A variant of the Chukka boot is the desert boot, but these always have suede uppers and crepe rubber soles. Desert boots were popularized in the 1950s by UK shoe company C. & J. Clark.
Desert boots were officially introduced to the world with the debut of the Clarks' Desert Boot at the 1949 Chicago Shoe Fair. After feature coverage in Esquire magazine, their popularity took off. According to Clarks, inspiration came from "the crepe-soled, rough suede boots made in Cairo’s Khan elKhalili bazaar for British Eighth Army officers."
These boots were based on the South African veldskoen which became a popular footwear item in Southern Africa due to their robust and simple design. Often being bought by soldiers for use in the various bush wars of the region they have become popular across the world as "desert boots".
The year was 1941, and the soldier, well he wasn't just any infantryman, he was Nathan Clark, and he'd been sent to war with two missions. First and foremost to protect his country, and, secondly, to discover some new shoe designs for his family's company. As a member of the Eighth Army, Clark had been deployed to Burma, and it was here that he noticed that the officers in his formation were wearing these strange, sand colored chukkas during their downtime. Clark investigated the shoes and learned that they had originally been commissioned to Cairo cobblers by South African soldiers whose old-military issue boots had failed them out on the desert terrain. They wanted something that was both lightweight and grippy which led to creation of a boot with a suede upper on a crepe sole.
—Jake Gallagher, GQ Magazine, August 15, 2012
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