In this guide we discuss all about Clarks desert boot, the history, the style or construction, different materials, and whether it’s worth your money or not.
- The History of Clarks Desert Boots
- Are Clarks Desert Boots Worth It?
- $190 Clarks Desert Boot vs $130 Version
- Leather Differences
- Made in Vietnam vs Made in Italy
- Construction – Very Similar
- Sewn Welt
- Fit, Walkability, & Comfort
- The Final Verdict
- Are Clarks Desert Boots Worth It In General?
- What Color & Style Combination Should You Go For?
- Where To Buy Clarks Desert Boots?
- Which version would you go for? Do you have better Desert Boot recommendations?
- Learn To Clean Clarks Desert Suede And Beeswax Leather Boots
- Cleaning Clarks Desert Suede Boots
- Cleaning Clarks Beeswax Leather Boots
- waterproofing clarks desert boots With Sno Seal
- Mistakes to Avoid When Cleaning Clarks Desert Boots
- Before You Go
The History of Clarks Desert Boots
In 1941, Nathan Clark, who was the great-grandson of the founder James Clark, was deployed to Burma in Myanmar which is north of Thailand. Before he left, his family requested to keep an eye out for new shoe models or anything that might be advantageous for their company.
While abroad, Nathan noticed very simplistic chukka boots with a crepe sole that were worn by officers. When he inquired, he figured out that most of those came from a bazaar in Cairo, Egypt. He was immediately fascinated by that simplistic boot, with that innovative new sole that wasn’t really around in traditional menswear and he was convinced that would be a great idea for the company.
He sent sketches back home in the hopes that the company would pick up production. The desert boot was somewhat revolutionary in the sense that suede uppers and crepe soles were something associated with lower classes, not elegant gentlemen. Even though Nathan was really enthusiastic, the company board thought it will never sell.
Determined and convinced of his idea, Nathan crossed a pond to exhibit his shoe in 1949 at the Chicago shoe show. There he was able to show to influential editors and people, in general, liked it. It was a more casual boot alternative that had been unseen at this point in time. With all that positive feedback and encouragement, he went back to England and produced the first range of desert boots which were sold exclusively in the US.
In 1950, the original boot looked pretty similar to the photo above. It was a sand colored suede which he got from Charles F Stead which is an English tannery specializing in suede leathers that still exists today. He chose the color sand because it closely resembled the sand in Egypt and so the name desert boot really made sense, at the same time, the boot referenced its desert origins.
In the US, it was a successful boot and because of that, it eventually sold in the UK as well. It became popular in the pop cultures in the 60s and 70s and it was worn by famous movie stars such as Steve McQueen or others like Bob Dylan, even the Beatles wore them. While the original desert boot was made in England, made of English leather, it is now mostly made in Asia with a few exceptions of making it in Italy.
That being said, desert boot is still by far the most iconic and best-selling shoe in the whole Clarks lineup.
Are Clarks Desert Boots Worth It?
So first of all, there are three versions on the market today. Ironically, all of them are called original.
First, you have the original in a suede leather with a crepe sole that costs $130, it’s made in Vietnam just like the other original suede boots that use a waxed leather on top. It has a nice pull-up effect but it’s not quite the original.
In my opinion, for $190, you get an original Clarks desert boot that is made in Italy with a crepe sole and English suede leather from Charles F Stead, the same tannery that created the original boot.
$190 Clarks Desert Boot vs $130 Version
Supposedly, the expensive version is more hard-wearing and luxurious. I have to say the leather is quite nice, it’s a soft supple suede leather and on the inside, you can find a scotch grain like texture. It simply means the suede is reversed which is very typical of a leather that you see from stead.
On the other hand, the less expensive version has a suede-like texture on both sides which means the smoother outside was sanded down and overall, $190 boot has definitely a more superior leather.
$190 version of Clarks Desert Boots – Made in Italy
I’ve had other shoes with leather from Charles F Stead and it’s very durable, very nice leather. I think on the Clarks boots, they did a good job of not making it too soft.
I have a pair of boots with stead leather from Allen Edmonds which is quite soft and comfortable to wear but at the same time, it doesn’t keep its shape. Now, of course, the country of manufacturing is different. Vietnam likes the heritage tradition of England and Italy, at the same time, the labor costs are much lower which are passed on to you as a consumer.
Made in Vietnam vs Made in Italy
At the end of the day, they have skilled laborers in Vietnam who are eager to learn new skills and if taught correctly, they can turn out a very consistent product that’s very similar to what you’d find from England or Italy, at least, when we talk about a factory made shoe setting.
