I received an email the other day from a guy in Texas who asked,
I was invited to the office Christmas party at a restaurant in town. I was speaking with my wife about what to wear. She suggested a suit. I said that I wanted to wear my boots. She cringed and disagreed, saying that boots don’t go with a suit and pulled out a pair of black dress shoes and told me in no uncertain terms to wear them. Then I found your blog and now am questioning whether to go along with my wife or do what I wanted to do in the first place, wear my boots with a suit to the party. What is your opinion?
Okay, I’ll respond. But first…
…I replied to thank him for his question and asked a couple questions before deciding what I would say in response. First, I asked what he usually wore to work (style of dress and whether he wore boots regularly, sometimes, or never) and second, if I could have permission to write about this on my blog.
He replied quickly to say that he works in an office and wears boots on Fridays unless he has an important meeting with “outside clients.” He also gave me permission to write about it on this blog as long as I kept his name and location within Texas out of it. I agreed (and that’s what I do anyway when I write about the content of some questions that I get via email. All photos in this blog to illustrate my points are of me and my boots, not someone else.)
Okay, so he has been seen in boots in the office. Good. That takes away the “surprise factor” of first-time reactions to someone wearing boots where others are not accustomed to seeing such footwear on someone they know.
I have written often on this blog that lots of guys are concerned about reactions by other people about wearing boots. I do not understand or know why so many men have such fears, but those concerns are regularly held by many, many men, especially by two groups: 1) men who work in an office that have a stated or unstated conservative dress codes; and 2) men who attend religious services in a church.
Because this guy owns and wears boots on occasion, then the reaction by his wife was probably about the combination of wearing boots with a suit.
My opinion: (to the wife): get over it. Lots of men, especially in Texas, wear dress cowboy boots with suits regularly.
When boots are worn with a suit, a guy has the pants legs over the boots, so the boot foot looks pretty much like a dress shoe. Best yet, you don’t have to worry about socks or whether your socks match your clothing. Who cares? Better still, when you wear boots, you can wear good-quality thick cushioned socks so when you have to stand and mingle at a party, your feet are much more comfortable than they would feel wearing thin dress socks with standard dress shoes. Boots win again when it comes to comfort!
A guy in a suit must be careful, though, that his pants legs are long enough to accommodate the higher heel of a boot compared with the relatively low heel of a dress shoe. You don’t want to have your pants appear to be “riding high” or not long enough for the pant leg to rest or stack on the vamp (foot) of the boot.
If you have that problem — suit pants not long enough — you can do two things: 1) have the pants re-hemmed to let them out about a half-inch, or 2) if you still may wear that suit with low-heeled dress shoes, then consider getting low-heeled dress boots, such as ropers. There are many good-looking roper boots available that fit the bill of being both a boot as well as low-heeled and dressy.
There’s something about women thinking that if a man wears boots with a suit, that he is planning to tuck his pants legs into the boots and look like some cowpoke who just stepped off the ranch and has cow dung on his boots. We have to remember that most women wear fashion boots where you see the whole boot, while men don’t wear boots like that (except motorcops). Us boot-wearing guys have to educate the women in our lives that we can wear boots “normally for men’s fashion” and we’re not going to look like some dimestore cowboy if we choose to wear boots with dress clothes to work, at a party, or even to church. Not the case, ladies.
Another advantage of wearing boots with a suit, besides the comfort of thicker cushioned socks, is that boots have a higher heel and many guys appreciate that slide edge. I know I do. I am of the height where I appear shorter than the average height of most men, so even an inch of height from my boots helps improve confidence when I stand tall and smile.
What it all boils down to is that some people have perceptions about boots that are influenced by past experience, observations, misunderstandings, or worse, reading those opinionated style blogs that generally are “anti-boot,” especially by authors who espouse that they are the authority on how a man should “dress for success.”
What usually happens is that most people don’t notice that a man is wearing boots. Very very few people look down at a guy’s feet, especially when standing. Our social norms have us look at each other’s faces.
The few who notice boots say, “nice boots,” or “you look great in those boots.” It is the very rare exception that anyone makes a snide remark. The confident man also has a comeback in mind, such as to the comment, “where’d you park your horse?” with, “he’s out in the parking lot. Just dropped a load on that Beemer of yours.”
When the writer of the email asked for my opinion, of course I encouraged him to wear boots with his suit. I said that he should wear boots that are black, brown, or black cherry in color, and made of leather. If he wants to be a bit more edgy with his boots, he can wear exotic skin boots. I would avoid fancy wingtip boots with wild color inlays of blue, red, yellow, or other bright colors. But that’s it — “normal boots” with a suit work just fine.
The guy who wrote to me responded to thank me for confirming his thoughts and reassure him that he could wear his boots and convince his wife to let him do so. I wish him well, booted in a suit, at his office Christmas party and being booted onward next year — even while wearing suits when meeting “outside clients.”
Life is short: get over fears and wear boots.