How to Style Desert Boots

by Jamie Wilson
How to Style Desert Boots

Reviewed & updated: October 19, 2022 by Jamie Wilson BA

Desert boots have long since been a classic staple footwear for many men. They have stemmed from practicality in the African desert to the feet of people from all walks of life all over the world. Check out this guide on how to style them properly.

Best Desert Boots

I think it’s high time that we start to talk about the boots themselves. If you’re going to go for a pair of desert boots then, in our opinion, you have to go for a classic Clarks pair. These days the desert comes in an array of colours and patterns for you to choose from, which is all well and good, but, you’re very limited on what you can wear these with. So, it’s best just to stick to the classics when buying a pair, just say you can get the wear out of your investment.

From our own experience, it’s best to go for solid block colours so that they add a little more depth to your look. And, of course, these shoes can be quite seasonal depending on which colour you choose, for instance, the beige colour would work better in the summer, the brown in the autumn and the black in the winter.

How to Style Desert Boots
@Maksim Goncharenok via pexels

Chukka Boots vs Desert Boots

Now, before we move on to all the wonderful styling tips, let’s clear one thing up. Chukka boots and desert boots are not the same. The simplest way to remember is all desert boots are chukka’s but not all chukka boots are deserts. The chukka boot originates from the sport Polo (chukka being a period in the game). Their characteristics are similar to that of the desert boots – two or three eye holes and an ankle length. They are also made from multiple materials, but it is their form that makes them a chukka boot.

The desert boot is a subdivision of the chukka boot. They were worn by British soldiers in the desert (hence the name), and have a rubber crepe sole. Since their inception, the chukka boot has broadened its material from the traditional light suede desert boot and can now be purchased in a vast amount of styles.

Desert Boots With A Suit

When you think of a pair of desert boots you wouldn’t necessarily think of dressing them up. This is what we need to tackle as they can be a great smart shoe for a more formal occasion. Of course, this depends on what you wear them with as you wouldn’t team them with jeans for a formal look. But, worn with a pair of trousers and a formal shirt you can have a smart look that’s formal appropriate and stylish.

Wear a pair of black desert boots with a white dress shirt and team it with a pair of formal black trousers. Because you’re going for a more formal look, I’d suggest against rolling up the bottoms of your trousers. We know we’re the leaders of the pack when it comes to rolling up the bottoms of your trousers or jeans, but this time, we’d say not to. This keeps the look formal rather than giving it a casual vibe with rolled trousers.

Throw an overcoat over the top for the ultimate in formal cool and you’ll be good to go. Because of the season, the black overcoat will keep you warm without compromising on style. Of course, you don’t have to go for a black number, you can choose to wear a grey or even camel coloured one.

Dressed Down

How to Style Desert Boots
@Zura Modebadze via pexels

Dressing down a pair of desert boots is a look that most people would go for. When it comes to dressing a pair of desert boots casually, many take influence from the mod styling, and we wouldn’t blame you at all. The great thing about desert boots is that they can go with a variety of looks so you’re not limited to just a few pieces in your wardrobe.

For the ultimate casual then why not try wearing a red flannel shirt with a pair of raw denim jeans. The red flannel shirt really works against the blue hue of the jeans, which, in turn, works against the beige colour of the shoes making for an all round perfect casual look this season.

Desert Boot Outfits

So, we have gone through all things desert boots and now we get down to the nitty gritty: the styling. The easiest way to categorise the different desert boots is from colour and material. We will go through the most popular styles on the market and give you the low-down on how to wear them.

Brown Desert Boots

An easy option is the brown desert boot- they’re easy to fit in your wardrobe, they go well with your favourite blue and black jeans but also still has the element of looking smart. For a smart look then team your brown desert boots with black jeans and a white shirt; a great smart-casual look perfect for the office or a day out.

Leather Desert Boots

Real leather desert boots are hard to come by, as most of the designs are suede or brushed leather. Other than the material, the boots themselves don’t often look much different from your average desert boots. This means the styling rules are pretty much the same.

The quality of these leather Clarks Desert Boots, £119 is very high, meaning they will last a long time and stand the test of plenty of wear and tear. Try not to be put off by the price as this is usually an indication of the quality and therefore the life of the shoe.

Navy Desert Boots

When wearing blue desert boots don’t be afraid to wear them with blue jeans. We would normal steer you away from this sort of colour matching but there is something about certain shades of blue that just works.

Grey Desert Boots

Another great colour way is the grey-  we have seen these making the rounds on the blogs recently so they are hard to ignore. Wear these with some crisp black slim jeans and a beige cashmere jumper for an ultra cool, casual look. Opt for slim fit jeans as these with desert boots is a great combination. Or, for a more summery look, opt for a pair of chinos and boots, giving you an airier and easy look.

Black Suede Desert Boots

Last but not least, and probably the most popular, we have the black desert boots. These have infinite style options (being black shoes). However, we would advise looking at experimenting with monochrome outfits and desert boots for an extra sleek and clean look.

How to Style Desert Boots
@cottonbro via pexels

History Of Desert Boots

The desert boot has been around for a few decades now. Nathan Clark (of Clarks shoes) was stationed out in Northern Africa during the second world war when he saw certain officers wearing a suede shoe with a crepe sole. Nathan learned that the boots themselves came from a certain bazaar in Cairo. These boots were favoured in these conditions as they were extremely comfortable due to the suede material. Their durability was favoured better than the thick and chunky army boots many were wearing. The crepe sole was flatter, allowing the surface area to be better spread over the ever-changing sand.

When Nathan returned home to England from Northern Africa he immediately started to create a version of this shoe. He sourced the best materials and used a pattern from a sandal that Clarks Shoes already used. Clark began to experiment with different styles and ways of construction to make these famous boots, he even used orange thread to further distinguish the shoe.

The shoe, initially, wasn’t very popular amongst the British crowd as people favoured the more formal looking pieces made from a stiffer and sleeker leather over the boot’s suede. Clark then took it over to the Chicago Shoe Fair in 1949 where the shoe gained massive popularity as the shoe’s shape, material and unusual sole captivated audiences. This further cemented the shoe’s popularity and it didn’t take long for us Brits to grab ahold of it.

The shoes played a massive role during the 80s and 90s with the mod scene. Bands such as Oasis further cemented the boots in mainstream culture and the public went wild for them. These days, the desert boot is a mainstay in menswear with people from all walks of life sporting a pair of these suede beauties. Whether you like the traditional beige or prefer something more modern such as black or a coloured option, you can sport a pair of these stylish boots no matter what the season.

What to Wear With Desert Boots

  • A Desert boot is not a Chukka boot. Make sure you know the difference between your Chukka and your Desert.
  • Keep your shoes clean! Especially suede ones as dirt marks can set in. There are multiple products that will help you clean your shoes.
  • Don’t be afraid to colour match you desert boots and trousers. When you do this try to work with different tones of the same colour.
  • For more formal styles opt for tan and brown. These are generally smarter colour options.
  • Remember there are bright and colour desert boots on the market. These are great for your summer updates.
How to Style Desert Boots
@cottonbro via pexels

On That Note

If you’re staying on the casual side of life then why not try a pair of desert boots in beige or even brown. Teamed with a casual flannel shirt and a pair of raw denim jeans you can have a casual look that doesn’t compromise on style in no time. Either way, a pair of desert boots will do you no wrong no matter what the occasion, so give them a go and you may even surprise yourself.

Feature image from Pexels

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