Trends

The Evolution of Chunky Boots

27th February 2022

WORDS BY FLORENCE TROTT

Go big or go home. How one of fashion’s biggest trends has become a modern classic.

chunky shoes

From Doc Martens to Prada, the chunky boots will never date.

Comfortable shoes with fashion credentials. In a world of short-lived trends and disposable style, this irresistible combination has guaranteed our obsession with chunky boots persists season after season. A heady mix of thick rubber soles, expansive silhouettes and GAF attitude has us hooked. They’re everywhere, and what started as a trend has become – almost – normal. 

First off, we’ll state the obvious. They’re functional and versatile – rain or shine, festival or dimly lit bar, a pair of stompers never looks out of place. Paired with puffers and jeans, cashmere or silk mini dresses, chunky boots can go the distance.

But the appeal runs deeper than that. With so much uncertainty in life, the grounding power of a pair of thick rubber soles is a balm to our overwhelmed minds. The speed of the modern world has made the prospect of stomping through consecutive seasons in a pair of hardwearing, heavyweight Bottega Venetas irresistible. 

We’re more considered with our purchases now than a decade ago. The threat of a climate crisis has highlighted the importance of buying things that last. Name a more durable shoe than a stomper boot. Save steel toe caps, you can’t. 

There have been various theories – that Brexit, Trump and Coronavirus have contributed to our desire to wear heavy duty boots – the kind that you could do some damage with. They are a symbol of resistance. A stylish medium through which to channel our pent-up angst and anger – without actually doing any damage (except to our bank balances).

SHOP CULT CHUNKY BOOTS

bottega-veneta-lug-boots
Prada boots

Cult chunky boots by Bottega Veneta and Prada.

A flick through The Face’s back catalogue or the Vivienne Westwood archive suggests we’re drawn to heavy footwear when we’ve got something to say. Military and biker boots have been adopted by subcultures for decades. Recent fashion history has the (larger than average) footprints of chunky boots all over it. 

Before today’s Monolith and Lug, there was the Doc Marten. From ‘70s punk to ‘90s grunge, OG goths to today’s Gen Z fairy grunge-core (look it up on TikTok), chunky boots have long been worn by anyone hoping to make a statement. 

These days, chunky boots might be more fashion than political statement, but they still carry a subcultural subtext that influences are perception of anything with a heavy tread. They’re turbocharged with BDE (or should that be Big Boot Energy?) and served with a side of anarchy. 

Long-time fans of Dries van Noten, Anne Demeulemeester and Rick Owens are no strangers to chunky shoes. They’ve always had a place in more avant-garde fashion circles. But the big boot hit the high-fashion headlines in 2019 when the Bottega Veneta Lug first came down the runway at Daniel Lee’s debut AW show. Swiftly followed by Prada’s indestructible Monolith, chunky boots soon flooded the shelves and filled up our IG feeds. We got the taste for designer boots with bulk and haven’t looked back. 

What started as a flat, black leather ankle boot has evolved since 2019. At Bottega, the Lug has been joined by the Tire with its distinctive wave shaped sole, followed by the rubber Puddle – a species all its own that’s spawned a rubber frenzy. This season, the pull-on flat we started with has grown a heel with the label’s playful Flash boots. Less obviously chunky, but with a hefty tread. 

SHOP NEW SEASON CHUNKY BOOTS

Paris street style
London fashion week street style

The many ways of matching chunky boots. Here seen as a fashion week favourite.

Designers are experimenting with colour. Teal, bright green and royal purple feature heavily on the Bottega Veneta palette. Thanks to them, contrasting soles are a key talking point in 2022. Pioneered by the Italian fashion house and their maximalist approach to design, toned-down but equally stylish versions can be found at Ganni, Philip Lim and Jil Sandler. For those with a more muted wardrobe, Givenchy and The Row have done pared-back, minimalist takes on the chunky boot.

Elsewhere, Miu Miu and McQueen have drawn on the the stomper boot’s subcultural history, the former acknowledging the punk and goth movements that preceded it. Their outrageously swollen soles and heavy chains wouldn’t look out of place at a fetish night. 

JW Anderson and Valentino have gilded theirs with elegant hardware, the latter building up with extravagantly chunky knee-highs that demand to be worn with miniskirts and 20 Denier tights. At Gucci and, as ever, Bottega, padded hiking boots with laces and fabric uppers come with a generous silhouette, whilst Prada’s signature nylon-pocketed Monolith has taught us all that shoes can be accessorized, too.

A slew of sell-out styles has shown that chunky boots are hot right now, but their abiding presence both on the runway and our feet proves it’s not just hype. Our appetite for big boots hasn’t wavered. We lap up fresh versions of chunky boots each season with greedy excitement, and return to old favourites regularly. For now, there seems to be no end to the chunky boot’s reign. It’s made itself at home in our wardrobes, and it’s here to stay. 

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