When I was a boy in the early 1970s desert boots were a part of life. Something we took for granted.
Coerced by a well meaning mother, my younger brother and I had to wear hideously sensible shoes to school. However, when September came we were allowed to go to Marks & Spencer and choose a pair of their ‘St Michael’ brand desert boots for the Autumn/Fall term. I remember those boots so clearly.
They were simply made but in super comfortable suede with real plantation crepe soles that were soft and sticky – unlike the ‘milled’ crepe that you find on modern desert boots that turns lethally slippery when wet.
Those boots were made in Rossendale in Lancashire, England by a firm called Lambert Howarth. Year in and year out, this was a ritual my brother and I went through.
Suede & Crepe
This must have formed a deep impression on me as a boy because ever since then I’ve always had several pairs of crepe soled suede chukka boots worn in rotation.
Whether they’ve been expensive welted Church’s or Alden, vintage Tricker’s, bumper soled playboy chukkas or the simple desert boots made by that well known firm, it feels like I’ve worn them forever. Super comfortable and versatile, those in the know love their crepe soles.
But something I’ve noticed over the years – and I know I’m not alone in this – is the slow and steady detoriation in the quality of the desert boots available these days.
Offshore manufacturing may be partly to blame, but also the steep decline in the quality of both the leather used – which is too often rigid where it must be soft and supple – and the poor quality of most crepe soles is really obvious. Sadly, these mass produced boots are a mere shadow of their originals.
Desert Boots The Way They Used to Be Made
Today, the world is full of inferior quality desert boots some of which you can buy for peanuts. Search online and you’ll find a myriad of monstrosities.
Made from leather that’s been soaked and horizontally split many times (a cheap way of getting ‘more’ suede from each skin) and usually with a polyurethane plastic sole instead of natural crepe – something anathema to the true classic desert boot. Of course, these are best avoided.
At the other end of the scale are the more expensive branded versions that are ‘updated for a modern look’. Red laces, yellow soles, coloured linings…well, we don’t think you can update that classic suede desert boot without ruining it.
Whilst the classic English goodyear welted ‘gentleman’s’ suede crepe chukka is a thing of beauty (think Dirk Bogarde in Doctor in the House 1957), it’s also way too expensive for most pockets these days and not suitable for the kind of abuse you might want to give your classic ‘stitched-down’ desert boots.
Somewhere along the way the well made classic desert boot took a few hard knocks. We thought it was time to bring back desert boots, the way they used to be made.
Defining a Classic
I watch a lot of old movies. I mean, really a lot. I’m always coming across actors wearing great desert boots of a kind you just can’t buy today.
And that got me wondering. What if Michael Caine in Play Dirty, Dick Van Dyke in Divorce American Style or John Mills in Ice Cold in Alex wanted to buy a pair today?
Where would they go? Where could they go?
One Boot to Rule Them All…
In 2008, I was in Italy and saw a pair of desert boots for sale on a rack outside a tiny shoe shop. They were the last pair, and they were my size. They were also incredibly well made. Since then I’ve worn that pair for literally hundreds of miles. In town, in the country, on the beach and even shin-deep in a freezing flood. And they’ve taken everything I threw at them and are still going strong.
Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew someone had to start marketing the classic desert boot; made like they used to be.
History of Hutton
And this got me started on a journey that’s still only just beginning with Hutton Desert Boots. My family has a long history in footwear, back in the day with venerable brands like Lotus, Grenson, Loake and White & Co.
As a teenager, in the early 60s, my Dad even stitched the leather welts on the Hutton playboy chukkas famously worn by Steve McQueen.
When we decided to start production it seemed natural to relaunch a legendary name in crepe soled footwear.
Originally founded in the 1930s and then re-incorporated in 1948 as Hutton of Northampton, the factory made playboy chukkas, desert boots and all manner of suede and crepe soled shoes for men and women. They even won the Queen’s Award for Export to the USA.
A huge hit in the USA during the Ivy League style ‘boom years’ as part of ‘the English look’ Hutton suede chukkas can be seen worn by movie actors like McQueen (who wore his in The Blob, Bullitt, Alfred Hitchcock Presents), Anthony Perkins, Jason Robards Jr, Robert Webber, Burgess Meredith (in the 1940s!), as well as West Coast baritone legend Gerry Mulligan.
But, sadly, like most English manufacturers, they eventually closed their doors in 1990.
Today, we are proud to reintroduce the legendary Hutton name and we are sure the quality and integrity of our boots more than lives up to the original.
Style Over Fashion
Desert boots never go out of fashion.
At Hutton we believe that quality shouldn’t be compromised either. So the small family business that hand makes our Hutton Desert Boots is the very same one that made those boots I found in Italy in 2008 that have walked hundreds of street miles and survived floods. We use only the best quality leathers, natural un-dyed plantation crepe, cotton stitching throughout, calf leather heel socks and even full leather insoles like shoes that cost twice as much.
We think it’s the only way to make them – as good as know how.
We know you’ll love these Hutton Desert Boots, just like we do.
Co-Founder Hutton Desert Boots