All men should own at least one pair of chukka boots. Period.
In this post, we’ll tell you all that there is to know about men’s chukka boots – it’s history, the popular variant (men’s desert boots), and what makes a chukka boot… well, a chukka boot. We’re also going to review some best chukka boots on the market that money can buy.
They are often confused with their popular variant – the desert boot (Clarks popularized it) – we’ll learn more about that in this post. It is an essential footwear that adds versatility and style to a man’s wardrobe. It allows for interchangeability – works with formal, business casual, jeans or that dressed down evening look.
Men’s chukka boots started gaining popularity in the mid-1900s, and since then has become one of the most famous men’s footwear for the 21st century men.
We’ll help you decide on things you should consider before investing in a pair, along with a style guide and inspiration on how to wear desert boots and the looks you can pull off with your pair of chukkas.
- Men’s Best Chukka Boots Comparison Chart
- Top 10 Chukka (and Desert) Boot Reviews
- Where did the chukka boot come from?
- Chukka Boot Essentials
- The Desert Boot (the popular variant that gave Chukka boot it’s fame)
- Chukka vs Desert Boots
Men’s Best Chukka Boots Comparison Chart
|Preview||Brand||Shoe||Material + Colors||Price|
|Allen Edmonds||Dundee 2.0 Chukka Boots||Colors: Brown, Black
Material: Plain Leather, Grain Leather, Suede
|Allen Edmonds||Bellevue Chukka Boots||Colors: 1944 Dark Brown Leather, 1945 Golden Brown Chromexcel
Material: Lined premium leather upper with split-reverse welt – and rubber sole
|Wolverine||Wolverine 1883 Francisco Chukka||Colors: Dark Brown, Tan Brown, Navy (Suede)
Material: Oiled Nubuck, Suede
|Clarks Originals||Clarks Desert Boots Beeswax||Colors: Brown, Black
Material: Beeswax Leather
|Clarks Originals||Clarks Desert Boots Nubuck||Colors: Dark Taupe Desert Boots, Bronze Desert Bootsk
Material: Nubuck Leather
|Clarks Originals||Clarks Desert Boots Suede||Colors: Brown, Old Brown, Black, Sand, Natural Tan, Tan, Truffle, Maple, Taupe Suede, Navy, Taupe Distressed, Tobacco, Oakwood, Denim, Sage
Material: Suede Leather
Top 10 Chukka (and Desert) Boot Reviews
Allen Edmonds Dundee 2.0 Chukka Boots
It is a classier chukka boots. But comes with a premium price tag.
Allen Edmonds claim the boot to be comfortable. However, some buyers did not think so. They felt the leather was stiff, hence not so comfortable to be worn for long hours.
The Dundee 2.0 has a classic three-eyelet chukka design, and is made from premium calfskin leather upper, and a Double Butyl leather sole.
It can be paired with jeans for a smart casual look. It can also be carried with dress pants and a jacket for a classic business casual look for men.
Colors: Brown, Black, Brown Grained
Allen Edmonds Bellevue Chukka Boots
They are made from premium leather with split reverse welt and Otello rubber sole. They are rugged. They are sturdy. And they are stylish.
Some people reported that the sole started coming off from the toe after 4 to 6 months. But that’s probably one in a thousand.
Though keep in mind that the Bellavue comes with a hefty price tag. But this could be one of the best chukka boots you can invest in.
Colors: 1944 Dark Brown Leather, 1945 Golden Brown Chromexcel
Wolverine 1883 Francisco Chukka Boots
With uppers made of oiled Nubuck leather, and soles of durable rubber customers claim these boots to be water-proof and rugged. The soft inner lining offers breathability and comfort.
Men who have bought these chukkas, find them very comfortable to wear while navigating the streets and even on the mountains.
Some of the negatives of the Francisco chukkas are that it feels heavy at first, and some people complained of the quality (a customer found a missing stitch in a pair he bought) and some edges of the boot chipping off (from the insides or towards the heel).
