While stationed in Burma with the British Army, Nathan Clark notices many off-duty officers wearing simple suede boots with crepe soles. He learns the boots come from a bazaar in Cairo. The officers, looking for a comfortable option that could survive the harsh desert conditions, had them specially made. Inspired, Clark begins cutting prototype patterns out of newsprint. He sends these clippings along with drawings back home to the village of Street in Somerset. He is convinced a version of this boot could be a new signature model for his family’s shoe business.
Upon his return to England, Clark sources the finest materials and shoemakers to transform his idea into reality. Using an existing last from a popular Clarks sandal, he begins to experiment. He incorporates the stitch-down construction used in other Clarks styles, but uses an orange thread to further distinguish the boot. Additionally, at a time when most men’s shoes were made from stiff, formal leather, Nathan opts for beige suede from nearby tannery, Charles F. Stead. The color of the suede closely resembles sand – subtly referencing the boot’s desert origins.
Nathan unveils his latest creation at the Chicago Shoe Fair in 1949. The deceptively simple silhouette and unusual crepe sole captivates style editors and customers alike. The warm reception confirms Clark’s hunch – the Clarks Desert Boot, deemed the world’s first “dress casual” shoe, is a runaway success.
The popularity of the Clarks Desert Boot soon spreads. Over the coming years, it symbolizes everything from teddy boy pomp and euro-chic to 60’s flamboyance, Cool Britannia and 21st century swagger. Around the world, revolutionaries, artists and original thinkers adopt the Desert Boot as part of their uniform. The simple silhouette becomes a legend.
The Clarks Desert Boot is the original desert boot. Its timeless silhouette has been copied by many, but never bettered. For decades, the Clarks Original logo in the foot bed and the official on-shoe tab labeled “Clarks The Original Desert Boot” have been symbols of originality and constant reminders of one man’s vision that ultimately sparked a footwear revolution.