FRENCH LUXURY HOUSE Balenciaga currently sells a boot known as the Bulldozer. Rarely has a product name seemed so appropriate. This massive boot is as big as a John Deere excavator on creatine. Its honking fang-like steps elevate the wearer just inches off the ground. The high leather upper of the boot also exceeds the limits of reason, completely swallowing his calf. Even the price of the Bulldozer amounts to $1,190.
This beast of a boot isn’t the only monster to trample the shoe market. Bottega Veneta offers the $1,350 Tire Boot, another calf-consuming Chelsea boot with an extra-wide sole. Moncler has released a series of menacing rubber boots that give the wearer an extra inch or two. Even Cat Footwear, the brand owned by the strong construction equipment company Caterpillar,
sells fashionable shoes, including chunky, shiny $140 boots that, according to the brand’s website, offer a “futuristic, fashionable finish while protecting you from the elements.”
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Men’s fashion is at a great time, especially in the shoe department. Balenciaga helped start the wave in 2017 when it launched the Triple S, an overweight sneaker on a triple-stacked sole. This shoe – and similar supercharged and elevated sneakers, from Gucci to Converse – whetted consumers’ appetites for mundo, high-visibility footwear. “People who buy status shoes want to be recognizable,” said Bruce Pask, director of menswear at Neiman Marcus. “We moved in that direction to have more shoes that make a difference.”
Tough men’s boots have a long history. Heavy Wellingtons, a staple of British hunting, date back centuries. The Hulking Dr. Martens have been with us since 1947. Construction workers clock the hours in steel-toed work boots, while Harley-Davidson owners pull on armor-like boots that cover nearly half of their legs. (Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, recently sported a pair of discontinued Red Wing work boots that could easily weigh 20 pounds. Cosplay fans are clamoring for hard-to-find boots; a pair recently sold out. sold for over $3,000 on ebay.)
In the hands of contemporary designers, boots are becoming more and more extreme. Andre Vargas, 27, a New Yorker working in digital marketing, owns a pair of NSLTD boots from Ye’s Yeezy line with Adidas, which look like a Timberland crossed with a puffer jacket. “They are definitely a unique boot,” Mr. Vargas said. That’s an understatement. His friends have dubbed the Marshmallow Stompers his “astronaut boots,” and in them, Mr. Vargas looks set to cross Mars instead of Manhattan.
Other colossal boots lack such extreme down but are no less conspicuous. Photographer Jeremy Fuder, 29, owns a pair of these smooth leather Bottega Veneta Tire boots. The oversized, muscular gray sole of the boots is more striking than a flat, ankle-high Chelsea, but is “not super comfortable,” he conceded. And when the streets of Chicago are crawling with snow, the Bottegas perform only marginally better than the Hoka One One soft ankle boots Mr. Fuder wears most winter days. As a result, he thinks of his towering boots the way some women think of high heels: as pure aesthetic indulgence. “Is there an advantage? No. But it’s a style choice.
For many, style matters. Joevi Flores, 22, a retail worker in Gaithersburg, Maryland, likes the look of the sturdy boots with the looser pants he’s been wearing lately. In recent years, menswear has moved away from the shrunken suits and stretched jeans of the early 2000s. A round, sturdy boot, like the Dr. Martens x Rick Owens pair that Mr. Flores wears, best complements high-rise trousers. straight leg, more substantially, than the tapered Chelsea boots that once filled department stores. And at 5’9″, Mr. Flores also welcomes the few extra inches of height.
But this lift comes at a cost. “Do they weigh [me] down? Kinda,” said Justin Nguyen, 30, a sneaker store and coffee shop owner in Seattle, referring to his Rick Owens Tractor boots. The sole of these leather chunkers is a rubbery monstrosity. And while Mr Nguyen loves their dramatic, almost Frankensteinian silhouette, he noted that wearing such an overweight boot took some getting used to. Some “fat” looking boots may weigh less than you think, thanks to soles that may feel solid but are filled with air or thinned rubber. These designs can weigh just a few pounds, a bit heavier than a sneaker.
Mr. Pask largely dismisses concerns that these unwieldy boots are too heavy, given how well they sell at Neiman stores. “I think we can handle some weight and the muscle building that can come with it.” That’s another way to think of those chunky boots: as a really, really expensive calf workout.
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Three pairs of imposing ankle boots, from the most functional to purely fashionable
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