As usual, the British were on to something great first. Take the desert boot, for example, which has exploded in popularity in recent years and earned a spot in every guy’s closet.
I know what you’re thinking: boots for spring and summer?
Well, sure, normal boots aren’t really suitable for spring or summer — but desert boots aren’t normal boots.
They’re made from a thinner leather than normal boots, and they don’t go up your ankle as high (chukka-style). The soles are less chunky and are often made of a soft material (crepe rubber).
Combined, those attributes make it the perfect shoe to go with every one of your casual outfits from spring all the way until mid-fall. They were made for warm-weather wearing, so don’t be shy to wear them on bright spring days when you still need to wear pants (like a work day at the office).
They’re good for in-between weather as well, and can keep your feet in relative warmth should the mercury drop down farther than you were expecting on a spring night.
They’re light on the feet, so they won’t weigh you down, and they’re more comfortable than the minimal aesthetic they might at first convey. They’re a big step-up from your usual athletic sneakers.
Why are they called desert boots anyway?
Basically, they were first made for the desert terrain. Nathan Clark, who was born into the C. & J. Clark family shoe company (now better known as Clarks), is credited with bringing the design to mass market, according to GQ.
In 1941, Clark was just an infantry man in the British Army stationed in Burma. He was on the lookout for new shoe designs for his family’s company, however, and he noticed these unique types of boots worn by fellow soldiers in his company: chukka-style, soft rubber crepe sole, and boots made out of suede.
Clark traced these boots back to Cairo cobblers working for commission with the South African army. The boots suited their needs for something lightweight, but they were still able to grip the shifting sands they encountered.
Clark brought this design back to England with him, and by 1949 the newly christened “desert boot” made its debut at the Chicago Shoe Fair. It had a broad appeal because it was somewhere in the middle of dressy and casual — a new concept for that time.
Popularity has waxed and waned in the decades since, but the boot is now enjoying a new wave of popularity as men are looking to dress a little nicer than they have in previous decades.
Of, course, desert boots aren’t perfect. Many men assume that since they’re boots, they can stand up to the elements — but that’s not exactly the case. Because of the way they’re constructed, they will likely let in a lot more rain than you’d anticipate. Crepe soles also don’t do well in the rain, and many of the leather versions also come in suede, which you should avoid getting wet.
Clarks still makes the original and best version of the desert boots, as well as a cheaper version called the “Bushacre II” that come with a harder-wearing sole than the soft crepe one that is stitched into the desert. Other companies have also jumped on the bandwagon under the more generic term of “chukka boot,” like J. Crew, Thursday Boots, and Barney’s.