In 1949, when the head of the Clarks stock committee was presented with a sample of a shoe designed and cut by Nathan Clark, he was deeply skeptical. “It’ll never sell,” he said. The rest of the stock committee – on whose word the fate of many a Clarks shoe rested – agreed. Clark, however, was not going to abandon his design. He debuted that shoe, the Desert Boot, months later at the 1949 Chicago Shoe Fair.
A feature in Esquire magazine later, and Clark had a bestselling hit on his hands – this radical boot was like nothing anyone had ever seen before. And six and a half decades on, the Clarks Desert Boot has been one of the defining shoes of the modern era.
Originally crafted with suede from Charles F. Stead – a Leeds tannery established in 1895 – over ten million pairs of Desert Boots have been sold in over 100 countries since it first hit shelves in 1950. It’s little wonder the silhouette has been copied by fashion houses the world over. Inspired by the crepe-soled, rough suede boots made in Cairo’s Khan elKhalili bazaar for British Eighth Army officers, the Desert Boot instantly revolutionised the game. It created a whole new dress casual footwear category.
Since its inception, generations of youth cultures have made it their own. From British teddy boys, mods, the Beat Generation and Jamaican rudeboys to Hollywood movie stars and rock and roll greats past and present – the Desert Boot has represented individuality. And with its elegant styling, clean lines and superior ride, our ever-versatile shoe has remained a stone cold classic for the years. Here’s to the next 65.