The idea for two eye boots with a crepe sole began in 1941 in British Burma. Located between India and China, Burma was annexed by Great Britain in 1937. Burma was a British territory, and a military presence was maintained in the region because Japan was at war with China. Through Burma, China had its only supply route with the West.
This is where Nathan Clark, stationed as part of the Royal Army Service Corps in 1941, observed the servicemen wearing suede sand-colored chukkas with crepe soles. This style originated in the bazaars of Cairo, where the Eighth Army was stationed for a time. Made for the desert sands but adaptable to any terrain, this boot was lightweight and an excellent replacement to old-military style boots.
Right boots, wrong time
Using a newspaper on the barrack floor, he cut out the first pattern for the shoe. He sent the design back to Street, Somerset in Britain to his brother, who was then Chairman of the firm over the company. Unfortunately, the design was tossed aside in a board meeting. Apparently, during this time, men’s suede shoes in Britain carried the connotation of being “brothel creepers” and were heavily ridiculed.
Persistence pays off
Several years would pass, until in 1950, as the Overseas Development Manager for Clarks, Nathan convinced Oscar Schoeffler, fashion editor of Esquire magazine, to run an article on the boots. Nine years had passed since the idea had first formed, and now with an article in Esquire, the boots took off in America. It would take another decade for the boots to surface in England during the mid-60s and to rise in popularity.
Today the boots are one of the few shoes to change the world. It has been released in over 100 countries. It has been worn by Bob Dylan, Steve McQueen, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Emma Watson. A boot with a rich history spanning over 70 years. Clarks Desert Boots a classic that has stood the test of time.