka boots good for hiking?
Chukka boots designed for formal wear are not meant for hiking – in fact, it could be dangerous to wear them on rough, steep terrain. If you like the chukka style and want hiking boots, get a pair that’s designed for the activity.
Our Field Trekker boot is, as the name suggests, perfect for hiking and has relatively high sides for maximum comfort and stability. They’re also breathable and come with firm soles and midsoles, so they are a great pair of chukka boots for hitting the mountain trails.
Chukka: more than a boot
A mysterious name, a military history, a branch into formal, casual and active, and a thousand interpretations – the chukka boot almost defies classification. But as soon as you set foot in one, you get an instant sense of comfort, sure-footedness and style that tells you without a doubt that it’s a chukka. Take a look through our styles and get yourself a piece of history.