Working Hard or Hardly Working

Every so often, a day’s work calls for you to strap on a pair of rugged boots with non-slip soles, but nothing says you can’t look good doing it. The classic image many of us have of work boots might be a cheap and uncomfortable brand from your local big-box store. After all, if you’re not a flannel-shirt-and-weathered-hands kind of a guy, you probably won’t need the boots very often, so why spend a lot of money on them? 

The reasons you should spend wisely on a good pair of workboots are: (1) Good work boots feel amazing when you do need them, and (2) Why wouldn’t you want to look stylish, even if you’re sweating in the summer sun? I’d go one step further and say that, if you choose the right pair of boots, you might end up wearing them for other occasions, too. Here are some of the best-looking, highest-quality work boots on the market.

Doc Martens work boots give you a classic look. They’re instantly recognizable for what they are, and the 1460 features that patented air-cushioned, oil-and-fat-resistant, slip-resistant sole that you’re looking for in a work boot. Dr. Martens boots haven’t always been worn for reasons of manual labor. Punk rockers in the 1970s, pop stars in the 1980s, grunge musicians in the 1990s, and hundreds of fashion icons ever since have donned a pair of Docs. In a New York Times article from the 1990s, a source was quoted as saying: “Doc Martens are like Levis. They have crossed over and transcended any notion of being a cult item or temporary fad.” Not bad for a pair of utilitarian work boots.

You may know the brand Carhartt for their coveralls and work chinos, but they also manufacture a handsome selection of boots for the working man, including several with steel toes. If you’re looking for a crossover style to wear both for work and leisure, try one of their wedge boots. They’re made with oil-tanned leather in a few different colors, and although they were designed for men who work in warehouses and on construction sites, they’re handsome enough for double duty–especially the tan model. Carhartt’s selection can both kick it up a notch with more rugged, all-weather, impact-resistant, insulated boots or tone it down with non-safety toe Oxford-style work shoes. You can choose how serious of a boot you need.

Danner is a Portland-based boot brand that has been around since the 1930s. They have several handsome product lines, including an indoor work boot collection, the steel yard collection, the bull run collection, the quarry collection, and safety toe boots. The steel yard work boots, for example, are made to be comfortable, durable, slip-resistant, and customizable. The boots in this collection also offer electrical hazard protection. You can choose between waterproofing or a breathable liner, depending on your needs, and you can add on toe protection and/or a wedge outsole to help keep you from tracking debris. All of the boots are actually made in Portland, Oregon, and there’s a cool quote on their website: “You don’t put on a pair of Danner boots to sit around the house. They’re made for adventure, exploration, and the hard work the men and women who wear them perform day in and day out.”

Viberg is a Canadian boot brand that got its start roughly around the same time as the American Danner brand. One may argue that $720 is more than the traditional worker might spend on a pair of boots, but the Viberg Short Hunter is a hunting boot with a black Vibram sole, channeled insole, and Goodyear welt construction. Their Pachena Bay boot, at a similar price point, is modeled after Italian hiking boots with commando soles, gunmetal hardware, and stitch down construction. Depending on the kind of work you’re planning on using your boots for, it might be worth spending that much money for a pair of amazingly good-looking–and high quality–work boots. 

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