How To Wear Duck Boots

If you’re from Maine, New York, or New Jersey then you’re probably already familiar with duck boots. For those who aren’t from those areas, they’re an increasingly popular style of boots that combine American fashion with American values.

Today, I’ll teach you how to wear duck boots by looking at their history, when and how you should style them, what clothes they look best with, what you should avoid when wearing them, and where you can find them.

What Are Duck Boots

Relax animal lovers, duck boots aren’t made from ducks. And those with stubby legs can breathe easily too because these boots won’t make you walk like a duck either.

Duck boots, also known as bean boots, are a style of rain boots with a bit more style and a lot more functionality. They combine rubber soles with a leather top, allowing them to combat rain and snow equally as well.

As such, duck boots are ideal for colder areas that see plenty of snowfall or precipitation. They usually have a fabric sleeve that sits atop the leather for added protection and warmth. 

They’re definitely not summer boots, but they might be the best footwear option for wet areas on a per value basis because of how well they insulate your feet while keeping moisture away.

History of Duck Boots

Before I dive into how to wear duck boots, let’s talk about their esteemed history. Duck boots predate technologies like the cell phone, the television, and other modern necessities. 

They’ve been around since 1911 and their popularity is marked by two distinct periods. They were a smash hit when L.L. Bean released them in 1911 under the title of Maine Hunting Shoes.

The boots were so popular that creator Leon Leonwood Bean actually founded an entire company just to meet demands. 

Bean spent much of his free time outside whether he was hunting, fishing, or just rolling around in the hay in Freeport, Maine. Given that he was outside so often, he devised a boot that could handle most weather conditions.

His solution was to throw leather boots and rain boots into a closet, lock the door for a few minutes, and check in on the aftermath.

Said aftermath was the titular duck boots, and their design was so sustainable that the only change in their entire history was in 1947 and it was purely cosmetic. 

The boots were especially enjoyed by upper-classmen in New England prep schools. This led to duck boots being associated with bougie and academic culture. They were usually found on the soles of students at state universities in America’s northeastern states.

Besides their initial boom period, duck boots entered a second phase of unparalleled popularity around 2010. 

They were revived but unlike other comeback fashion pieces, didn’t expand much beyond their original market. What I mean is that more people were buying them, but those people were still mostly prep school students.

Their clout was further increased amidst rumors that product shortages were artificially engineered to generate hype and exclusivity. L.L. Bean claims otherwise, citing the intense creation process and lack of price variance as evidence that the dwindling supply was organic.

Regardless, they became even more sought after, and are an ideal boot for wet and/or wintery areas.

When to Wear Duck Boots

There are few pieces of footwear that can compete with duck boots when the weather gets miserable. 

You know those days when it seems like the streets are going to flood with rain, or when there’s snow up to your eyeballs, or when hail the size of golfballs pelts oncoming pedestrians? Yeah, those days are when you should wear duck boots.

But let’s say that the weather is fine if just a little chilly. Is it okay to wear duck boots to work? How about social gatherings? What about on a date? 

I can happily say that yes, these boots are great for all of those occasions. You can wear them to bars, concerts, movies, and pretty much anywhere else you find yourself during the colder months of the calendar year.

How to Wear Duck Boots

You’re going to gather tons of information about how to wear duck boots from the examples I’ve listed below. Wearing duck boots is a matter of keeping your feet safe from the environment, so the rest of your outfit should cater to your current weather predicament.

If that calls for a raincoat then pick one that matches your duck boots. If it’s so snowy that your pipes have frozen solid then be sure to layer up. 

Aside from that, keep reading to get more specific ideas and inspirations about how to wear duck boots.

4 Outfit Ideas with Duck Boots

This is a women’s duck boots look that screams fall weather. By themselves, duck boots are already great for colder weather climates, so I choose this outfit because of how it embellishes that aspect.

