As with most British style icons, the chukka boot finds it’s history intwined in both the military and gentleman’s sport. The name ‘chukka’ is derived from polo where a chukka or chukker is the seven and a half minute playing period. Much like a half in rugby or football. The term chukka itself originated in India meaning both ‘circle’ or ‘turn’ in Hindi used in the context of taking a leisurely stroll.
Whilst the exact origin of the boot is widely contested, the modern boot as we know it was first spotted by Nathan Clark (of Clarks’ shoes) in 1941 whilst deployed in Burma during WWII. The boot was a favourite among British army officers who had served in Egypt and were having them made up in Cairo’s Old Bazaar rather than donning the regulation shoes.
It wasn’t until 1949 that Nathan completed the creating of the book, named the desert boot, which was launched on the American market due to resistance from the Clarks team in the UK. Following immediate success in America, they become popular in both London and Paris by the mod movement and student rioters.
A separate earlier account dates back to 1924 in the US where the Duke of Windsor (a very stylish man) wore a pair that he’s acquired over in India on one of his polo excursions.
They become such a hit that film stars such as Steve McQueen was a huge fan in his personal life and often wore them on screen and are still popular today with Daniel Craig’s donning them as 007 in both Spectre and Quantum of Solace.
Today, the suede desert boot remains the dominant style as is one of the best-selling shoe design of all time. The chukka is a staple that most brands, especially english, offer in either the two or three lace hole version. It’s a go-to shoe for a smart-casual look and great for the autumn.