A Mod Classic The Desert Boot

mod-shoes-desert-boots-classic

On page 22 of the Mods Book by Richard Barnes there is a pair of desert boots, along with white jeans, white polo and brown suede jacket. I have always loved the picture and the look. Like a lot of classic mod styles it is one that has stayed with me for many years.

The desert boot has been in the mods wardrobe since the early days and continues to be so so popular. Many people not just mods wear them, and on the scooter they do look the part on sunny days.

Nathan Clarke the designer of the Original Clarkes Desert Boot
Nathan Clarke the designer of the Original Clarkes Desert Boot

History wise it started with Nathan Clarke who designed them during the war, whilst out east in Burma. He saw guys in similar pairs and adapted the look for the public. So hence the poster below.

A massive seller for Clark’s in the fifties the boots have hung around since. Clarke’s make the original and some say the best.

10 mod shoes orginal poster from 40s clarkes

21 quadrophenia desert boots wall picture

I think a lot of us these days would have seen their first boots on the feet of the guys in Quadropehenia. The whole cast seem to be in them, Dave seems to be the only one not in the clumpy ones. I have been told that the boot is an Clark’s Desert Boot Lynx, am not convinced and welcome an answer on this.

In film they are worn with jeans and suits, I have not always been a fan with a suit, certainly the boot is rubbish for dancing, so wonder where this look comes from.

The answer maybe cost, you can get an ok pair of boots for not much money in most towns in the UK. And without close inspection you wouldn’t know you looking at a cheap or expensive pair.

In the picture to the right the cheapest is £30 and the most expensive £250! Number 7 by the way
The cheapest is £30 and the most expensive £250! Number 7 by the way

The boot does go with a lot of outfits and the stone colour is very forgiven with a multitude of outfits.

Which brings us neatly on to colour, there are literally boots in every colour out there. There are also two, three tone and pattern varieties to choose from. My fav colours are

17 mod shoes nice colour desert boots in a row

Stone – Dark Brown – Olive –  Dark Blue – Black

In the pictures that follow you can see many colours. The desert boots doesn’t escape accessories, but do we really need fringes, well I don’t but some do. Also not sure about the ones with the union jacks, but these have been popular.

12 multi colour desert boots clarks

A Friend from Cambridge has yellow and black desert boots, why you ask? Well Cambridge United play in those colours, why else !

A foot note is that Clarkes boots are very popular in the dancehall scene, a lot of the styles are worn there, this guys looks so cool, the red top I defo want.

clarkes desert boots jamica

The desert boot, is also very forgiven in sizing. The suede stretches well and fits around the foot, normally within few hours of wearing. I think I must have had a dozen pairs at various times, some lasting a long time at college.

There is some snobbery about cheap and expensive boots. Having looked many makes over the years, there are marked differences and a good pair do look better. That said the desert boot is worn by many to work as well as pleasure. So a cheap pair of Roamers or Warriors are great for the price.

16 mod-shoes-olive-green-mod-desert-boots-03I wore my ikon olive green desert boots for 3 months straight to work. The colour faded a little and of course they look worn, but the sole has much time left in it. With jeans the olive I thought worked well with many different polo shirts and shirt combinations.

Many many famous people have worn the boots or a variation on them. Music people such as Weller, gallaghers etc, have all been spotted in pairs. Many mod revival bands wore them as you can see below, The Purple Hearts and The Circles to name a few. Britpop to with Damon Albarn. Below even Steve McQueen gets close desert boots, in the film The Great Escape.

07 mod-shoes-gary-crowley-desert-boots 03 mod shoes the circles opening tassel loafers and desert boot

14 neol gallagher in desert boots

Going to end on why I think they have lasted so long. I have been wearing my most recent pair, as I have mentioned before for several months, I have also been wearing some DJ afterglows. The suede allows the feet to brief more than trainers.

They bring you up a few steps from trainers. I like trainers a lot, but Desert boots are less casual. The classic stone colour goes well with most colours, and of course jeans. Throw in a few colours to you collection and you can look great.

And if you look like this guy you look cool.

04 desert boots with white jeans

 

Quadrophenia – The Shoes

Before we even start, I am one of those people that has watched this film far too many times, and in the 80’s could recite every word without the aid of the film itself. Was I obsessed ? o yeh twenty times over!

The film itself has been talked about 100’s of times, and I am doing this article because Warren at ‘we are the mods‘ did a recent show about it, and to be a little light hearted just before Christmas 2012.

So for first time in over 10 years I watched the film. As I began to watch one thing dawned on me! The film is really dark, not in the subject matter, but that most of it is shot at night. Also the print that has been used for the DVD is not the sharpest. Eddie Piller has mentioned that there are very few sharp prints of the film. Meaning that even if you can see the feet, the quality lets down the tell tale signs of the shoes.

I think the ACE Face would have better shoes.

The opening sequence with Jimmy going to what we are led to believe is the Goldhawk Club, appears to be wearing Desert Boots, and these boots seem to stay on his feet for most of the movie.

Throughout the film Jimmy seems to have several outfits, from casual to a tailored suit. I like most of the outfits he wears, but I must admit I thought there would be more diversification on the feet. In fact, I thought there would be more shoe types from the main characters, the only time we see something that’s different is on Sting’s feet.