Construction – Very Similar
In terms of construction, the expensive and inexpensive boot is the same. Both have some kind of stitching, both have a crepe sole even though it’s different; the Italian made one has a more textured crepe sole which is typically what you find in crepe sole shoes, the less expensive $130 version has smoother crepe soles and it’s definitely a different crepe.
Personally, I prefer the $190 dollar. If you look at the last, it seems identical to me and there’s really no difference between a made in Italy and a made in Vietnam version. As I mentioned, the leather is quite a bit different.
The Stead leather is definitely the best and thus also on a more expensive shoe.
The waxed leather on the Clarks desert boot is quite a bit harder than the suede ones and because the original was a suede, I would personally always prefer to have a suede desert boot and skip the waxed leather one. That being said, the waxed leather develops a nice patina, it has a pull-up effect, and you’ll see any kind of scratch you create on it. So if that’s something you will like, it’s definitely worth looking into.
When it comes to the welt, you see a higher stitch density on the Italian version than on the less expensive version. Normally, on a Goodyear welted shoe, a higher stitch density indicates a higher quality but in this case, the shoes are not Goodyear welted and I don’t think it matters in everyday life. Both versions have two rows of eyelets.
The less expensive version has metal rivets, the Italian version doesn’t have any rivets. The shoelaces on the Italian version are better, the waxed cotton on the other ones, they’re just regular cotton or a polycotton so you can tell there are slight differences. The original desert boot from Nathan Clark had orange contrast stitching on the boot which made it different.
None of the boots that I have here actually have that stitching which again, makes me wonder why they call it the original. Clearly, they must only refer to the style of the last. Inside of the shoe, you don’t find any lining as discussed before and there’s an insole that is slightly padded in the back. Interestingly, the made in Italy is highlighted versus the made in Vietnam is not.
Fit, Walkability, & Comfort
I find it to be all very similar. Not much difference, overall.
I think the Clarks run true-to-size if at all, a little smaller. I got a US 11 or a UK 10, sometimes I wear UK 10 and a half so keep that in mind, otherwise, I think they have a very average fit. They’re a little wider in the heel but I have very slim heels. If you usually wear Goodyear welted dress shoes, the Clarks will feel a lot softer. If you are used to trainers, you might think you have to break them in. It’s all upon perspective!
The Final Verdict
I think the $190 version definitely wins on the quality front; it has nicer leather, nicer stitching, nicer details, better shoelaces, and definitely a better leather. In terms of value, I think the made in Vietnam version wins simply because these slight differences are not worth the $60 difference which is almost 50% based on a lower 130 dollar price point.
Are Clarks Desert Boots Worth It In General?
I would say yes, they are worth it if your wardrobe, in general, leans towards the casual end because the crepe sole of these boots are only suited for casual outings. They’re also not a winter boot or suited for colder weather at all. Because there’s no lining and just a single layer of leather, your feet would freeze very quickly.
I think Clarks desert boots are worth it if you appreciate the understated simplistic look of them and if you wear a lot of denim jeans, maybe chinos, they’re definitely not suited to your wardrobe if you wear suits, maybe dress pants, or other kinds of slacks, because they simply clash in terms of formality.
So if you plan to wear it frequently, I think they’re worth $130, if you want to splurge on $190 version you definitely don’t make a mistake but if you’re tight on money, you’re just fine going with $130 version.
What Color & Style Combination Should You Go For?
Well, the original one is a sand colored suede boot with a crepe sole and I think if you’re interested in authenticity, that’s the version I would buy. Of course, that light tone of leather also stains more easily, shows dirt and signs of wear very quickly, so if you prefer, you can go with darker suedes or if you’re not a fan of suede, you can also go with other colors. Overall, personally, I’d stick in the brown range. If you want to be a little more flamboyant, you can go with blue or other bolder colors but at the end of the day, that limits you considerably in terms of flexibility and variety in your wardrobe because you can only wear it with very specific pants and outfits.
I think Clarks desert boots are not worth it overall if you like to dress up because in that case, I suggest you go with a leather sole it creates a nicer sound and it’s simply more elegant. Personally, I’m also not a big fan of the Clarks desert boot last, it’s very round boring and a bit clunky in my opinion. I prefer longer lasts maybe with a slight chisel.
So for myself, I don’t think a Clarks desert boot is worth the investment simply because I have other chukka boots that I like more. If I didn’t have a chukka boot at all, I would probably go for the $190 versions that are made in Italy simply because I appreciate the better leather.
Where To Buy Clarks Desert Boots?
You can find them at many retailers including places like Amazon, but for the largest selection (and sometimes higher prices) check out the Clarks website.
Which version would you go for? Do you have better Desert Boot recommendations?
