What I’ve Got: Clarks Original Desert Boots

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The Clarks Original Desert Boot is an iconic shoe. Worn by college
students and celebrities alike, these chukkas are one of the most
ubiquitous designs in footware.

70 years ago in 1941, British soldier Nathan Clark (a member of the family that owned Clarks) noticed that the officers in his formation were wearing these strange,
sand colored chukkas during their downtime. Clark investigated the shoes
and learned that they had originally been commissioned to Cairo
cobblers by South African soldiers whose old-military issue boots had
failed them out on the desert terrain. They wanted something that was
both lightweight and grippy which led to creation of a boot with a suede
upper on a crepe sole.

Nathan thought he’d found exactly what the company needed, so he began
sending sketches back to his brother Bancroft, at the Clarks
headquarters in Somerset, England. Unfortunately for Nathan, the English
footwear tradition had always leaned toward the formal, and a pair of
suede chukkas was considered too lower-class for Bancroft’s tastes, so
the concept remained dormant.

Even after his return, Nathan’s design was disregarded by his family, who sent him oversees to the US. Nathan did not give up on the desert boot and instead manufactured the shoe on his own and launched it in Chicago. The American market instantly fell in love with the shoe, and Clarks, finally realizing that Nathan had created something truly amazing, began mass-producing the Desert Boots. Today, it is by far the company’s best-selling shoe.

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