While many in the raw denim and “workwear” universe tend to shun the ideas and rules put forth by the more traditional and mainstream world of men’s fashion, there is actually quite a lot that we can learn from them and definitely a few things that I agree with them on. Dark brown and black leathers really don’t mix at all, belts should at least sort of match the shoes, and shirts should not hang out from underneath a jacket. Most importantly, however, is the idea that shoes are the most important part of any man’s outfit. I am annoyed to no end when I see a great pair of jeans ruined by an ugly pair of New Balance sneakers or a pair of dress shoes that just do not look right with denim.
Of course, footwear is quite expense. In terms of clothing tiers (something I would like to explore more in the future) a pair of good boots will be more expensive than an equivalently good pair of raw denim. As such, after blowing a couple hundred dollars on a good pair raws, a person may not be so willing to spend nearly double that on a pair of boots that they know very little about. That is where the subject of today’s article comes in. The Clark’s Original Desert Boot is more than just a pair of affordable, crepe-soled shoes. They are the gateway to quality footwear for both the mainstream fashion crowd and those getting into raw denim and workwear/urban lumberjacking. As such, this article will be more than just a product review, but also a discussion of why these boots are the perfect starting point for anyone getting into raw denim or just dressing better in general.
As you can see from the pictures, my pair was worn quite extensively. In fact, they have been worn for over 600 days by my calculation and many of those days were done in 5 day work week successions. While I did not do too much extensive manual labor in them, I did walk, do yard work, and hike in them. The fact that I wore them 5 days a week for 9 at least hours a day for over a year speaks very highly of their durability considering that you are not supposed to wear a pair of shoes 2 days in a row, let alone 5.
With all they have been through, I am very impressed by the durability and construction quality. The only issue that I have had with them throughout my entire time with them is that the laces have ripped on both boots. Otherwise, they have held up wonderfully. To be perfectly honest, I cannot believe that the crepe soles have lasted this long without a resole.
They are made in Vietnam, which is not exactly Northampton. That said, the stitching was good when the boots arrived and have held up over these past few years admirably. The quality is excellent for the price. The beeswax leather is tough enough (I would guess it is cowhide) and ages quite nicely. I have yet to treat my pair due to how much I love the patina they have right now. They retail for around $150, but you can easily find them for under $100. Mine were purchased for under $60, though that was a few years ago. At $100 and below they are more than worth the price. You get a well-made pair of boots that are comfortable, stylish, and will last you for many years as long as you are willing to buy an extra pair of laces.
The Clark’s Desert Boots are a bit more than just a bargain pair of footwear, however. To start, they are made with stitchdown construction. That’s right, these $100 boots are made with the same construction as Wesco, Whites, and Viberg before Viberg stopped being Viberg. This does not mean that they are equal in quality, but it does mean that they are made using a solid and proven construction method and can in fact be resoled instead of thrown out when the time comes.
This coupled with the fact that the leather is of decent quality means that these Clark’s are essentially the cheapest pair of quality leather boots/shoes that a person can buy without going into the insane shit storm that is buying used footwear online. This may not seem like a compliment, but in my mind, it absolutely is. Not to sound like a snob, but I own quite a collection of high-end engineer boots. Even with all of those, I still own and at times, wear my Clark’s and appreciate them for what they are. They’re the kind of boot that will elevate you above people who choose cheap, fashionable shoes (Zara, Topman, pretty much anything from Nordstrom that isn’t Allen Edmonds, Red Wing, or Wolverine) and are rarely, if ever looked down upon by people who own substantially more expensive footwear. Nobody ever brings in to question their value for money as is done with Wolverine, Oak Street, and more recently, Whites and Viberg.
They are humble and unassuming and therefore, don’t get on anyone’s nerves. Yet, they are stylish and versatile enough to fit well in between my casual, denim-oriented engineer boots and sleeker, more formal Chelsea boots for work and smart occasions. Basically, they are a win-win situation.
As you can obviously see, I am a massive proponent of these boots. I think every guy should at least consider owning a pair at some point. They are affordable, well-made, comfortable, versatile, stylish, and unassuming pair of footwear that can be resoled and are a perfect first pair of boots for a guy, whether he is into raw denim or is more into sport coats and chinos/slacks. The only downsides are that they are made in Vietnam, the laces are not great, and the sole can be slippery on wet surfaces.
If you have money to blow or you prefer a certain look, then by all means, start out with a pair of Red Wings, Wesco, Role Club, Clinch, or whatever else you have your heart set on. Otherwise, I would highly encourage you to look into a pair of these. They also serve as a perfect introduction to boots for the sneakerhead. The comfortable crepe sole and low price makes them easy to adjust to for people who prefer their Vans and Converse sneakers. They are not perfect, but they have served me well over the years and are the boots responsible for getting me into proper footwear. Hell, I think I even got engaged in these. I was also wearing a fake leather jacket, but that is something we’ll get into some other time…