Summary Article Name Is It Worth It: Iconic Clarks Desert Boot Description An in-depth review of Clarks desert boots; a must-read guide to help you decide if it is worth the investment or not. Author Sven Raphael Schneider Publisher Gentleman’s Gazette LLC Publisher Logo
Learn To Clean Clarks Desert Suede And Beeswax Leather Boots
Clarks Desert boots are highly versatile. You can wear them to the office, airport, date, party, trip or any casual occasion. They are fairly cheap and long-lasting as well.
Like any other boots, they may pick up some dirt and other stains. That calls for a deep cleaning session. It’s not rocket science to clean Clarks Desert boots and anyone can learn how to do it right. This guide is aimed at teaching you just that.
Clarks Desert boots are available in two materials- suede and beeswax leather. The leather one is coated with beeswax to make them glossy and waterproof. The process of cleaning the two is similar but slightly different. Here’s how:
Table of Contents
Cleaning Clarks Desert Suede Boots
Suede is suede. Clarks Desert boots are no different. The challenge is to clean the boots without flattening the nap. Here’s how to do it:
- Use a suede brush and rub the boots gently to remove any dirt buildup.
- Use a suede eraser to remove any spots and stains on the boots.
- Dye the suede if some stains are hard to remove.
- Use a mild detergent to clean the sole. (works for both synthetic and crepe sole).
- Air-dry the boots in shade.
Tip: You can apply silicone spray on your Clarks desert suede boots to make them resilient to dust, dirt, water, snow, and other stain-causing factors.
Cleaning Clarks Beeswax Leather Boots
Clarks Desert boots come in leather material as well. This leather is treated with beeswax to make it waterproof and a little glossy. This beeswax film sometimes gets removed during the cleaning process and that’s exactly what we are trying to avoid. Here’s how to do it right:
- Take a soft bristle brush or a piece of cloth and briskly rub the boots to clean any dirt buildup on them
- Take a damp cloth and clean the boots gently. It should be enough to remove the stains from the boots.
- If you find some stains are hard to remove, use saddle soap on the boots.
- Use a mild detergent to clean the sole. (works for both synthetic and crepe sole).
- Finally, nourish the boots with leather oil to restore their glossiness.
Tip: I found that the leather oil is capable of making the boots waterproof as well. As you know the beeswax layer gets removed while cleaning, don’t forget oiling your boots afterward.
waterproofing clarks desert boots With Sno Seal
To waterproof your Clarks desert boots apply a coat of Sno Seal leather protector. It comprises beeswax and some other oils that create a strong barrier on your boots against water. Plus, it makes them look great again and helps to increase their lifespan. (Related: Sno Seal Reviews)
One thing to note is that the use of Sno Seal on your Clarks Desert boots to make them waterproof may also make them look a bit darker. This change of color is not drastic yet you should test the solution on an inconspicuous area of your boots first such as the heel.
Mistakes to Avoid When Cleaning Clarks Desert Boots
Clarks desert boots have the potential to last for over a year if you clean and nourish them regularly. Still, I have seen people making some common mistakes that may ruin the pair.
- Never rub the Clarks boots vigorously with a brush to remove the dirt build-up. Being gentle is the key here. Otherwise, dirt may cause scratches on your boots that are hard to reverse. In the case of suede boots, it may damage the nap and create patches.
- Never apply any soap on your Clarks boots. The use of saddle soap is fine but not any regular soap or detergent. They may cause discoloration of the leather that is irreversible.
- Always spread some newspaper on the floor or table before cleaning your Clarks Desert boots. The dirt, oil, and spray may create a mess on the floor that may give you a hard time cleaning it.
- Adding to it, The protective sprays are not there just to armor old boots. You can use them on your brand new Clarks Desert boots as well. It will protect the boots from any irreversible stains.
- Last but not least, don’t wait for your Clarks boots to get dirty. Make it a daily habit to clean suede boots with a soft brush and beeswax leather boots with a damp cloth.
Tip: If you choose to apply a coat of protective or waterproofing spray on the boots after the cleaning, make sure you are in a well-ventilated area. The chemicals are harsh and the spray may cause nausea.
Before You Go
As far as a style statement is concerned, you can never go wrong with Clarks Desert boots. Just take good care of them, keep them clean, protect them with a spray and they will last you over a year. Not only they will last longer, but they will also look like new for longer.
Other than the boots, I suggest cleaning the laces and insoles as well. They can be cleaned with mild detergent and water. Just make sure you air dry them in the shade and not under sun.
