C. & J. Clark International Ltd, trading as
Clarks, is a British, international
shoe manufacturer and retailer. It was founded in 1825 by Quaker brothers Cyrus
and James Clark in Street, – where
it still has its headquarters. The company has over 1,000 branded stores and
franchises around the world and also sells through third-party distribution. Somerset,
The company's best known product is the Desert Boot – a distinctive ankle height boot with crepe sole usually made out of calf suede leather traditionally supplied by Charles F Stead & Co tannery in
Leeds. Officially launched in 1950
the Desert Boot was designed by Nathan Clark (great-grandson of James Clark).
Nathan Clark was an officer in the Royal Army Service Corps posted to
in 1941 with orders to help establish a supply route from Rangoon
to the Chinese forces at Chongqing whilst also
launching a series of offensives throughout South East
Asia. Before leaving home his brother Bancroft had given him the
mission to gather any information on footwear that might be of use to the
company whilst he was travelling the world. The Desert Boot was the result of
His discovery of the Desert Boot was made either at Staff College in 1944 or on leave in Kashmir where three divisions of the old Eighth Army (transferred to the Far East from North Africa) were wearing ankle high suede boots manufactured in the bazaars of Cairo. Nathan sent sketches and rough patterns back to Bancroft, but no trials were made until after he returned to Street and cut the patterns himself.
The Desert Boot was cut on the men’s Guernsey Sandal last and sampled in a neutral beige-grey 2mm chrome bend split suede. The company’s Stock Committee reacted badly to the sample and dismissed the idea as it ‘would never sell’. It was only in his capacity as Overseas Development Manager that Nathan had any success with the shoe after introducing it to Oskar Schoefler (Fashion Editor, Esquire) at the Chicago Shoe Fair in 1949. He gave them substantial editorial credits with colour photographs in Esquire in early 1950. Bronson Davies subsequently saw these articles and applied to represent the company in selling them across the
USA, long before they were available in the . The Desert
Boot was initially sold in UK
through shops in Britain Regent Street,
featuring a Union Jack sewn into the label, targeted at tourists. Lance Clark
is widely credited with popularising them in Europe
during the 1960s.
The Desert Boot have been manufactured at Shepton Mallet, small scale production having initially occurred at Street. During the course of time, Whitecross factory in Weston-Super-Mare was subcontracted to relieve Shepton factory of the manufacture of the Desert Boot, before the Bushacre factory at
was constructed in 1958. The Desert Boot was manufactured there until closure
of the factory in 2001. As for the rest of the Clarks range, the Desert Boots
are now produced in the Far East under careful supervision to assure the
quality, look and feel are absolutely consistent with the original vision of
Nathan Clark at a democratic price in line with the Quaker values of the family.