While spending a couple of weeks in Sri Lanka helping clean up after the 2004 tsunami, I met a friendly Australian ex-pat who was a walking cliché of his homeland. He wore a bush hat with one side rakishly buttoned up, a sweat-stained khaki safari shirt and he actually said things like, “crikey” and “mate.” But what really made an impact on me were his boots. Even in the tropical heat, he had on a pair of elastic-sided leather boots, beaten to hell and faded to a light shade of tan. I saw him wearing these boots from job site to happy hour. When I returned home, I set out to find those boots. And here they are – the Blundstone Original 500 Series Boot ($149)

Blundstone is a true Australian brand that’s been making boots since 1870. The original 500 boot has become a favorite of metrosexual urban dwellers, ranch hands, deckhands and roughnecks everywhere ever since. And for good reason. The soft leather breaks in immediately and the above ankle fit gives protection from the elements and support without the bother and confinement of laces. The soles are immune to just about any substance (oil, acid) and grippy enough for hiking but also good for a slippery boat deck. Blundstone hasn’t changed this boot a lot over the years, but they did endow it with a Shock Protection System midsole which gives them the right amount of cushion.

The look of Blundstones might be an acquired taste but I quickly realized that, with a little cleanup, they can go from yardwork to cocktail party with equal aplomb. The smooth leather and absence of laces means they go well with dressier pants and the pull-straps at the top hide discretely under pant legs until you sit down and then the hint of ruggedness will make everyone secretly wonder what adventures you’ve had. The boots come in brown, black and weathered brown (I prefer to weather my own, thank you). Be advised – the sizes must be Australian and I had to buy a size down from my usual shoe to get a good fit. And with the elastic, you’ll want a bloody snug fit. Mate.

Buy Now: Blundstone Adult’s 500 Boot ($149)