Having said that, the Francisco chukka boots might not be the classiest, but are very durable, comfortable and versatile.
Colors: Dark Brown (Oiled Nubuck), Tan Brown (Oiled Nubuck), Navy (Suede)
Clarks Desert Boots – Beeswax Leather
Grace the classic men’s look with a beeswax leather upper, with two-eyelets that can work with your casual and business casual attire.
Colors: Brown, Black
Do you want to see how to style Clarks Desert Boots?
Clarks Nubuck Men’s Desert Boots
Made from nubuck leather uppers, Clarks Nubuck Men’s Desert Boots are not as popular as the Beeswax version, but can give an upgrade to your outfit because it is not so common.
Nubuck leather is sanded on the outer side or the exterior of the leather, and is known to be more durable and expensive than suede. However, that durability factor still doesn’t classify nubuck desert boots to be worn in wet conditions or in rain.
Since the Nubuck is sanded from the outer side of the skin, it might have some imperfections, and manufacturers often dye it to remove imperfections.
Colors: Dark Taupe Desert Boots, Bronze Desert Boots
Do you want to see how to style Clarks Desert Boots?
Clarks Suede Men’s Desert Boots
Clarks suede version of it’s men’s desert boots closely resemble Clarks Nubuck CDBs, but offers a lot more variety in colors.
Similar to nubuck, suede is also sanded leather. However, it is sanded on the inside of the animal skin. Due to this reason, the suede leather is not as durable as nubuck, but have a more consistent texture and appearance.
Clarks Taupe Suede, Oakwood and Sand Suede are quite popular amongst the loyalists, who actually don’t prefer the beeswax version.
Colors: Brown, Old Brown, Black, Sand, Natural Tan, Tan, Truffle, Maple, Taupe Suede, Navy, Taupe Distressed, Tobacco, Oakwood, Denim, Sage
Do you want to see how to style Clarks Desert Boots?
Where did the chukka boot come from?
The chukka boot history is a fascinating one, and it can be divided into “where the name chukka came from” and “what are the origins of chukka boot.”
Where the name “chukka” came from?
The name chukka can be traced back to India, and is derived from the word chukker, which refers to a seven minute period of play in a game of polo (sport, not the brand) – there are about four to eight chukkers in a game of polo.
Chukker originally is an Urdu / Hindi word which literally means a circular course (or to go around in circles). Another meaning of chukker that is commonly used in both Urdu and Hindi even today, is to take a stroll.
The latter is possibly where the chukka boots got their name from – a boot that’s neither too formal, nor too casual.
It is often presumed that the Jodhpur boot (worn by polo players during the game) may have had an influence in how the chukka boot got its name. But chukka boots were known to be worn by the polo players after the game for their comfort, and not while playing it.
Plus, the chukka boot and the Jodhpur boot are designed differently – so it is highly unlikely that the former got its name from the latter.
There is another theory that the word chukker, might have referred to the form of the boot, or the way it was made – but details are unknown.
What are the origins of chukka boot?
Chukka, the boot, also traces its origin back to India, where it was probably first worn by off-duty soldiers, again because of it’s comfort and preppy look.
And since the soldiers wore it off duty to dress down and take a stroll (Urdu / Hindi meaning of the word chukker), the shoe might have been nick-named by the British soldiers as “Chukka” in their own accent and pronunciation of the Urdu / Hindi word chukker.
I’m making this up, but it makes sense. Doesn’t it?
From there, it was then taken to U.K. (sometime during the 200 years they were in India from mid-1700s to mid-1900s) and other western countries.
The Duke of Windsor wore a pair of chukka boots in 1924, in one of his high profile appearances in the United States (this is the first recorded account of chukka boots) – he was known to play polo in India,and that’s where possibly brought his pair from.
Chukka Boot Essentials
What makes a Chukka boot… a Chukka boot? And how do you ensure you are buying an authentic chukka boot?
