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The Great Chelsea Boot Dilemma

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Boots are the best footwear. They're sturdy, complement just about every outfit, and keep your feet warm and dry (and clean, but that's probably only meaningful to those soldiering New York City winters). They can be tough to shop for, though; it's hard to find that sweet spot of quality and affordability, so our shopping editor Cory Baldwin told us her favorite picks for Chelsea boots.

Have a shopping problem? Ask us!—Stephanie Talmadge

Where Can I Find Affordable Chelsea Boots I Can Feel Good About Buying?
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Everlane Heel Boot, $235

I've been on the hunt for a good pair of Chelsea boots for, like, two years. The really, really nice ones are so expensive (Alexander Wang, etc etc).

I was eyeing Everlane's last year but the leather doesn't look so great. The closest thing I can find that look awesome are these Zara ones — they’re beautiful and I’ll probably buy them... but there HAS TO BE something out there that I can buy that won't break the bank (Wang) or wont make me feel guilty (Zara). — Chavie

Dear Chavie,

First of all, you are not alone. The Chelsea boot is a classic style that you can wear with everything year round (or at least September through May); I’m pretty much always on the lookout for a perfect pair.

But “perfect” can mean different things to different people. For you it sounds like responsibility x affordability = love, and based on the shoes you’ve been considering, I’m putting your price range around $80 to $250, which I think a lot of shoppers can relate to. While under $100 would be amazing, you’re willing to go up within reason if it means real quality and/or ethical production.

Don’t despair, because that range and mentality means a lot of options. Here are a few brands (and several pairs) I think could fit the bill. And if you want to take a look at Everlane’s Chelsea boots in person, note that the brand is running a shoe-focused pop-up in Soho through October 23.

Dr. Martens, from $130
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I’m a huge Doc Martens fan because 1) I just like them and 2) they last literally forever — I’ve had mine for going on five years, without a single trip to the cobbler. The brand makes around 20 styles of Chelsea boots. That said, it’s definitely a specific look — and more than a little ‘90s — but they can be styled to look punk or polished, depending on what you wear them with.

Here’s my favorite part: The company is transparent about corporate responsibility for the fair treatment of supplier factory workers, animal welfare, and environmental impact. And if you don’t want to wear leather, period, they offer a completely vegan pair for $145.

Vagabond, from $140
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Swedish company Vagabond is another brand that’s extremely transparent in regards to ethics and sustainability; they go as far as publishing a full report on the company’s environmental and social impact, including human rights and working conditions, on their website.

But looking at the shoes, you’d never know it — this is not not a crunchy looking brand, and its shoes are carried by trend-based retailers like Urban Outfitters and Asos that you’d probably never think to seek out for ethical options. Vagabond offers a bunch of styles (seriously, it’s an impressively robust selection) of Chelsea boots, including a flat pair ($210) that looks similar the ones from Zara you mentioned, and another similar option with a mid-height heel ($140).

L’Intervalle, from $99
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This Montreal-based shoemaker isn’t as forthcoming with its manufacturing info, but L’Intervalle is a small batch, indie brand that lists slow fashion and craftsmanship among its core values.

They also make some really rad shoes, including several options for Chelsea boots: chunky black platforms ($99), silver heels ($168), and a flat style that comes in suede, patent leather, silver, or plain old black leather ($218), as requested. If you’re open to something a little different but just as classic, I particularly like the Milwak Black pair ($178) with brogue detailing and a completely reasonable 1” heel. —Cory Baldwin, Shopping Editor

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