As a goodbye note, I would say a pair of Clarks Desert boots is not very expensive. If you find your boots have lost their pulse and cleaning them is not making them look good again, simply get a new pair. I never recommend taking them to a shoe repair shop. It’s not worth the fees. You can easily buy a new pair with the same amount of money.
Clarks is a monumentally successful shoe company that was founded in England in 1825 and slowly became one of the most influential brands in Britain and even many of its colonies — I actually used to wear little leather Clarks shoes to school every day when I was growing up in Australia.
It’s hard to think about Clarks without thinking of their uber popular chukka, the Desert boot. Definitely the most popular chukka boot on Earth and quite possibly one of the most iconic boots of all time, the shoe’s development was spearheaded by Nathan Clark, the great grandson of the founder of Clark’s. He was stationed in what was then Burma in World War 2 and noticed that a lot of the soldiers there wore crepe-soled boots with suede uppers, a design originally made to be worn by soldiers fighting in Africa’s Western Desert Campaign.
Clark loved the boots but when he returned to England he had trouble selling the idea because crepe soles and suede uppers were kind of, well, associated with the lower class. But when he came to Chicago to try to sell them to Americans in the late 1940s they were a hit.
So why is this the most popular Chukka boot? Let’s check it out.
Clarks Desert Boot First Glance
There are a few kinds of Desert Boots out there right now: there’s a Goodyear welted version called the Desert Welt, there’s also leather and suede and canvas in many colors, but when I went to their store on Madison Avenue I got the most popular color: Oakwood suede.
These shoes are made in Vietnam and they really define the words Chukka boot: there are barely any laces to speak of and it’s about ankle height at 10.5 centimeters high — about as low as you can get while still calling it a boot. The design is called “open lacing” and my friends tell me I look like an archaeologist or a carpenter when I wear them, but again, they really became popular after being worn by soldiers in Africa.
It’s a basic, unpretentious boot and super informal – you’d have to be crazy to try and wear these with slacks or even nice khakis. That’s because not only are they super light and thin, the sole, which is made from a type of latex called crepe, just screams casual. Crepe has a lot of pros, of course: it’s light, it’s soft, it’s meant to be pretty environmentally friendly, but brother it does not look formal.
Indeed, you just cannot judge this shoe by the same standards as Aldens or any brand that costs over $300. It would be completely unfair. People who are used to spending more on their boots take a look at the Desert boot and point out that it’s shapeless, there are no curves, they’re not sexy, they don’t have much form, all of which is true.
But it is what it is. They’re inexpensive shoes and a big upside to all that informality is that they’re pretty great in warm weather and while I might make enemies saying this, I think that so long as you can’t see your socks, they can be worn with shorts. Now, that’s a controversial statement and many, many people will disagree with me on that. I’m just saying that if I’m wearing shorts and a collar and I want to look dressier than sneakers or flip flops, I don’t have an issue with the Desert boot.
Clarks Desert Boot Leather
- Oakwood suede is most popular material
- Made in Vietnam
- Not waterproof
- Good for warm weather
The Oakwood is a waxy, sand-colored suede.
A quick refresher on suede: when tanneries get their hides, they keep the top grain and split it off from the rest of the skin. The split is the part that falls off from the underside, and that’s usually where suede comes from and it’s finished with a small amount of wax to enhance the character.
After a few phone calls with Clark I found out that not only is the boot made in Vietnam but the suede is also made in Vietnam. Some sources claim it comes from the prestigious C.F. Stead, the same place that provided the fantastic suede for Taft’s Dragon Boot, but Clark’s is clearly a cheaper material.
It’s not the best looking or strongest wearing suede I’ve ever seen. It’s not waterproof, it’s pretty thin, and as mentioned above it doesn’t have much structure at all. But it’s soft enough and it breathes well in warm weather, plus — and I feel a need to say this alongside every criticism I have of the boot — it is darn cheap.
Clarks Desert Boot Leather Care
- Clean with suede brush
- Remove stains with pencil eraser
- No need to add waxes
- Avoid getting wet
Things aren’t too complicated with this suede. Clarks recommends lightly brushing it with a suede brush to get rid of most dust and dirt and since this kind of suede will probably stain easily, you might want to pick up a suede eraser as well. (You can also just get a regular pencil eraser, which Clarks also said would be fine.)
That should pretty much do it. People don’t typically condition suede with oils or anything because that can wreck the nappy finish. Some like to apply wax suede, like Otter Wax, but you’re unlikely to need it.
Want to waterproof these? I can see why, the Desert boot is pretty useless in wet weather. You can try something like Kiwi’s suede protector which should help the upper, but remember that the sole isn’t great in wet weather either so it may be a wash. So to speak.
