The desert boot guide for men: choose it well, wear it well

Just for once, it’s always the most simple and effective of items of clothing which have withstood the changing fashions of time. The desert boot is a perfect example of this winning combination.

It’s a multifunctional shoe, lightweight and streamlined, which has the ability to be worn in all kinds of situations. As such, desert boots deserve to have an entire article dedicated to it.

2Providing that the boot is chosen in a dark color such as brown, it’s a solid basic item, all-purpose, which accommodates all types of clothing. It clearly works with beige or grey. Here with Vincent, from La Comédie Humaine.

3On the other hand, choose in an original colour and instantaneously carry character and personality.

From the biggest brands to the bottom range lines, the offer is exceptionally varied.

More than 60 years after its spectacular entrance into ready to wear (see the history of the desert boot at the end of the article), the possibilities of outfits are all the more numerous than the partnerships and limited editions flourish each season.

4Here is a limited edition Clarks, celebrating the 60th year of the model.


Strong points of the men’s desert boot

It’s a fine, lightweight shoe, constructed with simplicity and efficacy. Two elements are the key factors behind the fluidity between the foot and the trouser:

  • There are only 2 metal rings for the laces, placed at the centre of the ankle (1 ring = 1 level of hole)
  • The curve of the yokes is light and harmonious.

5The bottom of the trousers on the boot is impeccable. See that a monochrome outfit can function provided that you have a London rock star figure and that the cuts are sized with a scalpel.

Another advantage is that the desert boot is a comfortable shoe on a sole made of spongier-than-average rubber.


The materials of the desert boot

Originally, the desert boot is a shoe made from velvet and veal leather. Today, whether it’s in nubuck leather or suede, it’s always this material that is the most common.

After reversed leather, you can find desert boots in all kinds of possible leathers, except perhaps from Koala buttock.

Although searching well…

In this respect, if you’ve forgotten what characterises the leather, it is time to consult the dossier on different leather families.

Now you’ve refreshed your memory, be nice. Promise me that you will pay attention to your shoes, especially if they’re made out of nubuck leather, and respect these three things:

  • Never wear them in the rain.
  • Brush them with a specific utility.
  • Waterproof them

If you have shoes worn down to the last thread, you can always pull it off as workwear clothing.


Types of soles for the men’s desert boot 

Originally, the desert boot was on top of a thick rubber sole. Nowadays, it’s possible to find soles in materials other than leather, like rubber or dainite studded rubber soles.

Treated leather soles

These soles impart a sense of fineness and agility to shoes, which integrates itself into all kinds of outfits.

8 If the most important thing of the sole is built from leather, an addition of rubber generally brings more comfort and grip.

9This Kriss Van Assche model successfully manages to combine a leather sole with yellow rubber, showing a real contrast.

Smooth leather soles

Desert boots with smooth leather soles are particularly dressy and correspond when you’re dressing for an elegant and urban situation.

10A pair of nice Opening Ceremony boots in leather.


Pay close attention to leather soles because they are very slippy. To get around this problem, adding a rubber layer to the bottom of the shoe gives more grip (think about giving them to a cobbler the day before wearing your new shoes).

Another advantage is that it protects the leather which isn’t high quality from wearing out prematurely.

Rubber soles 

The original material of the desert boot, rubber is much more flexible and comfortable than the urban models.

 11Attention: the tenderness of spongy rubber has a tendency to wear down relatively quickly. Generally, we find that rubber soles match with pre-soles, shown in the photo.

Dainite sole

Dainite rubber is a material that was first produced in the UK in 1894 by a British producer who specialised in plastic soles.

An alloy of black plastic or brown sepia, it is particularly supple, resistant and doesn’t mark.

12The relief of the dainite soles are designed so that the shoe sticks to everything (except to xenophobic theories). Small round balls under the sole: dust and stones don’t get stuck there. 

How to wear the desert boot? 

The desert boot is an all-purpose model, accommodating all kinds of menswear outfits, notably raw jeans as it’s the ultimate basic.

13A grey blazer, light t-shirt, raw jeans and sandy desert boots: Luca’s outfit is a textbook case, which works really well.