The classic chukka boot has the following features – make sure you take these into consideration before buying one:
- The length of the boot: Chukkas are ankle high leather boots
- The material used: The uppers are made with leather or suede, with rubber or leather soles
- The lacing eyelets: Open lacing with nothing more than 2 or less than 3 pairs of eyelets
If the boot you bought (or are going to buy) does not have either of the above features, you my friend, cannot consider it a chukka boot.
In recent times, in the name of trends and fashion, many shoe brands have launched their own version of the chukka boot with as many as 6 eyelets. But if you are a classic man (or aspiring to be one), go with the traditional chukka boot.
If you want to go a step further, and get an authentic pair of chukka boots, look for the following (according to shoe historian June Swann):
- Rounded toe-box
- Traditionally made from calf-skin suede leather in two parts
- Each part is a single piece of leather
- Quarters are sewn at the top of the vamp
- Thin leather soles
The Desert Boot (the popular variant that gave Chukka boot it’s fame)
The desert boot is an extremely popular variant of the original chukka boot – and this also traces back its origins to soldiers; more specifically worn by British soldiers during World War II in the North African desert. Due to their versatility, desert boots are often considered the best chukka boots type a man should own.
The desert boots that the British soldiers wore during the war were inspired by the South African Veldskoen. Veldskoen was a popular walking shoe in South Africa because of its simplicity and ruggedness in design. Merchants in Cairo used to import and sell them from South Africa, and that’s where the British soldiers would have bought their pairs.
This is verified by Clarks, that the idea originated from “the crepe-soled, rough suede boots made in Cairo’s Khan elKhalili bazaar for British Eighth Army officers.”
What is the Desert Boot made of?
They were made from soft suede uppers and crepe soles. Crepe is a crude form of rubber, that is soft and easy to walk on. It is believed that crepe soles also gave better traction to soldiers in the desert terrain during the war.
Desert boots were later introduced and popularized by Nathan Clark. It is believed that he was a man with two missions on his mind during his time with the British army in North Africa. The first one to protect his country in the war, and second one was to find a shoe design that can help revive his family’s shoe business.
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, August 15, 2012
He noticed British soldiers returning home with these boots from the desert and saw an opportunity.
How did the Desert Boot became popular?
And upon his return to the UK, the wanted to fuel his family business forward. He launched the first Desert Boot in the late 1940s. The first Clark’s Desert Boot.
It was introduced in the 1949 Chicago Shoe Fair, following a coverage by Esquire magazine.
Since then Clark’s Desert Boots went on to become one of the most popular shoe in the world.
It has been 70 years from when the Clark’s Desert Boot were first designed. And they are ever more in-demand and popular than they have ever been.
Even though some might argue that Clark’s Desert Boot saw its peak during the 1950s and 1960s.
But think about the global demand of CDB shoes today vs the mid-1900s. Consider the modern trends of fashion advertising through social media. The conveniences of e-commerce. Rising household incomes.
People are spending more money on fashion than they ever did.
We think the demand for Clark’s Desert Boots (or desert boots in general), would be much higher.
The Desert Boot also featured by the Design Museum as one of the “Fifty Shoes that Changed the World.”
They never gone out of fashion and are possibly the most versatile boots that men can buy.
Chukka vs Desert Boots
The words desert boots and chukka boots are often used interchangeably.
But be very mindful of the fact that all Desert boots are Chukkas, but not all Chukkas are Desert Boots. You might have read this slogan on 10 other blogs. But there is no better way to put it.
Depending on the versatility of the Chukka boots – who wears them and how they are worn – they can be pulled off with either a formal or a casual attire.
But because the chukkas were primarily associated with soldiers, and even a dressed down soldier was considered very prim and proper – they might have had a slightly formal appeal.
However, the credit goes to the launch of Clark’s Desert Boots in the 1950s, that helped transform the Chukka boots image into a more versatile one.