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Why desert boots are perfect for not-quite-autumn

Why desert boots are perfect for not-quite-autumn

Seasons are easy. You know what to wear in high summer (next-to-nothing) and you know what to wear in deepest winter (absolutely everything). Between seasons are hard. What do you don in that liminal period when there’s a bite in the wind but you’re sweating in a jacket? When the sun is mostly still out, but keeps slipping away, leaving a shiver of falling leaves and metallic skies?

Well, you wear desert boots. Though the name might make you think they’re only for the most sun-baked climes, desert boots find their feet precisely when the weather’s hard to read. For one, their suede signals a shift from the breezy but insubstantial fabrics of high summer – cotton, seersucker, linen – to the weighter, more touchable things you reach for when the temperature starts to drop. Only they’re rather more practical than sweating through cashmere.

For two, they’re boots in the gentlest sense. Their incremental reach to just above your ankle means your feet won’t feel trapped when the sun does break out (and since suede’s porous, they’ll be able to breathe, too) but they still feel more substantial than the canvas trainers, deck shoes and espadrilles we live in when it’s properly hot. Desert boots show you know that cold weather’s coming, and you’re ready.

For three, they just look bloody brilliant. Desert boots were invented by a scion of the Clarks shoemaking family in the late 1940s – inspired by the leather chukkas that British army officers wore in Egypt – and quickly cemented themselves as a menswear classic. They’re a bit dressy, but pretty casual, so you can wear them with a suit or with jeans, with chinos or even shorts. They’re as democratic as footwear gets, as popular with rude boys as bankers, an everyman shoe that still signals a certain amount of sartorial flair.

And, right now, they’re a palette cleanser between summer’s stripped-back approach to style, and the build-it-up approach that’s in the post. The frosty months are about layering and weight, your wardrobe playing defence against the elements. Now’s the time to get desert boots on the ground, before the worst of it arrives.


Words: Tom Banham
Photography: Lola & Pani
Styling: Toby Standing