If you know anything at all - even the slightest little bit - about shoes, then you’ve most likely heard of Clarks. For nearly 200 years (since 1825 to be exact) the Clark family has been creating and designing shoes. Founded by brothers Cyrus and James Clark in Somerset, England, the headquarters still remain there to this day. From men’s shoes to women’s and children’s shoes, work shoes to school shoes, sandals to boots, Clarks has stood the test of time for generations. A little fun fact: the first ‘shoe’ made was in fact a slipper, made from the offcuts of rugs the Clark company was producing; young James helped to transform the company into what it is today with his creative prowess and comfy slipper, The Brown Petersberg. Since then, though they’ve launched thousands of styles of footwear, there are a handful that stand out in a big way. Perhaps the most iconic is the Clarks Desert Boot.
Nathan Clark, the great-grandson of James Clark who co-founded Clark Shoes, was stationed in Burma in 1941 as part of the British Army. Nathan noticed that some of the officers would wear these interesting, light, short, suede and far more comfortable looking boots outside of service hours and was fascinated by the style and look. He learned they were the "the crepe-soled, rough suede boots made in Cairo's Khan el-Khalili bazaar for British Eighth Army officers." These boots, in turn, were inspired by South African boots called veldskoen. Made for desert terrain, they were popular when regular army boots couldn’t hack it when trekking through rough ground. Nathan at once recognized these boots as a design the company absolutely needed to take on. It took a number of years for Nathan’s design to take on a life of its own, as the sketches he sent over from Burma lay dormant until his return to London when he could work on the project himself. In 1949 his project was complete. A year later, he debuted the boot at the Chicago Shoe Fair and, much to his family’s surprise, they were a smash. Seen as both worldly and the perfect blend of casual and dressy as well as affordable and comfortable, the American market fell for these tan, ankle height, rubber crepe soled desert boots.
The shoe became hugely popular in the 1960s when the mods embraced them, wearing their Italian suits, riding their Italian Vespas and listening to American R&B they felt the look was a more ‘continental’ shoe of choice and they made a statement with the Clarks Desert Boot. In America, the beatniks rocked the trend. The swiftly became popular for the trendy and the professional alike. Celebrities like Bob Dylan and Steve McQueen wore them proudly and today you can see Daniel Craig, Anthony Boudain and Zac Efron span the generations as Clarks desert boot lovers. By the 1970s here in Australia they were considered sensible office shoes, great shoes for work outside for professionals like land surveyors and were absolutely the shoe of choice to dress both up and down. Nowadays they’re seen with jeans, sockless with shorts, with dress pants, with chinos...you name it. For over 150 years, the Clarks Desert Boot has been a staple in the wardrobe of men all over the world.
These terrific kicks come in a multitude of colours from sand to different brown tones, black to clay to turmeric, oak or deep blue. So you’re not short on choices to spice up your look. But though these boots hold a great history, a family legacy and of course, awesome style, they continue to sell and remain hugely popular because they’re so damned comfortable. The Clarks learned early on that “‘bad feet’ were the product of ill fitting shoes”, the family measured thousands of feet and have studied feet for generations to gauge what, exactly, makes the perfect shoe for everyone’s needs. We all want happy and healthy feet, amiright? To make sure they stay ahead of the pack even after all these years they’ve come up with Active Air technology for extra comfort and cushioning, the ‘Perfect Fit’ child’s shoe range with over 184 sizes for different lengths and widths and even anti-bacterial inners to help prevent the dreaded stinky feet.
But I digress.
Back to the Clarks Desert Boot. They’re stylish. They’re versatile. They’re comfortable. Just don’t dress them up looking like you’re going on safari...unless you are. Then, send us some pics!