A Guide to Dress Boots (featuring Allen Edmonds Dalton)

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Continuing with the break-out guides from the Fall and Winter Boots: My Favorite Styles post, next up is the gentleman of the hour – the Dress Boot.

General Background

The dress boot was the footwear of choice for men of yesteryear.

Until the end of the Victorian period, men wore boots exclusively and shoes were only worn by women.

This was true for both work and formal wear. So traditionally, dress boots are considered more formal than shoes.

On the other hand, our current view on “boots” is something of rugged and rustic origins.

These views together make them some of the most versatile footwear you can purchase.

While we could spend a lot of time splitting hairs about what divides dress boots from work boots, the reality is that it's a continuum and most are somewhere in the middle.

One pair may seem too formal for a backyard barbecue in rural Alabama and simultaneously too informal for a dinner party in Manhattan.

So here I'm going to make several generalizations about what qualifies as a dress boot based on two things: material and design.

  • Material – Calfskin (typical dress shoe leather), shell cordovan, or suede are common dress boot materials. Thicker, oil-tanned leathers, are reserved for work boots. Oil-tanned leather is the type that allows you to rub a scuff out with your finger. You'll usually see the display model in the store covered in claw marks, now you know the ones I'm talking about. Dress boots also typically have leather soles. They can have rubber, but they won't be the thick, crazy lugged variety you would see at a construction site.
  • Design – Wingtips, plain-toe, and cap-toe are all common on dress boots. The silhouette will be more sleek than a work boot. Dress boots typically have a more pointed toe, as opposed to work boots which must be more bulbous to accommodate a steel insert. With ankle heights in the 6-8” range, dress boots can be lace up, slip on, buckle, or button. Lacing closure can be either balmoral or blucher. See below if you're confused.



My Experience

I've chosen to go with the Allen Edmonds Dalton for my go-to dress boot.

I searched long and hard and finally landed on these as the perfect combination of comfort, price, appearance, functionality, and formality.

I wanted something that could be worn with jeans and also with a suit in less formal situations.

I wanted something that could stand up the the elements while also looking polished.

Features I Liked

The blucher lacing style makes the boots a little more casual and at home with a pair of jeans.

The dark color makes them more formal but also better able to hide stains.

The wingtip design makes them a little more appropriate for casual wear, when compared to a sleek plain or cap toe boot.

The Calfskin upper allows me to give them a protective and elegant shine if desired.

Side note: oil-tanned leather doesn't take a shine well.

How to Wear

Refined Rockstar – Jeans and a Tee




The ultimate smart, casual look for colder months – Chinos, Button-up, and a Sweater





Gentleman Badass – Suited and Booted




Options (costs from low to high)

Low – Florsheim Chelsea Boot (very lightweight and comfortable, size down 1/2 to 1 full size)

Mid – Allen Edmonds Dalton (my pick in dark chocolate)

High – Allen Edmonds Dalton Cordovan (drool!)

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  • Reply
    March 2, 2016 at 11:52 pm

    Cool!!!Any suggestions for black AE Dalton?

  • Reply
    March 13, 2016 at 10:36 pm

    Are you wearing the Cordovan or Dark Chocolate in these photos?

    • Reply
      March 14, 2016 at 5:55 am

      Those are Dark Chocolate. I actually used red shoe polish on them so they have a deeper color than they did from the factory.

      • Reply
        March 14, 2016 at 6:11 pm

        They look great! I just bought the bourbon, but after seeing yours, I will be purchasing the Dark Chocolate. Thanks!

        • Reply
          March 14, 2016 at 6:38 pm

          I love the bourbon color! The only AEs I have right now are in walnut, black, and dark chocolate. I need some more for sure.

        • Reply
          April 3, 2016 at 10:39 am

          The combination of the dark chocolate and red polish looks amazing. I might have to try this with my AE fifth street boot in dark brown, which is a nice deep brown but quite as dark as the dark chocolate. Btw, this is a good time to get the bourbob dalton since AE’s closing out the bourbon color. Bourbon Dalton’s can be had for $197+ free shipping from AE factory stores.

          • Nate
            April 3, 2016 at 8:33 pm

            It’ll look awesome. I used to have a pair of Fifth Avenues in the same color. I’m going to have to check into that deal!

      • Reply
        April 7, 2017 at 9:38 pm

        What brand of red shoe polish do you use? Looks great.

  • Reply
    Martin from France
    April 21, 2016 at 4:12 am

    Hey Nate,

    Love the purple check shirt, elegantly understated. Which brand is it ? Thanks !

  • Reply
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