We're as eager to pull out our spring sandals as the next vitamin D deficient person. But, we mustn't forget about the pieces that got us through fall, winter, and even the occasional chilly spring day: wear-five-days-in-a-row-without-thinking-about-it Chelsea boots. From their origins in Victorian England to their ubiquity on the feet of our favorite A-list style icons, we're taking a brief look back at the history of the made-for-walking boot we can't get enough of. The convenience of Chelsea boots has been lauded from the get-go: Elastic-sided boots were patented in 1851 by Queen Victoria's shoemaker, J. Sparkes-Hall, who stated that the Queen "walks in them daily and thus gives the strongest proof of the value she attaches to the invention." These boots were mainly seen as utilitarian — ideal for slipping on and off before riding horses — until the 1960s, when the style became popular with the more pedestrian crowd. We can credit the mod culture blooming in swinging London — and a little band called The Beatles — for popularizing the style, says Patricia Black, creative director at the Albright Fashion Library. "Now, it’s considered a classic, but it’s always been the club culture that has turned to them," Black says of the groovy aesthetic responsible for the style's rise in popularity. She explains that in addition to the look, people responded to its comfort and easy silhouette. Designers continued working on the Chelsea in subsequent decades — Black points out that Manolo Blahnik, who grew up during the mod era, has been making them since the '80s. However, the boots didn't "turn chic" until the shift to a simpler fashion aesthetic in the '90s. "It was the shoe that helped to hold a minimalist silhouette," Black argues. A century and a half later, and Sparkes-Hall's innovation is still going strong — with both men and women, and celebrities and laypeople alike. On top of its unbeatable convenience, the timeless shoe brings us one step closer to copping the style of some of our favorite celebs, who also can't get enough of the classic yet versatile silhouette. So, we pulled some star-favorite styles — from Alexa Chung's tall pair to Kanye West's suede kicks — just to make your A-list style stalking that much simpler. We begin, unsurprisingly, with a Jenner: Of all the big names we've come to expect at recent Fashion Weeks, among our favorites are Kendall's go-to Alexander Wang boots. (Sorry, North.) The model trots her trusty Anoucks across the globe as an essential item in her off-duty wardrobe. Jenner's iteration of the Chelsea is a good example of how far the style has come: “It’s changed over the years from pointy to round to square, depending on the fashion of the day," Black explains.
The Chelsea boot love runs deep with the Kardashian-Jenner-West clan. Kanye, too, has been known to enjoy a good jodhpur, especially for casual strolls around New York. Same, Kanye.
Airport footwear is always dicey: It needs to slip on and off easily, but also be comfortable enough for however many hours you'll be 30,000 feet up in the air. As Alexa Chung knows, Chelsea boots are an obvious answer to the travel dilemma — easily taken on and off, and sleek enough to make sure you look good upon arrival.
Given its history, it's not surprising that the Chelsea boot is quite popular among today's It Brits. Harry Styles, for one, has been spotted in many iterations of the style: from brown suede to sleek leather (like these, which he wore to a Burberry show).
Go patent or go home, says Diane Kruger in her well-polished boots.
Julia Roberts, on the other hand, goes for height in her rag & bones: High-heeled boots are not only an excellent day-to-night alternative when you can't make it home to change your shoes, but they add serious drama to your everyday jeans-and-tee combo. The stacked heel is another feature Black says we're starting to see more of in Chelsea boots, and we're definitely digging it.