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Let’s do this with reggae songs, considering how deeply Clarks shoes are embedded in Jamaican culture. If throwing on a pair of Desert Boots is like cueing up “No Woman, No Cry” and lacing up your Wallabees is like dropping the needle on “Stepping Razor,” opting for a pair of Desert Treks is like tossing a few coins in the jukebox and putting on “54-46 (That’s My Number)” by Toots and the Maytals. Unknown? By no means. But maybe not the first thing you’d think of, if only because a couple other iconic entries in the genre spring to mind in its place.
But “54-46” is a jam, and life without it would be a bit worse. So even if you’ve already got your DBs and your Wallees on deck, you’d be well served to consider the Desert Trek, too. Low-slung and a little off-kilter in its own distinctive way, it’s exactly the sort of shoe you should add to your rotation. Here’s why.
The vibes abound.
The first thing most folks notice when they look at the Desert Trek—the first thing you probably looked at, especially if you’re just getting acquainted with the style—is that raised center seam running from tongue to toe. It gives the whole shoe a more crafty feel, showing the work that went into it even more obviously than, say, the welt on a pair of Desert Boots (which, as it happens, you’ll also find on the Trek). But it also makes ’em feel a little funkier. The Trek is the shoe you wear with your patchwork denim and that breezy camp collar shirt with the hand-blocked print. It’s the one you wear with a suit, but the loose and louche navy with a splash of tie-dye, not the tailored tan one you’d wear to work (save that one for your Desert Boots). Basically, the Trek is the shoe you need when you want to mix it up (within reason).
Comfort is king.
One thing that always gets me about Instagram ads for shoes that claim to “bridge the gap between dress shoes and sneakers” is that those shoes already exist. Clarks has been making ’em for years. And while they may not include any hyper-futuristic tech, that’s okay, because those crepe rubber soles—those bouncy, supportive, long-wearing soles—do the job just fine. Better than fine, in fact. And when you combine them with a flexible leather upper that’ll mold to your feet over time? Mwah! Just go ahead and insert a chef’s kiss emoji here and send my complements to the, er, shoemaker.
They’re a conversation starter.
While there’s a decent chance a fellow fan will clock your Desert Treks as a sign of an in-the-know kindred spirit and strike up a conversation, let me give you a bit more than that. See the graphic of the little man at the heel with the bag slung over his back? Clarks calls him the “Trek Man,” but fans in Jamaica were reminded of something else. Hence the Trek’s other name, the “Bank Robber,” which has persisted to this day. Something tells me Toots—and Bob, and Peter—would approve.
Photography by Timothy Mulcare
Prop styling by Sharon Ryan for Halley Resources
Jonathan Evans is the style director of Esquire, covering all things fashion, grooming, accessories, and, of course, sneakers. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and son. You can follow him at @MrJonathanEvans on Twitter and Instagram.
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