The Desert Boot Upgrade: Clarks Buschacre 2

Clarks Bushacre 2 vs Clarks Desert Boot

Picking footwear in the colder months is easy: Snow outside? Boots. No snow outside? Boots. Chunky or slim profile, it’s your pick of the litter, any one you choose will look great.

But when things start getting a little warmer and our wardrobe changes from layers to light colored heat-friendly outfits, those winter boots can begin to feel out of place. Jeans and chinos tend to be a little slimmer, hemmed a little higher, and your chunky shit-kickers don’t work anymore because their proportions are off with the rest of the outfit.

That’s where the desert boot comes in. A chukka-style boot made of a single layer of leather, usually suede, with a thin profile sole. Desert boots are the perfect footwear chameleon: They work dressed up with chinos and a blazer, but don’t make you dressed up when you’re just wearing light wash jeans and a t-shirt. In fact, they’re so versatile they can be worn in the winter months, as long as you don’t try to slog the suede versions through slushy conditions.

The original desert boot was invented by Nathan Clark and launched from the Clarks brand in 1950. During his service in the British Army, Mr. Clark discovered a similar chukka-styled boot while exploring the bazaars in Cairo. This boot had a crepe sole: a lightweight, light-colored, bouncy rubber that provides a comfortable sole for long days.

The crepe sole is a big reason for the desert boot’s massive success over the last 65 years.

However, after owning 2 pairs, it’s also the thing I dislike most.

Clarks Bushacre 2 and Clarks Desert Boot

Crepe rubber is a “coagulated latex,” meaning it naturally has a bumpy, soft texture. While it’s comfortable and looks fantastic on a new pair of Desert Boots, the qualities of crepe leather also mean they get irreparably dirty. If your sneaker soles get dirty, simply brush with some soap or OxyClean and you’ll have sun-bright soles again.

But with crepe soles, it seems like the dirt gets sucked into the rubber. So, after only a brief number of wears, the beautiful, light crepe soles get dark. And not in a, “oh these shoes have a dark sole”. Dark as in, clearly they’re dirty. As the crepe sole wears and hits the elements, its bumpy texture exaggerates. The result is a beautiful casual leather boot with gross, bumpy, dirty soles.

I first mentioned Clarks Desert Boots 5 years ago. I continued to wear them into the ground. They’re a fantastic and comfortable boot with extreme versatility.

Eventually my 2 pairs became unwearable because of the dirty crepe sole and the unstructured leather losing its shape. So this time I decided to give Clarks Bushacre 2 a try.

The Bushacre 2 is the same style leather upper, but with a more traditional smooth rubber sole. While the desert boot’s crepe sole is initially a light cream, the Bushacre 2’s sole is medium brown. That means while you lose the great look of the light leather on the light sole in the beginning, you gain a sole that can be cleaned and won’t suck up dirt. Since my Bushacre 2’s are new I can’t say for certain that they won’t get bumpy the way the crepe sole does, but because they’re completely different kinds of rubbers and the crepe sole starts out textured, the chances of it happening are unlikely.

Desert boot vs Bushacre 2 - Crepe Sole Rubber Sole

Clarks Bushacre 2 outfit

Sweatshirt: Goodwill, $8 / OCBD: Uniqlo, $30 / Jeans: Gap, $30

There are rumblings on the web that Bushacre 2’s are Clarks' cheaper model, intended for sale at discount stores like Nordstrom Rack. In fact, Clarks doesn’t even sell the Bushacre 2 on their website. Some assert the leather on the desert boots is of a better quality. However, I have not been able to find any official information on leather or construction quality for either. In-person impressions leave me feeling they’re practically identical in quality and construction. Only time will tell, and I’ll be sure to check back in if I’m proven wrong. But I place my bets on the Bushacre 2 having a longer service life purely because of the advantages of its traditional rubber sole.

Having said all that, the desert boot is still a fantastic choice, and there are good stylistic and heritage reasons you may opt for the original.

My Pick

The Bushacre 2 comes in a host of colors just as the original. My choice is the Sand Suede. In my opinion, it’s the most versatile of the options. A light, light tan, the Sand Suede looks awesome with slim chinos of any color, as well as light OR dark denim. The other colorways like Beeswax Leather and Dark Brown are great choices too, though they’re look is definitely less spring and summer.

They're affordable too – only $60 on Amazon.

Shoe trees

BUT you have to do this…

If you're going to buy Bushacre 2's or desert boots, please learn from my mistake. You HAVE to use shoe trees. The leather is only one layer thick, so after a lot of wearing it begins to wave and pucker and the toe box collapses, losing their smooth silhouette. Shoe trees are made of cedar so as well as keeping shape they also draw out moisture and keep them smelling fresh. Shoe trees can be had for around $20, but if that's not in your budget, at the very least keep the cardboard insert that comes in the boots and put them back in every time you take them off. This will easily multiply the length of time you can wear them.

Andrew is the founder and editor of Primer. He's a graduate of American University and currently lives in Los Angeles. Read more about Primer on our About page. On Instagram: @andrewsnavely and @primermagazine.

  • TMann

    Is there any way to replace the sole on a pair of desert boots after they’ve worn out?

    • Andy

      Take them to a cobbler and they will replace the sole for a fee. Cheers!

      • Sam

        I looked to have my desert boots re-soled but the price was close to the same price as buying new desert boots on sale. If you uppers are in good shape and you like the way the have broken in, it may be worth it, and I love the idea of extending the life of anything, but given the price of desert boots it may be better to just buy new ones and re-sole your more expensive shoes.

