The desert boot has become a solid protagonist on the fashion scene in Australia and New Zealand over the past few years. Nearly every hue and pattern can be found from muted neutrals to panther spotted patterns. But you may not know how close the fashion world came to never being graced with this iconic shoe.
The idea came to Nathan Clark, while serving as an officer in the Royal Army Service Corps in 1941. During the course of his Army travels Nathan – the great grandson of James Clark, who founded the Clarks company with his brother Cyrus — first found inspiration from the footwear soldiers in Burma were wearing. Yet the idea didn’t truly become tangible until Nathan came across members of the British Eighth Army wearing accustomed desert warfare which included a soft, lightweight ‘desert boot’ – a roughly constructed suede shoe with crepe soles crafted from the Old Bazaar in Cairo. The boots were ideal for the environment in which they were fighting – they were light, flexible and had a fantastic grip.
Nathan sent sketches and rough patterns back to company headquarters but didn’t receive the support he expected, the general consesus being the boots would never sell. Undiscouraged, he cut the patterns himself and eventually showed the prototype to Oscar Schoeffler, fashion editor of Esquire who ran a story in 1949 and as we say, the rest is history.
While this sturdy boot was immediately successful in France and Italy, its popularity didn’t peak in Britain until Sixties Mod subculture took off. These cult shoes have since been a steadfast icon on the fashion scene, canoodling with fashionable youths and rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous (think Steve McQueen, Liam Gallagher and Bob Dylan) as well as everyday Joes (and increasingly Joettes).
Fast forward to today and you’ll find a plethora of different designs, colours and patterns available in the market. The modern desert boot is slightly dressier in design and no longer exclusively worn with tailor-made Italian suits. You’ll find that they’re also a good fit with jeans, chinos and even dress shorts. The versatility of this shoe means it can be dressed up or down – never looking out of place with a plain white t-shirt or a shirt and blazer.
Make sure you own a pair of these staple boots. Its simple and timeless design, plus the sheer fact that it’s been around for over six decades, is testament to the fact that it’s above trends – they’re very much here to stay. If you’re looking to pick yourself up a pair check out Aquila’s range of stylish desert boots in a range of colours and designs.
For those who are uninitiated into the world of desert boots or would like some style advice, have a read of our guide on how to wear desert boots. If you already own a pair, we cannot stress enough, the importance of taking care of your desert boots.
Do you own desert boots? Are you a fan? Leave a comment below, we’d love to hear from you.