Clark first introduced the Desert Boot for sale in 1949, basing them on the form of chukka boot worn by British forces in the deserts of North Africa in World War II. This particular form of the chukka boot usually has a crepe sole with a suede upper (though they come in dozens of different leather and suede uppers now), themselves based on South African shoes called Veldskoen. Since then, the humble desert boot has become a staple of men’s style; jeans and desert boots make an iconic pair.
The desert boot has a very simple and utilitarian look, which makes them versatile and enduring. I’ve owned several pairs of desert boots over the years, from the classic beeswax leather to brown suede. They’re comfortable and cool and stylish all at once. They make an excellent shoe to be thrown on with any outfit, especially for a guy who prefers a more casual but still neat appearance. Essentially an all-purpose shoe, they can be worn with jeans, chinos and even suits. I’ve seen them worn with everything from white linen to dark navy suits (the latter pairing of which is more fashion-forward). I personally avoid wearing anything but dress shoes with suits, but it can definitely be done.
I find that the beeswax leather looks better as an everyday shoe, and prefer to save the softer, more delicate suede for dressier occasions. That is my personal preference, and they look great in just about any style or configuration you wish.
For this reason, they are essentially an all-season shoe; keep in mind, they are not weatherproof. Water will go right through them, so I suggest weatherproofing them with some kind of spray or if you plan to wear them in winter.
One thing to note about the Clarks is that they run large, usually by about one whole size. I wear a size 13, and when I bought my first pair of Clarks that size, they were quite large and loose. That didn’t stop me from wearing them almost every day for 2 years straight, but I’ve since downsized to a size 12. Those fit much better, but are still a bit loose around the ankles. That, however, has more to do with the construction and shape of the boots than anything else. Wearing thick, wool socks definitely helps. I’ve even tried 11’s and 11.5’s, but they were too tight for my feet. I do know that the leather, especially the suede, will stretch and break in over time, so if the choice comes down to slightly too large and slightly too tight, I’d suggest going with the smaller pair.
Another nice benefit of the desert boot is they are made with Goodyear welt soles; once the original crepe sole is worn out, they can be resoled by any traditional cobbler. Some people like to put Vibram soles on there, for extra grip. I’m a fan of the look of leather boot soles, which instantly turns the shoe into an even classier and dressier piece. You’ll lose the ruggedness and grip of the shoe, but with some good polishing and waxing, the shoe will look great with any outfit. My first pair of desert boots lasted 2 years of almost every day wear, before the crepe soles finally wore out.
That is one thing about the desert boot; the crepe sole is very light in color, and because of the grip and texture of the rubber, it becomes very dirty very quickly. Within the first few wears, you will notice that the sole looks considerably darker, and eventually blacken over time.
Another option you may want to consider, especially if you like to go rough on your apparel, are the Clarks Bushacre 2’s. Almost identical to the regular Clarks Desert Boot, the Bushacre’s come with a hard rubber sole. It’s both grippier than the original crepe sole, and tougher and longer lasting, made for more outdoor use. However, it looks just as good as the original, the only visible difference being the color of the sole. This rubber sole also remains a lot cleaner than the crepe sole, as it doesn’t pick up nearly as much dirt.