FULL REVIEW + PICTURES: https://stridewise.com/clarks-desert-boot-review
Based off of a shoe worn by British soldiers in North Africa during World War 2, the Desert boot is indisputably the most popular chukka boot on Earth and quite possibly one of the most iconic shoes of all time.
It’s also cheap, shapeless, and the sole is a mess. So why is it so darn popular?
Made in Vietnam, the Oakwood suede is the most popular version of the shoe. Ankle height with barely any laces to speak of, this is about as minimalist and no frills as a boot can get.
This is a basic, unpretentious, super informal boot. You’d have to be crazy to wear these with a suit or slacks, not just because they have practically no structure and just four eyelets per shoe, the sole is something else: it gets black with dirt almost immediately after you try them on and there’s very little stability.
But man oh man, is this a comfortable, good looking boot. Ever wanted to be able to walk outside in slippers? This is about as close as you’ll get, plus they’re great at dressing up casual outfits even — I’m going there — outfits with shorts. (Sometimes, anyway.)
A suede that, contrary to popular belief, is made in Vietnam by applying a small amount of wax to the suede in order to enhance its character. The Oakwood is a light sandy color that has no structyre and isn’t the strongest or dressiest suede around. It’s not waterproof, either (this is a *Desert* boot, after all) but it’s soft, comfy, and it breathes well in warm weather.
[Check out my favorite suede boots, the Taft Dragon boot, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWpBJLQR7Co]
Clarks recommends using a suede brush to clean off dirt and for stains, use a rubber suede cleaner or just a regular pencil eraser. (Seriously.)
It’s unusual for people to use oils on suede because it can wreck the nappy finish, but you can try a wax like Otter Wax if you really want to care for this.
Want to waterproof the leather? I get the temptation and Kiwi’s suede protector would work, but the welt and the sole aren’t waterproof at all so it might not be worth it when you actually step into the rain.
A crude form of natural rubber that is very soft, very cheap, and very informal. The comfort is a double-edged sword: it feels like you’re walking around in slippers, but you can also feel the ground beneath you when you step on gaps in the pavement and the like. You don’t feel well supported in these shoes. (Again, think slippers.)
It’s also pretty sensitive: it gets black with dirt on the first wear (so there’s no real point cleaning it), it gets stiff in the cold, it can melt in extreme heat, and it’s not all that waterproof.
But again, it’s very comfy and it’s actually able to be resoled if you hate it, although you have to ask if it’s worth paying half the price of the boots to do so.
A goodyear welted version of these, called the Desert Welt, is available for about $300 if the sole is your sticking point (and the cost isn’t).
[Want to spend under $200, but don’t want it to be so obvious? Check out my favorites, the Thursday Boot Company: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FLCi8dk7sgg]
FIT & SIZING
I’m between 11.5 and 12 on a Brannock and I got these in an 11. I considered moving up to an 11.5 because the 11 was a little snug, but this suede stretches really quickly — I could feel it happening as I walked around their store on Madison Avenue here in New York. It’s true you can kind of see my toes if you take a close look and the 11.5 fit me fine enough, but I like a firm fit.
Just one width is available and there was no break in period at all.
[Read my ultimate guide to how boots should fit: https://stridewise.com/how-boots-should-fit/]
About $130, sometimes closer to $120 on Amazon. Note that there are over a dozen varieties of this shoe, all of which vary in price — I’ve seen the khaki leather on sale for $60 per pair. Don’t expect the Oakwood to go on sale as often as other varieties, since it’s so popular.
Versatile with informal outfits
Stylish (for the price)
Just one width available
Shapeless and blobby
Kind of cheap looking
Just because they don’t cost $300 doesn’t mean they’re not worth getting. I like the way they spruce up informal outfits, I like the soft sole, and while it has a zillion and one issues I think at this price point it’s worth a buy.