DNA Deep-dive: A classic, the Clarks Originals Desert Boot
By: Tommy C
Apr / 18 / 2023
Clarks, the internationally renowned name as we know it today, hasn't always repped a footwear-culture enveloping image packed with collaborative Wallabee and Desert Trek efforts on a monthly basis. After all, collaborations are a relatively fresh concept when measured against the brand's 1825 birth year, nearly two centuries ago. As the story goes, inspiration was spearheaded at the Clark brothers' family-owned tannery - correction, Cyrus Clark's tannery whereby brother, James, was employed. This was a tannery that dealt with a number of comfortable, borderline premium product including sheepskin rugs; have you guessed where this is going yet? Of course not. But, it wasn't until 1942 that the topic of today's conversation hit the shopfloor - of course, we are talking about the Desert Boot. Residing as James Clark's great-grandson, one Nathan Clark was politely asked to monitor the situation of useful footwear designs that may benefit Clarks whilst being located in Burma and India, serving West African Brigade staff during World War II. The request came from his older brother, Bancroft, who had coincidentally become chairman of the brand in '42. Doing his due diligence, Nathan discovered the Chupplee men's sandal; a distinctive style ever-popular in North Western parts of India and more importantly, the crepe-soled Desert Boot as worn by 8th Army Officers who discovered them upon the feet of boar farmers across South Africa. Similar to the traditional chukka boot, there are a number of key difference that set the Desert Boot apart - namingly, an upper turned outwards as opposed to underfoot before being sewn directly into the sole, ticking the boxes for Clarks' impending venture. Though, as with all great developments it wasn't all plain sailing for Nathan's Desert Boot - in fact, the board committee decided they simply would never sell. At this point, Nathan packed-up the silhouette and carried it as far as physically possible, creating Clarks Australia in '48 to accomodate for an entirely new market. Fortunately, the Aussies loved his reverse-leather number and pairs began to appear overseas, adopted by the West Indies and becoming a pillar within Jamaican Rude Boy culture - just as the Wallabee did! And... boom! As if by magic, the Desert Boot had made its mark, jumping from shelf to shelf and bestowing comfort for fashion-forward stylists from England to Australia, lining everywhere in-between.