“Desert Boots The Way They Used to Be Made”
That’s the slogan for the latest re-emergence of a classic heritage brand, Hutton aka Hutton of Northampton. For those followers of The Weejun and any online reference to suede chukkas, Hutton will of course be known as the original makers of the classic playboy chukka as worn by ‘you know who’, Steve McQueen.
Despite the legion of online stories to the contrary (some references insist that McQueen wore Tod’s when the brand didn’t even exist until after his death) it wasn’t Sanders’ now-classic boot that Steve loved to wear both off and onscreen, but the Hutton boot.
How can we be sure of this? Well, Hutton of Northampton had a patent on the construction of the playboy chukka for many years and fought infringements rigorously. There were imitators of course, such as Bates Floaters but they are instantly recognisable with the applique heel piece and their foam rubber soles were a poor substitute for the delights of real crepe.
Sadly, as we know, Hutton went bust a few decades ago leaving a big gap in their wake. Little known, though, is the fact that Hutton also made a plethora of other suede and crepe combo shoes, not the least of which were classic desert boots.
Made in UK?
Making desert boots in the UK is a non starter these days. Witness Clarks’ marketing ploy with their 75th anniversary model made in the village of Woolaston (the birthplace of Dr Martens) which retailed at an eye popping £250.00 a pair. Sure they looked lovely (apart from them messing around with the original stitching and last yet again) and if Clarks hadn’t moved their production offshore you can bet that would be the price in 2015 pounds we’d be (not) paying for a pair of their iconic desert boots.
As it is, the standard models are pretty expensive for a made in Vietnam boot, and as an owner of more than a dozen pairs, I can attest to the wild variation in quality of the making and the suedes they’re using. So I was suitably animated to return from a long dry spell from posting when I learned of the return of Hutton, albeit a desert boot so far and not the playboy chukka – yet.
Made in Italy!
As I understand it, these new Hutton Desert Boots will be handmade in Italy and will go a long way to addressing the lack of options for a premium desert boot – ‘how they used to be made’ – as Hutton’s new slogan goes.
We all know that despite the alleged British origins of desert boots (really they’re Dutch South African ‘veldt’ shoes) and their huge success in the USA in the 50s and 60s, it’s been the Italians who’ve kept the traditional desert boot alive ever since, leading up to the fashion revival in the last decade that forced Clarks to finally take their desert boot seriously again.
Certainly, if the photo of the early Hutton prototype from their Facebook page is anything to go by, these boots are going to be pretty nice.
No confirmation on prices yet but I suspect they must retail for more than the regular Made in Vietnam Clarks Originals – after all they are handmade in Italy from local materials, and that still counts for something.