Vintage Clarks Desert Boot Ads

The Real Clarks Original Desert® Boot -Esquire Magazine Advert 1950s

When my good friend Herb Lester is not out visiting the weird wonderful and downright excellent in specialist stores and entertainment, he seems to be most often found by the fireside leafing through a mountain of vintage Esquire magazines from the 50s and 60s, iPhone camera at hand, ready to email The Weejun the choicest morsels of unattainable vintage goods.

Over the holiday he sent me these classic images of Clarks’ US advertising in Esquire, apologising for the vagueness of the last one but not able to scan the large format.

Clarks Desert Khan (for some reason also called Kahn these days) is not a faithful reproduction of their original Desert shoe, at least as sold in the UK. In the USA the Desert Khan retains it’s distinctive lace up facings – a much more interesting design than the current ‘chopped’ desert boot sold in Europe.

No surprise really as Clarks are criminally lazy when it comes to their heritage (or cynically revisionist?). The printed crap that comes with their Originals range is so full of typos and factual inaccuracies to shame most other ‘heritage’ brands.

It would be great to see them reissue the Desert® Saddle shoe but if they did I’m sure it was have plastic tablecloth for a lining and be made in nasty waxed leather.

It’s difficult for me to talk about Clarks without the need for a rant, so I please excuse me but a rant really is in order.

For a current example of nastiness check out this OFFICIAL website product image.  Can you believe that this is the Clarks website and they couldn’t find a shoe that was a reject? That crumpled crease is bad making, this is not soft leather that somehow droops a little, this is hard cheaply tanned inferior material which has been badly lasted.

This warped example is a Clarks official website product shot!

Most companies would reject that shoe at the factory and never in a million years use it to try and sell the damn thing. Surely with the global reach of Clarks there’s a market for a niche Made in England/Ireland desert boot or wallabee even selling at £150? Some of their Wallabees for sale in Italy (and the J Crew ltd edition one) are actually Made in Italy. The Italians are serious about their desert boots.

I recently bought the Clarks Wallabee boot in Walnut shown on their website with a nice natural unstained crepe sole. I went to their flagship store in Regent St to buy some (from experience the sizes are all over the place) and the guy in the store had no idea of what model I was asking for.

He looked it up on the till computer and told me I could only order it online for home delivery. When asked why they didn’t have the full range of Originals models on offer in their London flagship the response was “It’s because of the trees and stuff they make’em from. Them trees is rare, innit”. You honestly couldn’t make this stuff up.

I went home and bought them online and they didn’t look anything like the picture on the website. I left a ‘review’ saying as much but (no surprise) they didn’t publish it. They were well made however, the sizing was better and the last shape is now correct (and not the squashed cornish pasty the earlier post P&B ones looked like) but it shows how little some companies care for the intelligence of the customer that they can’t be bothered to either get the factory to make the shoes as per the samples, or at least change the bloody photograph when the product differs so much in production.

But Clarks once were mighty, in the days of the Padmore & Barnes wallabees, and the real original Desert® Boots (can you imagine someone getting away with registering the word ‘desert’ these days?) and these great ads serve to remind us of times gone by when the Clark’s desert boot was perhaps the biggest selling shoe model in the world and the most imitated.

Herb Lester pointed out the Invisible Man style crossed boots on the footstool. Brilliant!

Bob Peak – The Art of Hand Drawn Ads Pt II

After posting the other day about illustrators in vintage adverts My friend Herb Lester just sent me a link to the work of illustrator Bob Peak who’s images are instantly recognisable to anyone into movies – many classic 60s and 70s movie poster had their artwork drawn by Peak.

Here’s an example of his graphic work for Dobbs Hats

Bob Peak Design for Dobbs Hats

And classic movie poster for the Warren Beatty swinging sixties heist movie Kaleidoscope

Movie Poster for Kaleidoscope was also used on the OST LP...

To see more of Peak’s work click here

The Sociables – The Art of Hand Drawn Ads

One of the things that strikes reading through any vintage magazine is the amount of illustration compared with photography in advertising.