In order to recreate this outfit, you’re going to want a contrasting skirt and a long-sleeve knitted top. Not only will the contrast help the two pieces stand out from each other, but their textures will give off cozy vibes perfect for autumn. 

Remember to wear black tights under the skirt as it’ll probably be too cold to leave the house without them. 

Adding onto that, duck boots would look too bulky if you didn’t have the tights to bridge the gap between the skirt and your ankles, so adding tights helps elongate your legs and welcome the boots into the fold.

If you’re checking out how to wear duck boots with bright bottoms then may I recommend taking a page from this outfit’s book.

It uses the boots’ colorway as a blueprint that sets the tone for the rest of the pieces. The black, grey, and silver reappear in the tights, sweater, and rings respectively.

The neutral tones are a safe way to incorporate pieces of different fabrics without having to color coordinate them with each other. They go well together but it doesn’t look like you’re breaking your back to get them to cooperate.

These simple colors allow the bright orange bottoms to shine like a lighthouse in the night, cutting through the outfit and providing a welcome dash of color.

These kinds of duck boots outfits prove that men’s duck boots can be just as stylish as women’s. That being said, there are plenty of concepts at play here that anyone can study and incorporate into their own style. 

Let’s talk about all the different textures at play in this fit. You have the distressed denim and the rugged leather jacket, a deadly duo that de-escalates how preppy duck boots usually are

Beneath the jacket is a knitted shirt that has a homely feel. That’s a totally different vibe than the jacket and the jeans, but because they’re already toned down by the duck boots, it works.

And if you want to talk about how to wear duck boots in color-coordinated outfits then this outfit should be studied in university classes.

Jeans and brown leather already go well together, but pairing them with rubber and the knitted shirt? That’s deserving of a chef’s kiss.

This next outfit can be implemented in either fall or winter to great success if you’re wondering how to wear duck boots in the colder months. 

It uses many of the ideas that I’ve already spoken about – namely neutral colors, dark pants, and intelligent accessories – and applies them to a business-savvy look.

I have to admit, I’m rather smitten by the pale white jacket here. It’s the perfect companion piece for insulated duck boots because of its smooth feel. 

It gives a very narrow silhouette that continues on with the pants. It actually makes the boots look smaller than they are so that the whole outfit follows one line from top to bottom.

Another thing I have to mention is the simple tones on the tote bag and umbrella. These are the type of accessories you’d want to include when thinking about how to wear duck boots. 

They’re classy yet functional so they don’t come off like you’re throwing them in just for the thrill of it. They serve a purpose.

What Type of Duck Boots can you get?

There are plenty of styles, fits, and colors of duck boots that you can obtain through various brands. They differ in regards to their length, their laces, and other aesthetic details.

For my money though, I believe these to be the two main types of duck boots:

  • Insulated
  • Uninsulated

Deciding which one you should get depends on whether you’ll be wearing them more in the fall or the winter. Insulated pairs of duck boots can get very warm very quickly

You may feel your feet start to sweat if you wear them when it’s too hot outside. You might even wonder if you really know how to wear duck boots.

Granted, that’s not a bad thing if you have poor circulation, but it can cause the boots to stink if you wear them often.

On the other hand, uninsulated boots won’t offer you as much protection when the temperatures dip below freezing. This makes them much less useful during the winter despite their ability to repel moisture. 

Again, selecting between the two is a matter of personal preference and purpose. Neither style is better than the other, but it is a decision you’ll have to make and it’s one whose ramifications you’ll feel almost immediately. 

How to Choose The Best Duck Boots 

Now that you’ve seen how to wear duck boots, it’s time for you to learn how to choose the right pair for yourself. 

That decision isn’t as easy as it seems even if you limit yourself to what L.L. Bean offers. You can find duck boots with varying amounts of insulation, different liners, leather or non-leather coverings, and in various colors.

The first step to choosing the best pair of duck boots is knowing how much you’re willing to spend.

Some boots are up to $100 more expensive than others so you should recognize whether you’re willing to spend that much extra money on a similar product.

