Chukka boot

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Clarks Original Desert boots

Chukka boots (/əkə/[1]) or turf boots are ankle-length leather boots with leather or rubber soles and two or three pairs of eyelets for lacing.[2] They are sometimes referred to as desert boots, which in fact are a specific style of chukkas with crepe rubber soles and usually suede uppers, popularized in the 1950s by UK shoe company C. & J. Clark.[3]


The name chukka possibly comes from a sly reference to the game of polo, played in typically six periods or "chukkas". A form of chukka boots worn by British forces in the Western Desert Campaign of World War II are desert boots.[4][5]

Materials and style[edit]

Red Wing chukkas

Chukkas are usually made from calfskin or suede,[2] although they have also been made from more exotic materials such as crocodile.[6] The style first became popular in the late 1940s through the 1960s as casual wear.[4][7][8] In the 21st century, Chukkas persist as a popular menswear shoe that can be worn with both suits and more casual wear like jeans.[9][10]

According to shoe historian June Swann, the essential chukka boot is ankle-high, open-laced, and unlined, with two to three pairs of eyelets, thin leather soles, calfskin suede uppers in two parts (each from a single piece of leather; quarters sewn on top of vamp), and rounded toes.[11]

Desert boot[edit]

Desert boots were officially introduced to the world by name 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."

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[12]


  1. ^ "Chukka - Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary". Retrieved 16 January 2015. 
  2. ^ a b Durkin Matthes, Betsy (2006). Dressing the Man You Love. Peter's Pride Publishing. p. 259. ISBN 0-9773878-3-6. 
  3. ^ Rickett, Oscar (27 August 2014). "Chukka boots – an enduring favourite for mods, polo players and casuals alike". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 February 2015. 
  4. ^ a b Woolnough, Richard (2008-01-01). The A to Z Book of Menswear. Bermuda: Bespoke Solutions. p. 72. ISBN 1-897403-25-9. 
  5. ^ Johnston, Mark (2007). The Australian Army in World War II. Osprey Publishing. p. 54. ISBN 1-84603-123-0. 
  6. ^ "Charity, and Crocodile Chukka Boots". New York Times. November 30, 1988. .
  7. ^ Miles, Shirley (1989). American Costume, 1915-1970: A Source Book for the Stage Costumer. Indiana University Press. p. 186. ISBN 0-253-20543-3. 
  8. ^ Joan Nunn (1 January 2000), Fashion in Costume, 1200-2000, Rowman & Littlefield, p. 221, ISBN 978-1-56663-279-9 
  9. ^ Plummer, Todd (October 24, 2014), "A Guide to the Best Men’s Boots", The Wall Street Journal 
  10. ^ Deleon, Jian (October 9, 2013), "Meet the Everlasting Pair of Desert Boots", 
  11. ^ Schneider, Sven Raphael (18 November 2013). "The Chukka Boots Guide". Gentelman's Gazette. Retrieved 2 February 2015. 
  12. ^ Gallagher, Jake (August 15, 2012). "Dropping Knowledge: The Desert Boot". GQ Magazine.