In the 1800s, shoes were...not great because little consideration was given to footwear comfort. In fact, left and right shoes were made in the exact same shape with no variation for the different shapes of your feet! Shoes were in need of innovation, and that’s what brothers Cyrus and James Clark set out to do in 1825 when they founded Clarks.
200 Years of Clarks Shoes
Cyrus Clark owned a tannery in Somerset, England, in the early 1800s. Tanneries often have extra material laying around, unneeded or unusable for their original intended purpose, but Cyrus’ brother, James, was inspired by these castoffs. Using sheepskin offcuts, James crafted a sheepskin slipper in 1825. This very first Clarks shoe, the Brown Petersburg, became a smash hit within a year, averaging 1,000 sales every month. Today that number might seem small, but in the 1820s that level of production had only recently become possible. In fact, Cyrus and James Clark would go on to win two awards at the 1851 Great Exhibition, a celebration of Britain’s industrial power, thanks to their footwear manufacturing innovations. These awards were only the beginning of the acclaim that Clarks would gain in the years to come.
When the brothers retired in the 1860s, management of the Clarks brand passed to James’ eldest son William. The company grew under his guidance, patenting their own specially designed sewing machine, implementing an ahead-of-its-time factory system, and bringing great footwear to the masses. Under William, the company also introduced their Hygienic range, the first ever line of shoes to be designed for the shape of each foot. While today it seems obvious to us that shoes should be foot shaped, prior to the Hygienics line shoes were formed on straight lasts (the foot stand-in form used to build shoes so a foot model isn’t necessary!). Clarks’ innovation helped guide us towards understanding how shoes could be personalized to feet, paving the way for brands to offer shoes in the variety of sizes and widths available today.
By the 1940s, Clarks had outgrown their single factory in Street, Somerset, and needed to expand, building more factories in the region. Their expansion also allowed them to begin opening their own retail locations on high streets throughout major English cities under the name of Peter Lord. Then, in 1950, Clarks introduced another historic first with their iconic Desert Boot. Designed by Nathan Clark, the Desert Boot holds the distinction of being one of the first casual shoes. As fashion was rapidly veering away from constant formal dress, Clarks sought to accommodate the shift with this chic boot. Today, you can still buy this iconic boot and several of its variation for both men and women! Clarks continues to innovate, introducing new comfort technologies and styles, never forgetting that innovation set them on the path to becoming the much-loved footwear company they are today.
Favorite Clarks Styles
We couldn’t talk about this inventive shoe brand without featuring a few of their shoes! From sandals to boots and just about everything in between, Clarks has footwear options for everyone.
Clarks Desert Boot
Left: Clarks Women's Desert Boot in Oakwood Suede. Also available in Black Suede and Beeswax Leather. Right: Clarks Men's Desert Boot in Beeswax Leather. Also available in Black Suede, Brown Suede, Oakwood Suede, and Taupe Distressed Suede.
Any mention of Clarks best styles would be incomplete without the Desert Boot. Inspired by the crepe-soled boots worn by British officers during World War II, the Desert Boot offers all-day comfort and all-day style. We’ve shined a spotlight on the Desert Boot here on the blog before, so head over there to learn more about this classic style and its variations!
The Clarks Desert Boot is $119.95* for women and $129.95* for men.
Clarks Un Structured
Left: Clarks Women's Un Plaza Sling in Warm Grey Nubuck. Also available in Black Nubuck and Peach Nubuck. Right: Clarks Men's Un Abode Free in Light Tan Leather. Also available in Grey Nubuck and Navy Nubuck.
One of Clarks newer innovations is their Un Structured line of styles. This precisely designed line makes use of some of Clarks best comfort technologies to create shoes that are both supremely stylish and extremely wearable. Wavewalk soles are gently curved to complement your natural walking motion and reduce the strain on your foot while Cushion Max midsoles are designed to absorb shock without adding weight. Along with their innovative technology, Clarks also ensures that they use the softest, lightest, most breathable materials possible in the Un Structured line. The Un Structured shoes are the perfect blend of comfort and style for anyone who lives on the go.
The Clarks Women’s Un Plaza Sling is $129.95*, and the Clarks Men’s Un Abode Free is $124.95*.
Clarks Leisa Vine & Other Clarks Lines
Clarks Women's Leisa Vine in Black Leather. Also available in Dark Tan Leather, Navy Leather, and Sand Leather.
Clarks has much more to offer than just their Desert Boots and Un.Structured styles, like the Leisa Vine featured here! This stylish sandal has metal rivets for a bit of eye-catching flair that you just don’t find on a Desert Boot and features CushionSoft™ technology for a slightly different comfort experience than you’ll get from the Un.Structured line. Take a minute to explore all that Clarks has to offer, especially if the faves we’ve featured here don’t fit your tastes. We promise that Clarks has something to offer just about anyone!
The Clarks Women's Leisa Vine is $84.95*.
From a tiny industry in the English countryside to a globally recognized footwear manufacturing giant, Clarks has maintained their essential identity with a commitment to innovation and style. We’re big fans of Clarks shoes at Englin’s Fine Footwear, and we hope that we’ve convinced you to try a pair if you’re not already a fan too! If you have any questions you need answered about finding your perfect style, size, or anything else, visit us in store, chat with us online, or give us a call at 1-800-705-SHOE (7463).