Clarks Desert Boot Sole
- Crepe sole
- Very soft and comfy
- Sensitive to temperature and the elements
- Rapid stitched and cemented to upper
This is a crepe sole, also called plantation rubber, and it’s a crude, cheap form of natural rubber that’s usually obtained when coagulated latex is passed through heavy rolls called “crepers” after which the resultant material is air dried. Some people consider it a relatively environmentally friendly latex because you can tap rubber trees for rubber without killing them, so there should be less waste involved. (Of course, I can’t pretend to know exactly how sustainable the production of this inexpensive Vietnam-made boot really is.)
It’s very soft, very informal, and it’s cheap. Traditionally, crepe has been on workers’ shoes and boots and it is super comfortable. I’d say it feels almost like a slipper, in that you can kind of feel it when you step on small rocks and pavement cracks when you’re out and about.
There are a few downsides: as you can see from the pictures, it gets very dirty very easily. The big, nasty, foot-shaped smear you can see above happened within about two days of buying these shoes; crepe loves to suck up everything it touches and you can also expect to find hair and small pebbles embedded in the sole after a long day.
It also slips kind of easily in wet conditions and it can even absorb water and get your feet wet. Remember, they’re desert boots, not monsoon boots. They’re sensitive to a lot of stressors: solvents can cause it to crumble, cold can make it rigid, and there are even reports of crepe melting when left on brutally hot asphalt or a sunny car dashboard.
You’d think these would be hard to resole, but these are a combination rapid stitch and cemented sole and it’s actually not uncommon for a cobbler to be able to resole Desert boots. Resole.com does it, though of course you also have to ask whether the upper will last long enough for it to be worth the cost.
Again, the sole is comfy and feel like you’re wearing nothing at all, but it’s not stable and doesn’t provide much support. If you love the boots but you want a nice Goodyear welted sole, or just something with a shank or some more stability, remember there’s the Desert Welt, which is made in England with C.F. Stead suede.
Clarks Desert Boot Fit & Sizing
- Order a half size down from sneaker size
- Just one width available
- Suede stretches very quickly
I’m between an 11.5 and a 12 on a Brannock device and on the Desert boot I found I was an 11 medium, for medium width, an in British sizes I’m a 10G. In America it would normally be called a D width but Clarks labels a medium width “M” or “G.” In any case, it won’t be hard to find that width because this shoe is only available in one width, which will be a downer for people with wide or narrow feet.
I could have pretty easily gone with an 11.5 because I found the 11 a little narrow, and while I seldom suggest getting a boot that feels too snug, this suede stretches and it stretches quickly. Honestly, I felt it stretch as I was walking around the store, so the 11D was fine with my foot and I think an 11C would be quite happy as well. (I’m aware you can see my toes in some of these photos, but they feel great and no one can see my toes if they don’t have their nose pressed to the pavement.)
Width aside, these boots are super comfortable. Like I said, the crepe sole is super soft, it has a very soft step, you even sink into it when you walk and feel the ground beneath you. You don’t feel very well protected from the outside and as mentioned above, there’s little support or stability. But if you’re someone who sometimes wishes he could go out in slippers, you’ll have found your boot.
Clarks Desert Boot Price
In store and on Clarks’ site you’ll pay $130 for a pair of Oakwood suede, but they’re a little cheaper on Amazon, typically costing between $120 and $125. The boot is available in other materials which frequently fall to far cheaper prices — at the time of writing the khaki leather is just $65. Amazon goes up and down a lot based on a variety of factors, but it’s always the cheapest place to buy these shoes. Just don’t hold your breath waiting for the Oakwood suede to fall in price: as the most popular color, it’s a rare event.
Is the Clarks Desert Boot Worth It?
I have many, many boots and I’ve never had a pair of boots that get this many compliments. Now, you may argue that’s because they’re pretty “basic” so more people like them, which would be a fair point. But despite the lightness and the fact that they almost feel like slippers, I feel confident when I’m wearing these. People just like them, even if they are shapeless and blobby.
Look, the sole has a million and one issues with durability and stability, but it’s comfortable. The leather is thin, weak, and stains easily, but it’s comfortable. You can’t wear them with anything formal, but they’re comfortable. And while comfort doesn’t always trump durability I would argue when shoes are this cheap, I think “they’re comfy and they spruce up a casual outfit” is more than enough reason to grab a pair.
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By day: Manhattan-based journalist with reporting experience on four continents, published in Vice, Men’s Health, Popular Science, and a bunch of other places.By night: ravenous consumer of anything and everything related to high end men’s boots.Stridewise is where I nurture a maniacal obsession with footwear and share my findings. Say hey:
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