The Ultimate Pair of Desert Boots: Clarks Originals Arrives

Posted: 12/12/2018 @ 16:01PM

Clarks Desert Boots: What Are Desert Boots?

Clarks Originals have arrived at Atom Retro! The original Desert Boots brand, Clarks are also world famous for thier iconic Wallabee and Desert Trek shoe styles, but it's the Desert Boot which has really made it's mark in footwear history and mod heritage. To introduce Clarks Desert Boots, here's everything you ever wanted to know about Desert Boots, but didn't think to ask! 

What are Desert Boots? 

Desert Boots are ankle high, lace-up, lightweight boots, typically with a suede upper and traditionally with a crepe sole. The classic desert boots style has a round toe, 2 eyelet lace fasten and a flat heel. Traditional colours include sand suede, black suede and chocolate brown suede. However, desert boots also come in many different styles and colours today, including leather desert boots, fabric and canvas desert boots, 3 or more eyelet lace-ups and with rubber or synthetic soles. 

Vintage Clarks Desert Boots AdvertWhen did Clarks invent the Desert Boot? 

Clarks Shoes are the original Desert Boot brand. The boots were developed and designed by Nathan Clark who, while in the army in the 1940s, happened across a light, suede ankle boot manufactured in the bazaars of Cairo, Egypt. Nathan Clark was sure these boots had potential and immediately sent patterns and sketches home to his brother, Bancroft to develop. However, he was disappointed to learn when he returned the UK himself that no work had been done on the boots. No one liked them. Suede shoes and boots were associated with 'louge lizards' and other undesirable characters at the time and no one could see any use for a suede ankle boot. 

But Nathan perservered. He made his prototype desert boots in a natural beige-grey suede and, despite being told by the Clarks company Stock Committee that 'they would never sell', he took them to the Chicago Shoe Fair in the US in 1949. The Americans immediately fell in love with the boots. Esquire magazine ran an extensive editiorial on the newly named 'Desert Boots' and Clarks were approached by Bronson Davies who wanted to distribute the boots in the United States. The Desert Boots were available there long before they were for sale in the UK. Desert Boots didn't really arrive in the UK until the 1960s when they became popular with Mods and scooter boys. 

"I wear the shoes myself and never doubted they were going to be a winner."
- Nathan Clark

Why do Mods wear Desert Boots?

Desert Boots are an archetypal item of Mod Footwear, and along with Chelsea Boots, Desert Boots are one of paradigms of the Mod look. The Mods love affair with the Desert Boot started in the 1960s, when Clarks Desert Boots became available through shops on Regent Street, London. With a small Union Jack flag sewn onto the tongue of the boot, they were primarily aimed at tourists, but the clean, functional look coupled with the subtle pop-art styling appealed to mods. The popularity was also helped by America's love of the Desert Boot. As part of an Ivy League, preppy American look, Mods found the Desert Boot - in particular Sand or Brown colour ways - paired perfectly with White Levi's Jeans and Gingham Shirts or polos, creating a classic 1960s mod look. 

The 1979 film, Quadrophenia (which was set in 1964) helped to firmly cement the Desert Boot as part of the mod look. Most of the main cast sport Clarks Desert Boots in different colours and occasionally slightly different styles, wearling them with trousers and jeans and - creating controversy - sometimes mod suits. As 'purist' mods will tell you, a pair of Desert Boots should never be worn with a suit, but for more of a casual or smart-casual choice of footwear, the Desert Boot hasn't been surpassed for a mod look. 

What's the difference between Desert Boots and Chukka Boots? 

Chukka Boots are the brother to Desert Boots. Very similar in style and look, there are some subtle differences. Traditionally (although not quite so true these days), the Chukka Boot had a sealed or stitched stiff top or opening around the top of the boot, whereas the Desert Boot was not stiff and was often left unfinished (no seal or stitching to 'finish off' the fabric). Alongside this, here are some more differences between Chukka Boots and Desert Boots (although not in every case is this true!) 

  • The Top Opening - as mentioned, the Chukka Boot has a sealed, stitched or stiff foot/ankle opening whereas the Desert Boot is left unfinished, unsealed and often 'floppy'. 
  • The Sole - the traditional and classic desert boot will have a Crepe Sole (although a lot of styles have replaced this with rubber or synthetic soles) and the Chukka Boot traditionally sports a rubber or leather sole. 
  • The Stitchdown - The Desert Boot has a visable stitchdown sole (the upper is stitched to the sole), sometimes making a feature of this with contrasting coloured stitching. The Chukka Boot usually has no stitchdown feature, it's either hidden or sometimes slightly showing. 
  • The Laces - the traditional Desert Boot will have a thicker lace whereas the Chukka Boot usually has a thinner lace, similar to the style used in smart Oxford or Derby shoes and brogues. 
  • The Occasion - Desert Boots are associated with a more casual look, pairing perfectly with jeans. Chukka Boots can range in style from casual looks to smarter or business style looks. 

What are Clarks Desert Boots made from? 

The classic Clarks Desert Boot is made from a suede (leather) upper and a crepe sole, although there have been many seasonal and fashion variations on the classic style over the years, including woven fabric uppers and leather uppers, and rubber, synthetic or more rare, leather soles. 

Where can I buy Mens and Womens Clarks Originals Desert Boots? 

Atom Retro stocks both men's and women's Clarks Originals desert boots, as well as the Desert Trek, Desert Shoes, Wallabees and more. 

Shop Mens Clarks Originals here.

Shop Womens Clarks Originals here.