The Clarks brand has been around since 1825, believe it or not. Since its inception, their desert boot has become a men’s style stalwart, but the question is whether or not the iconic Clarks Desert Boot truly stands the test of time.
In this comprehensive, long-term Clarks Desert Boot review, I’m going to go over the history of Clarks, explain the difference between chukkas and desert boots, delve into the style & design, the quality & craftsmanship, comfort & durability and shoe sizing & price.
Furthermore, I’ll get into the pros & cons, most importantly how they’ve held up over the past 7 years, and finally wrap things up with my desert/chukka boot recommendations and whether or not I think they’re worth it.
Let’s get started.
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AN ABRIDGED HISTORY OF CLARKS DESERT BOOT
The Clarks story began almost 200 years ago when Cyrus and James Clark founded the company in 1825. It wasn’t until 1950 that the Clarks Desert Boot was born.
Since its humble beginnings, the desert boot has made its mark as a status and cultural symbol around the world. Worn by beatniks, mods, Jamaican rude boys, Britpop bands like the Beatles, from Tokyo to London, from Paris to Kingston—the iconic Clarks Desert Boot appeal still endures to this day.
WHAT IS A CHUKKA BOOT?
Generally, the desert boot — aka a chukka boot is a simple shoe with open lacing and two or three pairs of eyelets. You’ll typically find this ankle-high boot in suede or leather. A quick sidebar: this new shearling desert boot, Todd Snyder x Clarks collab is one you’ll want to check out.
Did you know that a form of chukka, popularized as the desert boot, has its origins in the British military? Because of its comfortability and durability in harsh desert conditions, chukkas became many soldiers’ leisurewear of choice.
It’s been said that the chukka boot is the first dress-casual shoe, which allows for tremendous versatility. Chukkas can play nicely with a suit, and can easily be worn casual with dark wash jeans and a white tee. The Clarks Originals Desert Boot is a true classic with its distinctive silhouette. No other shoe or boot is quite like it.
The bottom line:
The desert boot straddles the fence between dressy and casual—leaning more so on the casual side. Suits become effortlessly cool with chukkas and your casual options are limitless.
Quick note: If you’re enjoying this Clarks Desert Boot Review, then you’ll probably like this guide on 7 Awesome Boot Styles for Men.
ARE CHUKKA AND DESERT BOOTS THE SAME?
In short, no. Much like liquor—all bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskeys are bourbon—all desert boots are chukkas, but not all chukkas are desert boots. Confusing?
Well, the primary difference between chukkas and desert boots is that the chukka boot is inherently more dressy than the desert boot and often made with high-quality Horween and full-grain leathers.
Additionally, chukkas lean towards having dressier and sleeker silhouettes which allows you to dress it up with a suit, while desert boots are best worn more casually.
Finally, a hallmark of the desert boot is the spongy crepe sole that make them ultra-comfortable, while chukka boots typically have a more sturdy construction with a dainite sole for example.
STYLE & DESIGN
As mentioned previously, the Clarks desert boot has a distinctive silhouette that’s instantly recognizable. What once was worn as functional footwear has evolved to become every modern man’s smart casual boot of choice.
What’s unique about my Clarks desert boot is the unmistakable Beeswax colorway. It’s a full-grain leather upper that’s similar in construction to a Saddleback bag. The leather is easily marked which can add a distinct character to each boot.
The desert boot’s design leans more casual in my eyes, although you can dress them up too. I feel that they’re most at home worn casually with jeans and a rugged field jacket.
Related: You might be interested in this Best Chukka Boots Ultimate Guide.
QUALITY & CRAFTSMANSHIP
In terms of quality and craftsmanship, the Clarks desert boot is well made, even if it’s made overseas. Vietnam is now the number 1 exporter of textiles in the world, surpassing Bangladesh and even China.
And I’ve gotta say, my homeland makes some quality products. The Clarks desert boot doesn’t have much of a lining. The leather upper is comprised of a single piece of leather with medium weight.
As for the stitching, it’s not a goodyear welt, but according to the Clarks team, the boots are
Blake stitched a stitchdown construction. A benefit of a blake stitched shoe over a GYW is that blake stitch shoes tend to have a sleeker appearance, thus make for a more refined looking dress shoe.
Whereas good year welted shoes can have a more rugged appearance, making them the perfect welt construction for many types of boots. With a stitchdown construction there’s typically a tighter seal around the welt, midsole and sole which can make for a more weatherproof boot with a more rugged appearance.
The beeswax leather upper is reminiscent to that of Saddleback leather. Extra rough, rugged and smooth with the type of leather that’s prone to scratches and markings. This allows for every boot to develop a unique look through the days, weeks and ultimately years of wear.
- Full leather upper
- Fully leather lined
- Crepe sole
- 0.5″ platform
- 1″ heel
- Made in Vietnam
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ARE CLARKS DESERT BOOTS COMFORTABLE?
In terms of fit and comfort, the soft crepe sole definitely aids in a comfortable step. They’re neither wide nor narrow and fit my feet properly, whether I’m wearing no-show socks or thicker merino wool socks.
I’ve worn these boots for many years and never experienced discomfort in my feet or toes. As of now, Clarks only offers a standard medium width which I feel is adequate for men with regular to even slightly wider feet.
The break in period for the Clarks desert boots is quicker than other more rugged boots I own like the Wolverine 1000 Mile or Thursday President Boot. This is mainly due to the boot’s form factor and comfortable crepe sole.
The walkability of these boots is quite good, although it’s not running sneaker level of comfort. Still, you can walk all day long without feeling any discomfort in my experience.
