The boot in the photo below is known by many names. Some might recognise it as the chukka, while others would prefer calling it by the “desert boot” moniker. What most can agree on, however, is how one brand has truly come to define the design, so much so that its name – Clarks – is used as a shorthand to describe this particular style of footwear.
For the record, Clarks is a heritage British shoemaker that has been in business since 1825. In 1950, it debuted what would become one of its most iconic designs: a pair of casual suede boots with laces that its inventor Nathan Clark created after observing how British soldiers serving in Egypt during the Second World War were wearing locally-made boots that featured comfortable soft suede uppers and hardy crepe rubber soles.
Clarks’ boot design was a radical idea for its time as suede shoes with rubber soles were deemed extremely casual (this was the era of penny loafers and pumps mind you) and a sartorial faux pas. However, the style kickstarted a trend among the fashion-forward set of the day. Its democratic appeal was most evident in the way the shoes were adopted by everyone regardless of fashion stripe, from Steve Mcqueen to Bob Dylan.
Flash forward to 2020, and the Clarks desert boots have morphed into a co-ed wardrobe perennial with a versatile appeal. The animated GIFs on this page, featuring musician Narelle Kheng and champion beatboxer Dharni Ng, in their Blue Suede Clarks, are proof of how the boots can go with various outfit choices. Kheng paired hers with skater-girl-meets-’90s punk kid pieces while the Poland-based Ng felt right at home in his boots and easy streetwear fits.
Now that you’ve got your style inspiration from the duo, check out the boots’ other colourways and finishes for Fall which include a glamorous mock python finish and a sophisticated jet black suede design which are good alternatives for dress shoes in our books.
And if you’re wondering what facelift and tweaks the boots have received for its 70th year, nothing much has changed except for its upgraded comfort level. The latter is achieved by incorporating shock-resistant and breathable insoles created by OrthoLite, the world leader in cushioning technology.
To drive home the enduring and cross-generational appeal of the boots, Clarks has also created a Fall/Winter campaign that features a cast of 12 trailblazing creatives who embody the brand’s rich heritage and forward-thinking outlook. Dubbed “Then. Now. Always”, the campaign was shot in the English countryside of Somerset where the company is based and stars the likes of Grammy-winning producer Kindness and photographer Charlotte Patmore.
Giorgio Presca, the brand’s chief executive sums up the boots’ timeless appeal succinctly. “Simplicity is at the root of many brilliant ideas and the desert boot is no exception. In the age of sustainability, we’ve seen a shift away from fast fashion and an attraction to quality and authenticity,” he said in a statement.
Narelle Kheng Photos Tan Wei Te Hair & Makeup Sha Shamsi Dharni Ng’s Photos Mateusz Gardocki