Peter Russell

Pete is a technology expert. He founded Joomla with a great group of people in Europe. He is an author of a range of content including stories and tutorials.

From Wartime Cairo to Mainstream Cool

THE CLARK SHOE COMPANY BOARD THOUGHT "DESERT BOOTS" WOULD NEVER SELL AND RIDICULED THE SHOE CONCEPT AS "BROTHEL CREEPERS."

While stationed in Burma in 1949, British Army officer Nathan Clark noticed many off-duty officers wearing simple suede boots with plantation rubber crepe soles.

This was his inspiration for the "Desert Boot". Clark learned the boots had come from a bazaar in Cairo. The officers, looking for a comfortable option that could survive the harsh desert conditions had them specially made by locals.

Clark began cutting prototype patterns out of newspapers. He sent the clipping along with drawings back home to the village of Street, in Somerset. He was convinced a version of this boot could be a new signature model for his family's shoe business.

Ironically, the shoemaker's board had  determined the shoe "Would never sell."  (in those days, men's suede shoes were commonly ridiculed as ''brothel creepers''). Undeterred Clark persevered.

On his return to England, Clark sourced the finest materials and shoemakers to transform his idea into reality. Using an existing last from a popular Clarks sandal, he began to experiment. He incorporated the stitch-down construction used in other Clarks styles but used an orange thread to further distinguish the boot. Additionally, at a time when most men’s shoes were made from stiff, formal leather, Nathan opted for beige suede from the nearby tannery, Charles F. Stead. The colour of the suede closely resembled sand – subtly referencing the boot’s desert origins.

One year, 1949, after its debut at the Chicago shoe fair, the Clark's Desert Boot, designed by Nathan Clark went on sale.

It took another 15 years for the boots to make it to Europe. Clark recalled with satisfaction seeing television footage of Paris student unrest in 1968 ''where the students manning the barricades were all wearing Desert Boots''.

The simple design of the Clarks Desert Boot - with plantation rubber crepe soles and just two eyelets for laces - has remained virtually unchanged. Since the 1960s, when they became mainstream fashion wear, they have been a perennial favourite. More than 12 million pairs have been sold worldwide.

The spread of the shoe was dramatic. In coming years, it became a cornerstone of everything from teddy boy pomp and Euro-chic to 60s flamboyance (Mods), Cool Britannia and 21st-century swagger.

Across the world, revolutionaries, artists and original thinkers adopted the Desert Boot as part of their style uniform. The simple silhouette became legend.

Hendrix once lived (next to) the Spirit of a Class...

Related Posts