I recently had a customer ask me to compare my brand’s chelsea boots to RM Williams and asking what separates the two being that they are both $495 and wholecut patterns? And I had to really think about this as RM Williams makes a great boot for sure. And it made me ponder deep into my previous train of thought where I used to actually dislike chelsea boots. And that was around the time that I was handling a lot of RM William ones as I was shining shoes at Gieves & Hawkes and many customers brought those in. So I started to ask myself as well, ‘what really separates us?’ Because in terms of quality or construction is there is not much to say either way. Both are well made, welted, wholecut chelsea boots. And both are $495.

RM Williams, the two above

So what finally hit me on the head was the idea of the chelsea boot itself and how it is perceived in the minds of the wearer. Is it a smart boot? Or a rugged, casual boot? Thats the actual question.

Gaziano & Girling on the DG70 last

It made me realize that I never liked chelsea boots because prior to seeing one on the DG70 last by G&G, I never really found one that suited my aesthetic criteria for elegance. Back then you tended to only find the extremes i.e. a Jeffrey West type that was overly elongated and looked like you are wearing Ski’s or the rugged RM Williams type that looks like you have to be a rugby player to wear one. Or a bad ass Aussie from the Outback. Of which neither appealed to me. It was very rare to find one that was narrow in the waist, elegantly cut without being overly elongated. And I realized once making mine that this is the only way I liked them. The rugged ones dont appeal to me at all. Mainly because, quite frankly I am not rugged by any means. And I like to dress with slim cut clothes which contradicts that look.

RM William boots above

J.FitzPatrick boots, below and this one above

So after lots of thought, I explained just that. Quality aside, these two boots are made with different ideas on how to execute their look. Our boot, like G&G, is a dressy chelsea boot. Its not to say that you cant wear it with jeans. But its sleek. Its meant to be elegant, not rugged. Its meant to be able to transition from smart to casual all in a day’s wear. It’s hard wearing but not meant for wearing overly hard. RM Williams’ classic boot is Rugged. Its hard wearing and meant to be worn hard. You can wear it in the desert. It is supposed to get beat up. Polishing it is just an option. Maybe their customer prefers it more beat up looking? So that was my answer, leaving it for him to decide. And well, I didnt make the sale, but by telling the truth at least he seemed to get what he wanted. RM, my commission please 😉 (J/K)

That being, how do you like your chelseas? Elegant or Rugged?

Links to grab boots in post:




“Burnham” In Black Calf – DG 70

13 thoughts on “Chelsea Boots – Smart or Casual?”

  1. That is a most interesting article. You might even go more into details and my fascination would never cease. For example, which model is more difficult in which respect for the shoemaker to manufacture and why.

  2. R.M. Has certainly gone a far way since its rugged days. The lasts, although still wide by modern standards, are far more narrower and elegant than they used to be. Compare mine to my dad’s who had has for 10+ years and it is far more obvious.
    The modern ones, the ones that cost $495, when polished and cared for are no less elegant than any European/British boot. Having said that, because of its roots, they tend to be worn by those who have a disdain for their foot-ware. Having said that Aussies also wear their RMs with their suits in winter. Its just a case of if they wear them as good as us who care for shoes.


    JFP Chelsea boots are not elegant… They are the MOST elegant ones in the world! I say.

  4. I prefer the dressier style, like yours and the G&G, John Lobb, etc. I also think they go with more casual attire, including jeans. They also seem a bit retro in a good way. 1960’s Steve McQueen, wearing a nice turtleneck, trim jacket/blazer, and moderately trim slacks. I would never wear them with a business suit.

  5. I have always noticed the elegance in your shoes, and there is something I have never understood.

    Back in 2000 when you needed to know something about shoes plus how to procure them, I imported a pair of Crockett and Jones Coniston boots from the UK. Why I bought this boot? It was the best looking (sleak compared to hiking boots or blue collar work boots) boot I could find to walk a couple miles in a Chicago winter that could take the beating and look halfway decent with wool trousers and a nice jacket.

    Alright I’m past the verbose self absorbed shopping story, and onto my question. Your lifestyle, living in the world’s major cosmopolitan cities, requires much walking. So how do your elegant shoes hold up daily walking in London and New York?

    1. Juan Manuel Ballesteros Allué

      Well, I can say that my JFP Oxfords do their job and keeps me comfortable and elegant. I walk from my home to my office everyday… around 40 minutes. And I get a lot of attention! My feet really…

  6. I do approve Sean’s comment !
    It’s a quick an easy way to say that all RM Williams boots are rugged nowadays (the shape is quite nervous with square chiseled toe). it’s a pity i cannot join a picture to my comment because i do not wear my RM williams boots in casual and inelegant wearings.

    by the way i get also a Carmina wholecut chelsea pair of boots in costidix shape, and those are really really sleek and elegant at a price, when black friday or promo, for instance, that is not so far of yours and you can choose the leather, the medaillion and the color of the rubber band on JR sole.

  7. just to correct one point in my previous comment about Carmina’s wholecut chelsea boots price :

    – i bought them two years ago and price seem to have increased
    – i am europeen and i paid them in euro and i remembered it was around 500 euros (not dollars) so those boots were in fact more expansive than the fitzpatrickone (but it is my point of view the design and construction are one level higher)

  8. Like you, I never much cared for Chelsea boots either, although I could not quite articulate why not. I always felt that the large swath of elastic detracted from the elegance of the boot. That is, until I saw yours. I’ve only had them a few days, but I’m loving them so far! Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

  9. You’re buying two different images when you buy these types of boots: City slicker vs jackeroo

    RM Williams are still hand made in Adelaide and come from a tradition of creating smart outback wear. Australia is the driest contient on earth, our farmers go through the most austere of conditions: bushfires to floods, we need clothes that can match the environment so they need to be durable, practical and comfortable.

    You will see RMs worn at horse riding competitions through to boardrooms in Australia. We are a relaxed unpretentious culture and the RM fits that mould.

    Chelsea boots from G&G or Berluti are more delicate and refined, they’re sleek, stylish and softer. They’re not hard wearing work horses that can last day in and day out but at least fabulous.

    Each company is selling a different image, you just need to choose the image you want.

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