It’s hard to realise today, but paying someone (often a staff illustrator) was much cheaper than using a photographer for colour and more effective than using cheaper black and white photography.

Until the advent of graphics computers in agencies in the late 80s, the work had to be shot by the photographer using models, staging, props etc with all the attendant costs of crew for the shoot – hair stylists, make up, wardrobe, lighting. It then had to be processed at a lab and transparencies chosen by the art editor, each step expensive and time consuming, often complicated by tight deadlines.

Brooks Brothers 1979 Catalogue Illustration (Credit to Yamauchi Yuki)

Once the layout and photography were chosen, the two elements then had to be married. This involved a complex and time consuming process of printing photographs, laying out on white board, adding hand lettering (or the time saving Letraset innovation) until a large collage of paper, cow gum and photos was produced.

Only by screwing up the eyes and squinting could one see the advert without all the white paint, cut edges and so on.

Often an airbrush artist would then work on the sections either taking out undesirable elements of a photo background or perhaps enhancing a model’s complexion or helping to blend the photography seamlessly with the other elements of the design.

Once the collage was complete the whole thing was then re-photographed on a large rostrum camera using a screen that turned everything into tiny pixel-like dots that the printers could handle (for black and white illustrations litho film was used to give extreme black to white contrast).

A lot of handwork, labour and time went into using photography for advertising.

Compared to this, one lone skilled draughstman could conjure up a world of sophistication, romance, desire, style and let’s face it, exaggerate any product’s benefits for about a third of the time and a quarter of the cost.

There were thousands of illustrators working in advertising, some well known, sought after and highly paid (like Brooks Brothers’ illustrator Tran Mawicke) but the majority unsung hacks working scratching away in pencil and ink to meet a looming print deadline.

Local Newspaper Ad Illustration for Ivy Style Jackets 1960

With cheaper printing and processing in the 1970s and 80s, illustrations for advertisments grew less common, often relegated to local media and low end advertisers. For the mainstream it had to be four colour process printing to show the reality of their unreal advertising world.

I remember though, as late as 1989, both Brooks Brothers and Lord & Taylor sending out catalogues with around 75% of the products being illustrated by hand.

It’s now quite unimaginable to expect customers to see a mere drawing of a jacket or shirt and buy it without seeing a more ‘realistic’ image of the product.

But back then, we all did.

“Make mine a one of your hand drawn shetland sweaters please Mr Haberdasher”


Reading through some old Life magazines today I found this classic example of the illustration being used to imply something that isn’t quite true. Check the size of this Morris Minor! The family must be related to the little people from Land of The Giants…

Outsized Morris Minor In American Ad

G9 x Drizzler

One of the many cross breeds between the Baracuta G9 style of jacket and it’s main rival the McGregor Drizzler. This model by Sir Jac from 1959 has the G9 collar but with the Drizzler style beaded seam pockets.

I remember buying a similar one in tan cotton from John Simons c 1993 made by some Italian company and called ‘the officer’s jacket’.

LL Bean Maine Hunting Shoe

When I started this blog back in 2009 I bemoaned the state of LL Bean and how it had slipped into a kind of evil catalogue mumsiness perhaps beyond any hope of return. Bean’s PR machine contacted me and told me there was great excitement about a new ‘heritage’ line they were working on.

Well, we all know that turned out to be the fashion mistake that is LL Bean Signature. Full of sentences like ” we took a classic from our 1957 catalogue and then messed with it and made it a one season fashion piece that only fits where it touches”.

Since then I’ve tried to revisit Bean and buy some of their original line and along with friends and readers have been pleasantly surprised by some gems hidden in the back pages (More on this later in the week).

Of course one thing we can rely on still is the venerable LL Bean Boot. I’ve always found them a little tough on the feet when new so I decided this time around to buy the Maine Hunting Shoe (shoe here being a quaint term for a full length boot) which claims to have softer gum soles and softer leather.

The 10" Maine Hunting Shoe from LL Bean

Apart from a couple of blisters when wearing them for the first time out shooting street photography, these boots have been incredible out of the box. A Made in USA product that is around $100 is also an incredible bargain, even after evil Postman Pat gets his fingers in the tax man’s revenue stream.