 14For a more raw and masculine look, observe how the desert boots are matched with the winning trio: 3 day beard, beanie hat and a hoody.

 To add a touch of originality to a classic outfit, look for details that really make the difference.

 15Régis chose an original model and combines fluorescent orange borders with dark colours.

16Here the red laces highlight the grey. Notice how the effort put into the curve levelling at the ankle allows you to wear these boots without obvious socks.

Desert boots and chinos

A pair of chinos and desert boots goes well with coloured items, as the combinations work well together.

17Chinos in beige or ochre accommodate particularly well elegant blue tones.

18Here is another example of a really successful match between blue and ochre, by Florian.

 19Close up, you can admire the work done on the match between the leather and the rubber at the centre of the sole.

 This complicity between chino and boot lets us acknowledge really original features.

20 Observe how the color of the socks highlights the camouflage detailing of the desert boots. Without this contrast, the colours close to that of the trousers and the shoes would produce a boring effect.

Desert boots with woollen trousers

The match of desert boots with more formal outfits is possible however it’s important to be extra careful.

This shoe adapts to a suit provided that it is well fitted. Regarding the colours, you can read or re-read the article on repeating colours to pull together your outfit,

21The desert boots carry an interesting and casual effect.

22Notice here that the visible cuff functions well with woollen trousers.

The history of the men’s desert boot 

In 1941, the young Nathan Clark signed himself up to the British Army and became part of a mission in North Africa. There, he noticed that the suede boots bought from the bazaars in Cairo by the soldier were particularly comfortable and resistant.

23There are many advantages to this kind of shoe: lightweight feel, supple rubber, delicate leather, and a sufficiently high upper, so that sand doesn’t cover it.

Returning home from the mission in 1949, he tried to convince his older brother to throw himself into the commercialisation of these shoes. However this is mitigated, as he had another strategy in order to develop the family business that he managed himself. He preferred to bank on school shoes, persuaded easily as the baby boom offered a better opportunity gain market shares.

Nonetheless, Nathan persevered and managed to produce a small collection of boots of which he simultaneously launched in France, Italy, England and America. It was at a trade show in Chicago where business soared and the desert boot was met with surprising success.

24A publicity card from an old Esquire edition

Over time, the Clarks desert boot became an icon that successfully took over the Beat Generation movements in the United States (in the 50s, the “Beatniks” formed an artistic and literary underground movement), and the Mods in the UK (the hip and hedonistic “Modernists” enormously influenced fashion).

In Paris, during May 1968 even the rioting students who clashed against the cops on the pavements on the streets wore Clarks.


As for Polo players, they’ve gone for a little more dressed up range: The “Chukka” by Crockett & Jones

In the land of stardom, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Jon Pertwee and even Steve McQueen contributed to construct the relaxed and chic image of the desert boot.


Steve McQueen and his secret weapon: Put your foot in it

In the 70s and 80s, the shoe became an authentic symbol of rock and roll, eventually being progressively discarded until 2008 where it bounded back into the fashion scene with a vengeance.

Today, the desert boot is unanimously considered as a wardrobe basic that you can wear with anything, far from any kind of loyalty to a social group.

If Clarks continue to produce this mythical shoe, of which it is the king, many brands will try to claim ownership of the original model.

The range of men’s desert boots

There is an overabundant range of desert boots for men. You wont come across shoes as beautiful and good value whilst you bargain hunt in shops or online.

Here is a small selection of models fraîchement péchés sur la toile, which I like a lot:

28The Earth Keeper model by Timberland probably isn’t the most refined however it gives you a great quality / price ratio, a fair price at first look, at $190.

29Amongst Clarks, you can find pretty much all of the colours, notably this model in grey suede with a rubber sole for $180.

30At the same price but a bit more original, Clarks created this famous camouflage design that goes back to the military origins of the boot.

31Opening Ceremony is an excellent match: the brand offers more formal models for $275, like this model with a leather sole.


Again with Opening Ceremony: a suede model with leather sole for $275.

Just short of $420, Hogan offers a model with a really unlikely name: The Dress X – H209

34 $620 Pierre Hardy model made from veal velvet, with a white leather sole reinforced by rubber. At a price like this, you replace financial worries by attention to detail.