Thursday, 16 April 2015

Boot survived shifting sands of fashion

It has been worn by Hollywood stars, music legends, mods, and of course its own designer, and now a new exhibition is celebrating the 65th birthday of the iconic Clarks Desert Boot. 

Nathan Clark found the inspiration for his winning invention when he was serving with the Royal Army Service Corps in Egypt in 1949. Off-duty his comrades wore simple, comfortable, boots constructed in the bazaars of Cairo from only a handful of components. 

Mr Clark, great-grandson of Quaker James Clark who co-founded the Somerset-based company, cut a pattern by hand and took the 'Desert Boot' back to England. Undeterred by the initial dismissal of his designs back at Clarks headquarters, he took his creation to the United States and launched it at the Chicago Shoe Fair with the help of belly dancers and a tonne of sand. 

The boot, with its soft suede upper and crepe sole, was launched on the fashion scene in 1950 and the rest is history. 

So it was fitting that when the exhibition, featuring 100 different styles of Desert Boot, and memorabilia associated with it, opened at the Museum of Bath at Work, in Julian Street, belly dancing was part of the festivities. 

Musicians and fashion students rubbed shoulders with graphic designers to celebrate the continuing success of the classic design which has frequently been adapted by Clarks and a host of artists and fashion designers with whom, they have worked, including Vivienne Westwood. 

The exhibition has been prepared and created by Dr Pam Walker and her team at the Shoe Museum in Clark's home town of Street. 

Included is memorabilia from Clarks staff who made the shoe and of famous wearers – including the Beatles, The Smiths and Oasis. A Lambretta scooter – lent by a Desert boot wearing Mod has pride of place along with his much loved Parka coat. Both date from the mid-1960s. 

Director of the museum Stuart Burroughs said 'It is an honour to host this exhibition and to work closely with Dr. Walker and her team at Street in presenting this unique collection of the first proper casual shoe ever made. And a local invention. Is there a more iconic shoe from the second half of the twentieth century than the Desert Boot? We are delighted to have worked with the Shoe Museum and the Alfred Gillet Trust – who funded the exhibition-and hope everyone will come to see it." 

The exhibition is on display in the museum's top floor display hall until November 1, it will then begin a tour of the country. A programme of films and activities to coincide with the exhibition, has been arranged.

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