Mrs Weejun decided she wanted the (admittedly nice) ‘on trend’ black leather Signature version so I bought her those too. Ironically despite costing 50% more (you can’t blame old LL for fleecing the fashionistas) the leather is really tough and somewhat inflexible leaving the poor Mrs W with bruised feet although they are finally wearing in.

Out this week in heavy snow in London I was one of the few people able to stride at full tilt without a worry of slipping (Shown above with Levis LVC 1955 and Gant Rugger ‘The Puffer’).

My only regret is that I didn’t buy shearling lined ones too as they can get a little cold.

And there was my friend Ben wryly suggesting that I wouldn’t get much use out of such rustic footwear in the Big Smoke. They do bring some stares it’s true (except at John Simons where Paul Simons was wearing his too on Saturday…)

Buy them here

Voyles ‘Bumpers’ Early 60s

Interesting Paraboot Micheal-style shoes from early 60s showing the two eyelet deep vamp moccasin was popular in the US.

In the 80s Paraboot comeback there were a lot of models that featured the split toe seam sporting a double stitiched ‘cover’ like this model. Paraboot themselves sold one that had more stitching detail that the Michael and a different heel quarter design.

Hard to tell from the drawing what the making is, whether soft foam rubber (as was common on the Czech made canvas shoes exported in their millions in the Soviet Bloc days) or a more substantial Paraboot style shoe.

The Return of The Weejun (Updated)

Well, I took a short holiday. Turned out to be about 18 months. I didn’t really have time to keep the blog going. In that time a lot has happened. The whole Ivy League Look has gone seriously overground. Not necessarily a bad thing by any means, as we’re currently in one of the rare phases where the vagaries of fashion are in sync with the classic Ivy look of vintage American clothing.

Brands that have been in fashion doldrums serving up tedious indie styles (Fred Perry), terrace wear or even just middle aged dads (Gant?) have either been reinvented or at least accidentally included some key vintage inspired items. Even John Simons whose store in Russell Street, Covent Garden, finally closed its doors after serving the nation with rare items since 1983, has made a sterling comeback (helped along by son Paul and partner Theo de Rose amongst others).

For me it’s been a time of aquiring great vintage originals as well as modern pieces from some sometimes surprising sources (this years Gap tailored chinos for example). Old conservative stalwarts have produced short lived classic items (Church’s Sahara III all natural unline desert boot).

So, time to come back, put some thoughts down from time to time. My version of ivy has always included a wider pantheon of american styles, tempered with a hint of French and a healthy dose of Italian influence, all of it far removed from the evils of iGent-ism or the phoney johnny come latelys of the overtly commercial US based mega blogs (you know who you are). All served with a dash of humour, hopefully. Never good to take anything that seriously, does it?

JSA Goes From Strength to Strength

Yesterday I was in town in the morning with some time to kill so I thought I’d drop in and see how John Simon’s new store at Chiltern St was doing.

This was only my third visit since he’s opened a couple of weeks ago and the shop is getting ever more stock and slowly taking on an appearance of an aladdin’s cave similar to the store in Russell St.

The new shop is much better though, having several rooms with different stock in and feeling like an ivy labyrinth.

Some really nice blazers had just arrived from DNA in Italy one of them meant for my friend Fred in LA.

The New John Simons Blazer Made In Italy

When Was The Last Time You Saw a Hooked Vent on a NEW design?

John knew we were the same size so asked me to try the 40 on. If it wasn’t already sold I’d have taken it myself but put down an order for one from the next consigment.

A box of very nice JSA branded plaid button downs, one a popover, also arrived in the same shipment. The material was soft and thick flannel like and I much preferred them to the dress shirts the store opened with.

John Simons Plaid Button Down With Flap Pocket

John Simons Plaid Button Down Popover

The shop seemed busy with people popping in every few minutes and I hope that the feeding frenzy when new products arrived continues. It’s really good to see John in his element again and to have a focal point for those of us who love and understand classic American style clothes.

You can read Herb Lester’s review of John Simons Apparel here and follow JSA on Facebook here