HOW THE BOOTS HAVE HELD UP (AFTER 7 YEARS)
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Over the past 7 years, my Clarks desert boots have gone through hundreds of wears, though it’s worth mentioning that I haven’t worn them much in the last 2 years.
I did start wearing them again in preparation for this review as I wanted to get a feel for the boots again. Overall, these boots have held up well thru the years and even built a distinct character of its own as you can see by the unique scratches and markings.
I recall early on in these boots’ life, taking them on a trip to Italy. We did a ton of walking through the cobblestone streets and museum halls. All was good until…
I remember it rained heavily one day and I regretted wearing them because the crepe soles aren’t suited for wet conditions. The rain seeped through the soles and my feet were soaked. After that day, I never wore them in the rain again.
One area that might disappoint you over many years of wear is the spongy crepe sole. It gets dirty quite easily and is not all that easy to clean up. For the sake of a fair review, I decided leave the sole as is and as you can see, it’s quite nasty.
It can also become sticky and attract all kinds of debris and hair which isn’t the most attractive sight. I normally wear my desert boots casually and so the dirty soles don’t bother me much.
Quick note: If you’re enjoying this Clarks Originals Desert Boot Review, then you’ll probably like this long-term Thursday Boot Review.
WHERE ARE CLARKS DESERT BOOTS MADE?
The USA in the Clarks name is misleading because most of Clarks lineup including the popular desert boots are made in Asia. My pair is specifically made in Vietnam. It’s worth mentioning that there are versions of the Clarks desert boot that you can find made with Italian leather.
The original desert boot was of course made in England, but I imagine they now source from Asia to maximize their bottom-line. Gotta love capitalism.
ARE CLARKS DESERT BOOTS SLIP RESISTANT?
These boots perform fairly well in wet conditions, ie. you won’t be slipping around like with leather soles. That said, crepe soles aren’t exactly ideal for rainy weather as mentioned above.
I still remember being caught in a rainstorm in Rome many years back and after awhile the rain began to seep through the crepe sole and into the shoes which was unfortunate.
ARE CLARKS DESERT BOOTS TRUE TO SIZE?
I’m normally a size 7.5 to 8 depending on the brand. The size I got for Clarks desert boot is 7.5 UK and 8 US and so Clarks runs nearly true to size. I would size down if you’re between sizes. As of now, on their website, they only offer a single standard medium width.
The boots fit well with thinner socks, although slightly loose. But when I wear thick winter socks, the boots are perfectly snug and even more comfortable.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CLARKS DESERT BOOT AND BUSHACRE?
While they both have similar silhouettes, standard 2 eyelet system and a suede or leather upper, the primary difference between the Clarks Desert Boot and ever popular Bushacre 2 Chukka Boot is that the former features the unmistakable crepe sole while the latter has a hard and smooth rubber sole.
The crepe sole may be more comfortable and lighter, but it is less wear resistant than the hardwearing rubber sole of the Bushacre which will certainly hold up better over the long haul.
Related: You might like this long-term Thorogood Boot Review.
ARE CLARKS DESERT BOOTS GOOD FOR WINTER WEATHER?
In my opinion, Clarks are better for summer weather than they are for winter weather. There’s no insulation at all, just a single piece of leather and that’s not enough to keep your feet warm.
I never really wear them in the winter time unless I’m wearing ultra-thick and warm winter socks, even still it’s a much better boot for spring, fall and even summer, making it a solid 3 season boot.
If you’re looking for the perfect winter boot at a similar price point, check out Timberland’s premium 6-inch waterproof boots. The Primaloft insulation is next level in terms of keeping your feet warm and comfortable.
MY CLARKS DESERT BOOTS RECOMMENDATIONS
As I browsed through the Clarks website, here’s the styles and colors that caught my eye, that I recommend right now. For starters, they now offer vegan versions of their popular Wallabee and Original Desert Boots.
Of course, the ubiquitous Clark’s Originals desert boot is a go-to for starters. These chukkas come in mostly neutral shades of brown, navy and sand. Personally, I’d for a darker brown or even burgundy for more elegance and versatility or a lighter shade in suede for more casual get-ups.
- Clarks Originals Icon in Beeswax
- Clarks Originals Icon in Dark Tan Leather
- Clarks Originals Icon in Burgundy
- Clarks Originals Icon in Grey Suede
- Clarks Desert Boot 2.0 in Beeswax
- Clarks Bushacre 2 Chukka in Distressed Suede
- Clarks Bushacre 3 Chukka in Sand Suede
CLARKS DESERT BOOTS PROS & CONS
- Instantly recognizable, a forever classic, iconic shoe
- Simple, clean boot design that’s high in character and easy to style
- The Beeswax leather develops unique creasing and markings over time
- Many a leather and suede colorways to choose from
- Comfortable boots that you can walk in all day
- Affordable price point of mostly $150 (and is often on sale)
- Not good for winter
- Not good for wet conditions
- Crepe sole gets super dirty
ARE CLARKS DESERT BOOTS WORTH IT?
Over 7 years later, I really can’t complain about the condition of my boots. The worn in beeswax leather has aged gracefully, with unique marks throughout the boot’s upper.
Sure, the crepe sole looks pretty disgusting and I haven’t really cared to clean it up, but overall I’m impressed that the boots are still wearable and more comfortable now than they were at the beginning.
At sub $200, you’re paying for a timeless boot that’s more distinctive than most. This quintessential favorite doesn’t sacrifice style or comfort either.
Ultimately, I highly recommend the original Clarks Desert Boot. It makes for a perfect first boot to add to any man’s footwear collection. It’s truly an original.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT CLARKS DESERT BOOTS?
Let’s continue the discussion over in the Gentlemen Within Private Facebook Community.
Looking forward to seeing you in there.
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