From The Bazaar – The Desert Boot

Written by Jason Disley
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A timeless classic, a pair of Desert Boots is an item, that arguably most well-dressed men, has for those slightly more casual days, in their shoe collection. It is a form of boot that is similar to a Chukka Boot. (A boot that usually has three pairs of eyelets, and derives its name from a period of play in the sport of Polo)

It, however, is distinct from the Chukka by its slightly softer construction, the traditional use of a Suede upper, and a robust Crepe rubberised sole, and only having two pairs of eyelets.

As implied already, the Desert Boot is an iconic menswear style boot, and most well-dressed men will own a pair, either made by Clarks, or by another company that has adopted the style and have produced their own versions.

Here is how the Desert Boot originated, and why it holds its distinctive place within men’s footwear:

The Desert boot was first designed by Nathan Clark and became a pioneer of the men’s “dress casual” shoe category. Whilst he was stationed in Burma with the British Army, he noticed that many off-duty officers wearing suede ankle boots with crepe soles.

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They had come from a bazaar in Cairo (hence the term “desert” boot), and apparently these officers had, had these specially made because, they were lightweight, and offered good traction on sand. Clark, was inspired enough by these boots, that he went on to create a pattern for them.

Despite the board of his shoemaking family’s claim that it would never sell, he managed to showcase the Desert boot at the Chicago Shoe Fair in 1949. It was there, that it received rave reviews and, subsequently it has been in production ever since.

Clarks isn’t the only company that makes desert boots, but they were the first to do so, and are still held in high regard, and are perhaps more known for this style of boot than anything else. Desert boots are available in a wide range of colours these days, and are not just available in suede.

When it comes to Mods, who are renowned for wearing Desert boots, I have a theory as to why Mods adopted, what was essentially an ex military style boot that could be worn casually. When you see Mods adopting the use of the Parka to protect their clothes, whilst riding scooters , they were often bought in surplus stores, or were leftovers from the Second World War, and subsequent conflicts. The Mods were often influenced by films, television, pictures in magazines, and album covers. It could have been that original Desert Boots were also in these same surplus stores. Simply hangovers from the campaigns in hot countries. Or that because Clark’s were a British company, they were simply more readily available in the fifties onwards.

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Another theory is because, Ivy style, influenced the Mod style of dressing. Steve McQueen, for example, was often seen wearing Suede Chukka boots. The Clark’s Desert Boot was an affordable British alternative. They offered a lightweight style, they were functional in the spring and summer. They were comfortable like a sports shoe, which in affect was still not widely available. Their more than often sand colour as we know looked great against a pair of Levis, and they were aesthetically a perfect modern style.

Compared to many other items in a man’s wardrobe. The Desert Boot was still quite young. Only becoming more prevalent after the war. After all it was 1949 when the Desert Boot appeared at the Shoe fair.

Young men have always gone for what they deemed were “Modern” looks to differentiate from the older generation. They were teenagers after all. The more casually inclined “Mod” didn’t want to wear just functional formal black shoes all the time like their Fathers. Maybe that is why Mods adopted the style? Or maybe a Mod had picked up on the style of boot in the 1953 movie The Desert Rats and had sought out a pair, just to be a bit different... Either way, it does not really matter. The Desert Boot has endured, and has become a staple of menswear, and will no doubt still be worn by many for a long time yet. Its Crepe sole and smart casual look, making it both versatile and a modern classic. Wear a pair with some Sta-Prest or Jeans, and you automatically have a Mod casual look, that is sharp and authentic.

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Read 2812 times Last modified on Wednesday, 13 May 2020 11:13
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Jason Disley

Jason Disley

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