Sting’s grey or gray shoes I think nearly look the part. The buckle is cool, but I think the film’s designer was actually trying for a smarter loafer, in a flash colour to match the suit he wears. Sting’s suit does look that little more flash as you would expect as he is meant to be the ‘Ace Face’, but personally the shoes need to be better!

So what other shoes can we see?, well not a lot to be honest.

As I watched I thought there would be loads in the fight sequences. There are lots to be seen but no real what I call out and out mod shoes.

In the opening Brighton sequence the camera pans along the scooters, lots of cool scooters and loads of people. In the crowd you can see the Northern Scooter clubs that took

How many trilbys ?

part in the filming. I maybe wrong but i believe that they Olympics Scooter club and also the people that run Armando scooters in the 80’s were in the film, but i am not 100% on this.

The style of the Northern Scooter Mods I can see, is Parka, Jeans and on the feet, Doc Martens and Adidas Trainers. Certainly there have been pictures in “Scootering” of the clubs involved in the film, the makers tried to disguise the Lambretta Gp orientated look to make them look like LI’s etc.The producers must have also been dishing out the hats, how many trilbys! But why not the feet as well?

Are these Cherry Reds ?
There are loads of red socks in the fight sequence!

There is one guy in the riot sequence in a Black Harrington, and he has Cherry Red DM’s on. Another thing you do see a lot of is ‘Red Socks’. There is a guy coming out of the water, he is standing next to Nasty Nick from Eastenders. The amount of sock on show could seriously take an eye out!

I must mention a continuity bit here. For us UK people Nasty Nick can be seen wearing a light blue Polo shirt for the beach fight, but once he is in the lanes running around he has magically found his Parka.

I have read some other blogs saying the style of the clothes in the film is a little lacking in ‘Style‘. I wonder if the mods saying this have pondered whether the reason we think of the 60’s MODS being so much smarter, is because we have only seen pictures of MODS dressed up for the weekend. Meaning in the going out parts of the film, such as the Brighton sequences, Jimmy, Spider, Chalky etc are all wearing suits. But we also see the cast midweek and at work. And with the best respect even the toppest MOD dresses down sometimes. In the Documentary “British Style Genius” a MOD from that time suggest that the original mods had jobs that allowed for wearing of decent clothes. But I always think of Jimmy is being ‘Run of the Mill Mod‘ not a top face.

How did she run in them heels ?
Stepth in Suede Loafers, blink and you will miss them in the film

Anyway this is meant to be about the shoes !

Steph for most of the film lives in little white heeled shoes. How she runs around in heels even little ones is beyond me. She wears these in nearly every scene apart from one. When she arrives at Brighton on her feet are smart pair of suede loafers!The rest of the film the women seem to be in one inch high heels, and flats worn with Ski Pants.

These seems to be the closest to jimmys http://www.robertcoleshoes.com/amblers-desert-87002-boots.html

The Desert Boots that the male cast live in, don’t look that good to me either. They seem to be the heavier boot style, with brass eyelets. I have had some of these boots myself and they did last ages, but they are not overly smart.

Dave does seem to have smarter Clarks looking ones in the Brighton bits. Chalky and Jimmy though, let the side down.

Another technical point is that because Jimmy is the central character we dont see the whole of him much in the film. When Jimmy is in shot he is up close,for obvious reasons but the director is trying to help us see what he is thinking. Towards the end of the film as Jimmy is starting to reflect we see more of him.


Now I am saving the best for last.

Jimmy and Stepth actually looking smart, the shoes as well. Thanks to Carlos to drawing attention to this picture and outfit.

We see Jimmy in a decent Boating Blazer early on in the film, and some of his outfits are cool, but on his feet are a pair of loafers.

On the right here is a still from the filming where the shoes can be clearly seen. They look good to me and no doubt influenced lots of guys in the 80’s to wear them.

I am not sure if they are Bass Weejuns? They look like they are Bass Weejun Larkins, as they are quite narrow and the lip is rounded . Other makes traditionally are a wider foot.To be fair the wardrobe department may have just got some smart shoes from a local shop. These days Loake have Georgetown which looks very similar. The Bass Weejun in the UK is getting harder to get, stock seems to be very limited in any shops.

I think Jimmys Loafers are Bass Weejuns Larkins

At the time I loved this film so much, for many reasons that lots of us loved it for. As I have got older I would draw different bits from it. In my scooter days i would happily watch just the scooters. I have only seen the film once on the big screen, in the 90’s, when I was going through my raving days, then I loved the dancing all night etc sequences.

Now I look at the film differently again. In my 40’s I can see lots of the fashions are a very late 70’s take on the 60′s, but the overriding feeling to me now is what a great film about youth and all that it entails, take away the clothes (and perhaps the scooters) and it becomes timeless.

From a shoe perspective not as much to say as I thought there would be. But I really did enjoy taking the time out to watch the film again. If you have the time over Christmas try to watch the film, as i think you will get more from it than you might think at the moment. And I hope you find some little gems just like I did.

Have a good Christmas and Happy New Year
Andy @ Modshoes

Desert Boots

I wonder if every real MOD that’s ever been has owned a pair of Desert Boots. I have lots of pairs, all slightly different. There are lots of pictures of MODS in Desert Boots.

The comfortable boot can be seen in the MODS book and has survived all the MOD revivals and still is a player. Fred Perry’s recent boots are very much a play on the style.