Also, consider when you’ll be wearing the boots. As I mentioned, insulated and non-insulated duck boots can feel very different and have polarizing effects on your feet. These effects can either be positive or negative depending on the context. 

If you know when you’re going to wear duck boots then you can better isolate which style is best for you.

Similarly, think about your current wardrobe and how those pieces will work alongside the colors and materials of the boots. You want to buy boots that match your current style, not overhaul your wardrobe around a single footwear item.

How to Style Duck Boots

There are a couple of style tips I like to keep in mind when we build an outfit around our duck boots. These aren’t laws, but they are helpful considerations that can make the most out of the boots’ unique style.

My first tip is to play it cool with the accessories. You’ll either want minimalist accessories or you’ll want to ditch them entirely. If you do want to add some additional sauce to your fashion stir-fry then accessories like hats, bags, and scarves are the way to go.

Next up, duck boots look like they are the perfect prom date for longer coats. The style doesn’t matter too much as plenty of coats go well with them.

You can choose a pea coat, a trenchcoat, or even a leather jacket. So long as they drape down your legs, you’re set to have an esteemed outfit.

As duck boots are winter-ready, they interact well with cold-weather fabrics. That means that your warmest and thickest wool sweaters can finally get to see the light of day.

On that note, corduroy, tweed, and flannel would also be good choices. They each have similar scholarly feels as duck boots.

Fashion Tips to Avoid With Duck Boots 

I’d advise against going bare-legged when wearing duck boots. This is particularly important if you have a pair of tall duck boots. 

Their frame is too large and thick to work well with shorts or a skirt. They’re not like chunky sneakers that have a casual silhouette and can thus get away with a less-considered look.

Duck boots are associated with northeastern states for a reason, and it’s because their look and functionality are designed around that region’s climate. As such, they weren’t built to work with summery bottoms. 

Another thing is that duck boots don’t lend themselves particularly well to flashy accessories.

E-boys and streetwear devotees thinking about how to wear duck boots will likely have to ditch the shiny rings and showy necklaces. They clash too much with duck boots’ reserved nature.

My next piece of advice is to stay away from neon colors. Duck boots are neutral, so you might think that they go well with bright colors, but sadly that’s not the case. 

It’s just too jarring to see the put-together nature of the boots up against yellows and purples that scream in your face. Unless you really have it down to a science it’s probably best to keep those colors out of your duck boots wardrobes. 

How To Take Care Of Duck Boots 

If done correctly, cleaning and maintaining your duck boots can be a simple and effortless task

No, don’t throw them in the washing machine, and no, you don’t need to hire a dry cleaner to give them the love they deserve. You can treat them just as well from the comfort of your home with your own two hands and a few tools.

Here’s a step-by-step process on how you can take care of your duck boots:

  • Mix warm water and soap in a bucket
  • Dunk a sponge in the mixture
  • Scrub the rubber bottom portion of the boots
  • Use a leather cleaning product to remove any debris from the upper portion of your duck boots
  • Wipe off any water with a dry rag

Best Places to Buy Duck Boots 

The inarguable best producer of duck boots is their inventor, L.L. Bean, but I know that there are some people out there who want to break the mold. 

They want to show from a different brand, maybe as an act of defiance, or maybe as some way to distinguish themselves from the herds of George Ezra fans.

For those people, I’ve put together a list of alternative duck boots manufacturers:

  1. Polar
  2. Eddie Bauer
  3. Sperry
  4. Ugg

Final Thoughts

Duck boots may be incredibly popular but they’re also oddly niche. They’re for a specific purpose and best suited to a specific area and climate.

That makes us love them more because it’s like they have their own built-in exclusivity that supersedes their Ivy League prestige. 

They’re one of the easiest ways to add some prestige to your winter outfits, and I hope you’ve learned how you can incorporate them into your own style.

Looking to up your fashion game? We’ve got you covered:

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