Clarks is ready for its big countercultural comeback
The company’s Autumn/Winter collection looks back to its subcultural heritage, offering new spins on old classics
Clarks may have started its life as a humble, Somerset slipper brand, but a lot can change in 200 years. Between now and then, the classic shoe retailer has established itself as an unlikely but integral part of British subcultural history. Take their classic Wallabee design, for example: founded in 1967 as an easy, suede moccasin lace-up, it quickly became a staple of Jamaican Rude Boy culture. It then moved north to the streets of New York, where it was seen on 90s hip hop pioneers like Wu-Tang Clan and MF Doom, before returning to the UK, where it was seen on acid house ravers and the main players of the Britpop movement. There’s also their more ubiquitous Desert Boot, which was much-loved by the mods, as well as the demonstrators of the now legendary French student uprisings of 1968.
All of this is to say that Clarks has range and a seemingly limitless appeal, which is mostly down to how simple and comfortable its designs are. And in an age where practical footwear reigns supreme – Crocs, Goretex hiking boots and dad trainers have been dominating inner-city high streets for what feels like an eternity – it feels like Clarks is overdue a major countercultural comeback.
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The company’s autumn/winter collection may end up sparking that, though. The latest designs offer new spins on Clarks’ most traditional silhouettes, fusing its expert craftsmanship, sustainable materials and, obviously, unparalleled levels of comfort. The most familiar models are the Desert Boot 2s, which are much like the original, save for a few subtle, innovative differences: this time around they’re roomier, with grippier rubber soles and more breathable cushioning. There are also two Wallabee-inspired designs: the Colehill Wally, which comes with a sturdier treaded sole, ready for blustery Autumn pavement pounding; and the Barleigh Pull, a lace-free, faux shearling-lined ankle boot, which feels like a callback to the throw-on, Woodstock-friendly looks of the early 70s and mid-00s.
Other highlights of the collection include an array of hike-ready ankle boots: there’s the Orianna Turn, a “biker-inspired” design filled with cosy faux shearling and nestled by an airy, cushioned sole; as well as the Craftdale Hike, a more traditional “heritage-inspired” model lined with tweed and waxy suede. If boots aren’t your thing, the Craftrun Tor trainers serve as retro-inspired running shoes, while the black patent Tealas are a weightless take on the chunky Autumn loafer.
Meet the collective and shop their chosen styles here.