Founded in 1825 by Quaker brothers Cyrus and James Clark in Street, Somerset, Clarks is an international shoe manufacturer and retailer. The company is best known for its Desert Boot – a calf suede leather boot with crepe. Officially launched in 1950, the Desert Boot was designed by Nathan Clark, the great-grandson of founder James Clark.
When in the Royal Army, Nathan Clark saw his fellow officers source unlined suede boots in the bazaars of Cairo. Clark immediately sent sketches and rough patterns back home. The Desert Boot was cut on the existing last of the Guernsey Sandal and sampled in neutral beige-grey suede. In the home market, the company dismissed the idea as they thought it would never sell. Overseas however, the boot became an instant success, having been given substantial editorial credits with colour photographs in Esquire Magazine. The Desert Boot was initially sold in Britain, featuring a Union Jack sewn into the label, targeted at tourists (ironically, still not convinced of the iconic status of the shoe).
Today Clarks are widely adopted as cultural icons by different subcultures such as Beatniks, Mods and Parisian students who wore ‘Les Clarks’ proudly on the barricades during the 1968 riots.
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