Monkey Boots: What are They and Which are the Best?

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by  William Barton | Last Updated: 

Monkey boots are pretty ugly, I have to admit.

But the moment I saw a pair, I knew I wanted them. 

It might surprise you, but along with engineer boots, monkey boots are quickly becoming one of the must haves for boot collectors around the world (mainly in the US and Japan). 

They’re a true boot-lovers boot. 

So what’s the deal with monkey boots? Why are these stubby things getting so popular? 

I’m diving into the history and where to find the best monkey boots right now. 

A Brief History of Monkey Boots

Unmarked Archie profile view on stairs

There’s a misconception that the monkey boot was the military issue for the Czechoslovakian army in WWII, but there was no Czech army in WWII. 

But this style of boot was first created in the Soviet Bloc during that time period—and if you look at these boots, it makes sense: they do look Soviet. Very utilitarian. 

Post WWII, monkey boots exploded in popularity in the UK rock and roll scene. They were a poor-man’s Doc Marten (which were much more popular, but part of the same movement). 

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In fact, Dr. Martens did create their own version of the monkey boot which is still available now. 

Solovair, a brand that’s very similar to Dr. Marten, but still made in the original English factory, really took the monkey boot helm and ran with it. 

Dr. Martens

We all know the iconic yellow-stitched sole. Whether you're getting the 1460 combat boot or a pair of sandals from the Doc, you can't go wrong with this trend-setting, boundary-pushing brand.

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Monkey Boots Around the World

Unmarked Archie monkey boots model walking

While much of the focus of monkey boot history centers on the rock and roll revolution in England, the monkey boot style also became the go-to work boot style in Mexico and South America. 

They’re relatively quick to make and they’re efficient with leather. So this is the style a lot of cobblers in Mexico would make for themselves to wear on a daily basis. 

In the late 20th century and into the 21st century, Mexico has become one of the major shoemaking capitals of the world. It’s not surprising that the monkey work boot style is blowing up right now. 

Monkey Boots Now: Where to Find Them

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Since the style diverged in the 1960’s and 70’s, there are really two styles of monkey boots available today. 

The first is the English punk rock version, and you can find that style from Dr. Martens or Solovair. 

But the other style—the style that’s becoming super popular among boot enthusiasts around the world—they’re a little harder to find. 

I recently did a deep dive on the style and found a good pair of monkey boots from Unmarked

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This style is derived from the traditional Mexican work boot. They look stubbier and there’s a lot more emphasis on the quality of materials. 

I’m not a huge fan of the Dr. Martens style monkey boot—the Air Wair outsoles are too squishy and the leather is thin, stiff, and cracks easily. 

Dr. Martens Monkey Boots

I’m not a huge fan of the Dr. Martens style monkey boot---the Air Wair outsoles are too squishy and the leather is thin, stiff, and cracks easily.

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But if you go the other route—you can find some incredibly well made monkey boots with exotic leathers and heavy duty soles

Unmarked Archie

Unmarked Archie money boots on white background

The Unmarked Archie is my first foray into the world of monkey boots.

I picked this boot up because of its relatively inexpensive price and its accessibility. 

Keep in mind, I’m saying the Unmarked Archie is relatively inexpensive and accessible. It still costs well over $300 and takes a month to arrive at your door. 

But if you’ve spent a ton of time in the dark recesses of the boot world, you know that this cost and shipping time is expected. 

Unmarked Archie Boots

I went specifically looking for a monkey-boot style and the Unmarked Archie came highly recommended. For a boot this price, I’m a bit let down at the thickness of the leather and how the lasting was done---you can see some areas where the leather was stretched imperfectly. But overall, this is a unique looking boot and the quality of the sole is outstanding.

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Indonesian Bootmakers

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It’s really the Indonesian bootmakers that have put this style on the map for boot enthusiasts. Problem is, they’re much harder to get. 

Brands like Sagara Bootmaker, Onderhoud, and Junkard make monkey boots, and they often do so with rare and amazing leathers like horse butt and shell cordovan. 

But many times, you place your order via WhatsApp or through an Instagram DM and it can take several months (often between 6-12 months) for your boots to arrive. 

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And that’s even if they let you place an order. It’s not uncommon to message one of these brands and be told to try again in a few weeks because they’re so inundated with orders. 

That’s why I went with the Unmarked Archie—as an American, I’m used to ordering off a website and having my things delivered in a short period of time. 

Dr. Martens

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If you’re looking for the English punk version, there’s really only one way to go: The Dr. Martens Monkey Boot

I like this style better than the Dr. Martens 1460 (the most popular). It has a very similar look to it, but because it’s a bit different, it doesn’t feel so cookie-cutter. You can get the same grunge/punk-rock vibes without getting the same exact boot everyone else has. 

Dr. Martens Monkey Boots

I’m not a huge fan of the Dr. Martens style monkey boot---the Air Wair outsoles are too squishy and the leather is thin, stiff, and cracks easily.

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Are You Monkeying Around? 

So which of the two monkey boot styles are you drawn to? Want to look like a 60’s English punk? Or are you more of a leather-head and willing to do a deep-dive into the world of high-end boots?

For me, I just wanted to see how the style looked on my feet, wanted something high quality, but didn’t want to wait several months. 

That’s why I went with the Unmarked Archie

Which monkey boot are you choosing?

Unmarked Archie Boots

I went specifically looking for a monkey-boot style and the Unmarked Archie came highly recommended. For a boot this price, I’m a bit let down at the thickness of the leather and how the lasting was done---you can see some areas where the leather was stretched imperfectly. But overall, this is a unique looking boot and the quality of the sole is outstanding.

Check Best Price Read Our Review
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FAQs

Why are they called monkey boots?

The extra leather on the interior wall of the foot makes it possible to climb without damaging the boots. Because these are good for climbing, they got the name “monkey boots.”

When did monkey boots come out?

Monkey boots were originally made in the 1940’s, but they didn’t become commercially available until the late 1950’s. They truly became popular in England in the late 60’s, when they were worn by bands like The Who.

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