How to Wear Desert Boots

How to Wear Desert Boots

A casual classic, we here at The Idle Man think every man should own at least one pair of desert boots. They are one of the most versatile shoes and have a long history of being one of the more popular choices for men. Here we show you the different styles that you can get your hands on and different ways that you can wear them. 

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Taste and simplicity are key in The Idle Man's style mantra, and the desert boot provides both in equal measure. Their versatility and simplistic style have made them popular all over the world, and from all walks of life.

The modest and classic design of the boot blends seamlessly into smart and casual looks and is your ultimate choice of footwear for understated and modest styles, whatever the occasion. With so many textures and colours to go for, they're so many ways to pull off these classic shoes, so for some tips and tricks on how to dress them up just read on.

mens street style zac efron black coat blue shirt blue chinos brown desert boots
Zac Efron's desert boot affinity has grown a lot of attention from the fashion world

Best Desert Boots

There's a variety of ways to pull off the classic desert boot, whether you're going for a traditional suede model or a more modern leather look. Perfect for both the summer and winter, a pair of desert boots can last you for years while providing you with an easy base to work with. Depending on your wardrobe you might want to go for specific tones or materials, but the flattering shape should suit everyone regardless of their personal style.

Black Desert Boots

If you're looking for something clean and versatile, and your wardrobe is filled with mainly cool tone colours (black, white, grey, blue) then an obvious choice would be a pair of black desert boots. Because of the tone of the material, the uniquely detailed front isn't as clearly seen on a black design, but this can help to soften the overall look and give the boot a less intense finish.

Although black didn't start as the most common colour for desert boots, its versatility has made it more popular over the years, and it's now worn with a wide mix of outfits, pairing well with simple pieces like black slim fit jeans, as well as more complex, colourful clothes. This makes them perfect as everyday throw on boots, regardless of your style.

Dress your chukka boots down with a nice blazer and t-shirt
PHOTO CREDIT: Christoph Schaller

The sleek look of a black pair of desert boots also means you're more able to match them with formal outfits, as well as casual ones, including the structured suits and blazers. The shoes will be smart enough to work with the classic design, yet will still give a subtle twist to the look, ensuring it stands out from the standard black brogues or loafers.

Brown Desert Boots

Time for one of the more traditional coloured desert boots, as well as a slightly more popular design. The brown desert boot has a light, versatile look that works especially well with casual, laid back outfits, and unlike with the black pairs, the detailing of brown desert boots can more easily be seen.

Brown boots are a lot easier to dress up than you might think, and can be paired with a number of looks as long as the overall tone of the outfit works. This sounds more complicated than it actually is, but you basically just have to follow the same colour matching rules you usually do with brown shoes. If you're going for a smart look you can easily grab a pair of dark brown desert boots and match them with a navy suit, or smart shirt and navy chinos. As you might have guessed, navy goes pretty well with brown.

Casual looks are even easier to put together, and something as simple as some navy jeans and a white T-shirt can be the perfect accompaniments for a pair of brown desert boots. Various shades of brown will work, so don't worry too much about which one to pick.

A darker brown will give a more subtle finish, whereas a light brown will give off a slightly warmer tone that will work well with light coloured outfits. It's really up to you to decide on what look you want.

brown desert boots men style -min
A man wearing brown desert boots

Sand Desert Boots

Now for the most traditional colour and something that matches pretty well with the whole desert boot name. The sand colour perfectly showcases the shape and details of the boot and gives off a clean, soft finish. These may seem like a difficult colour to blend into different outfits, but these are surprisingly versatile and can help keep your look looking subtly light and fresh.

Matching them with light coloured clothing will give you a tailored, streamlined look keeps things sleek and put together, but don't feel you have to keep the tones similar. Because you're working with a colour that's basically in between white and brown, you get then clean freshness of white, but the versatility of brown, meaning you can easily create a clean contrast with darker shades that's too heavy or jarring.

A casual look can be created by pairing your desert boots with some classic navy jeans. Try cuffing them for a less refined look, and match them with a simple white polo shirt for a relaxed, yet put together finish.

Most formal outfits embrace the darker shades, and so you might not think a pair of sand coloured desert boots will work with a smarter look. However, the subtle colour and structured look can actually work pretty well with clean, tailored looks.

It's all about keeping the rest of the outfit simple and subtle. Something as basic as a white shirt and beige chinos is really all you need, and the mix of light tones creates a look that's elegant yet understated.

sand desert shoes mens-min
A man wearing sand coloured desert boots

Further Reading: History of the Desert Boot

Clarks Originals were the first desert boot to enter the commercial market; the original, and in our opinion, the best. There are just 3 components to the desert boots' notoriously simple design; a durable, shock absorbing rubber sole and 2 pieces of thick, sturdy suede stitched together to form the upper. Perhaps the enduring appeal and bare simplicity of the design is what has stood the test of time for this iconic piece of footwear for over 70 years.

In 1941, whilst stationed in Burma one-half of the Clarks brothers, Nathan Clarke, spotted fellow servicemen wearing an unusual suede style he hadn't seen before. The boot was made of a coarse suede upper and a shock absorbing crepe sole; they were lightweight, breathable and made of only 3 components. Nathan soon discovered that the shoes, coined 'desert boots' were made by cobblers in Cairo.

The suede boot greatly surpassed the uncomfortable and rigid boots issues to the servicemen by the British Army and were widely popular among the troops. They allowed the feet to breathe and provided traction on the rough desert terrain.

mens street style desert boots
A man wearing desert shoes

Shunned by Clarks Stock Committee, Nathan Clark took his designs, modeled on the boots he had seen servicemen wearing in the North African desert, to the Chicago Shoe Fair where it was surely picked up, became an overnight success and started making its way onto the feet of ordinary civilians back home in Britain.

It can't have been a fleeting fancy; 70 years on you'd be hard pressed to find a man without a pair of desert boots in his arsenal. A tried and tested classic from a brand with a rich British heritage, the Clarks Original Desert Boot is your secret weapon.


david beckham brown boots black trousers black coat mens street style
David Beckham wearing brown chukka boots

How to Wear Desert Boots

  • The staple desert boot colours are black, brown and sand, with each of them being versatile in their own distinct way. Choose one that works best with the overall tone of your wardrobe.
  • Black desert boots go best with cool tone outfits, but the dark shade hides some of the unique features of the boot.
  • Brown desert boots go well with a lot of warm toned pieces, so navy, reds, oranges, and other autumnal colours. For a smarter look try mixing them up with a navy suit, and for a more laid back outfit something as simple as blue jeans and a white T-shirt will work perfectly.
  • Sand desert boots have a light, soft look that makes them ideal for heavy contrast looks. Navy jeans and a light coloured top will give you balanced, casual look, while something more streamlined, like beige chinos and a white shirt will keep things smarter.

desert boots mens street style
Every man should have a pair of desert shoes

On That Note

If in doubt about what shoes to wear, you can't go far wrong with desert boots. Although they are generally considered a casual shoe, they can be up-styled for formal dressing. The rich history of the desert boot makes its background as iconic as the design itself and with Clarks collaborating with more and more artists, the timeless style is brought right into the 21st century, with looks to go nowhere in a hurry.


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