      • Roger Hudson

        Finding a real cobbler, the first big problem.

    • Jesse

      I had my CDB’s resoled several months ago and they’ve never fit the same way. They look great and the cobbler did a wonderful job putting on a new Vibram Christy sole. However, the footbed is hard as rock and the leather upper is to tight now that I can not use any sort of cushioned insole or my feet won’t fit in the boot. It’s a shame because they look great but are so uncomfortable.

      • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew

        I’d love to see a photo of the resoled boots if you get a chance.

        • Jesse

          absolutely. I’ll take a couple pictures tonight.

        • Jesse

          Here are two quick pics. These are the beeswax versions with white Vibram soles. Sorry for the dirty boots.

          As i said above, they’re so tight now with the new soles that I can’t wear them for long periods of time. I’ve tried shoe stretch spray and shoe stretchers inside with only limited results. But I hope these pictures help someone considering a resole. If i had to do it again I would just spend the money on a new pair.

          • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew

            Whoa! They look great! A bummer they don’t fit as well. 🙁 How much did the cobbler charge for that?

          • Jesse

            around $80.

  • Rob

    I tried on a pair of Bushacres and found the soles stiff and clunky compared to the normal crepe. However, the soles on my desert boots are now completely black with grime, so you may have a point.

    • Foxxblood

      I prefer the normal crepe sole of the original compared with the Brushacres as well. The original’s are more comfortable The dirt that gathers on the crepe does not really bother me as my boots are worn as a very casual beater type shoe.

  • John

    There is a great article on Midwestyle regarding this. Personally, I dig the well-worn look and you could probably take them to a leather care specialist to spruce up the upper. My $0.02.

  • Robert Hamilton

    Probably the most uncomfortable pair of shoes I have ever bought. Total waste of money.

    • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew

      The Bushacres as compared to desert boots, or in general?

      • Robert Hamilton

        I bought the Bushacres in beeswax from Nordstrom Rack this past winter. They aren’t comfortable for any real length of time. I haven’t tried the Clark’s Originals with the crepe soles because they’re too expensive and I’ve read the crepe soles don’t stand up to Seattle rain well. I waterproofed mine and they darkened to a nice dark brown. My girlfriend likes how they look. They just hurt my feet when I try to wear them.

        • Robert Hamilton

          Note – I had gotten these on the recommendation from this site and Dappered.com, which is why I’ve said anything about them.

          • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew

            Hey Robert, Have you tried a cheap insole? I bought a pair from Rite Aid for a pair of shoes I didn’t end up using them for and threw them in my Red Wings and now they’re the most comfortable boots I own. Might be worth a look.

          • Robert Hamilton

            There wouldn’t be enough room for an insole. I had to size down a half size to begin with, which may be part of the problem now.

          • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew

            Ah, gotcha.

        • Greg

          For what it’s worth I live in Colorado and my CDB original suede/crepe’s were my go-to shoe to/from skiing 3 for seasons (until I went to Bean Boots). No waterproofing, comfy for driving to/from the Mtn and nothing feels better than taking your feet out of ski boots and putting them right into the super comfy CDBs. Soles held up fine in snow, just adds some extra patina to the suede. Maybe wouldn’t recommend for new, but mine are 5 years old now and still going strong.

  • gregathon

    There are a LOT of issues with Bushacres separating from their sole with minimal wear and tear. I have exchanged multiple pairs after a day or 2 of wear until I just gave up on them. I also have seen friend’s Bushacres that have held up well. Just be aware of this issue…photos and reviews: http://www.amazon.com/Clarks-Mens-Bushacre-Desert-Boot/product-reviews/B00B1I5KFU/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_viewpnt_rgt?ie=UTF8&filterByStar=critical&showViewpoints=0&pageNumber=1

    • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew

      I’ll definitely keep you guys posted if I have this experience. So far, no problems.

    • Alexandre Bourdeau

      I had exactly the same problem. Please avoid these boots.

    • http://www.erichenao.com Eric Henao

      It took my pair 2 years to have a small several loops on one corner of the toe start to separate. Called Clarks and they said that the shoe is NOT re-soleable. Unlike the traditional desert boots, the crepe soles, where are. I agree with Andrew that I do like the shape better of the Bushacres than the deserts… Just keep in mind, they are not re-soleable. They are glued. Your milage may vary…

    • Nathan Lemon

      Not to discount anyone else’s experience with the Bushacre but I’ve had mine since 2011 and only within the last few months have I finally worn a hole through the sole. The uppers and the connection to the sole have remained intact and I’ve got a lot of mileage out of these—hopefully the quality hasn’t dropped in recent years because I much prefer the bushacre sole over the crepe.

      • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew

        I would base the belt on the rest of the outfit, that’ll guide you with how dark or light it should be.

  • Stu

    I am really torn on the CDB situation. I actually don’t find the crepe sole to be super comfortable and always add some decent cushioned inserts to make them ‘all-day wearable’ also, as has been pointed out they are the worst sole if there is any moisture – or dirt. I live on the west coast (Vancouver, Canada) so this is a 9 month of the year issue. I have bought the Bushacre’s as well but returned them as that sole felt super cheap and uncomfortable as well. I really want a pair of the beeswax boots but would love a suggestion on an alternative company to look at before jumping in. Cheers!!

    • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew

      The Bushacre sole felt cheap as compared to the crepe sole? In what way? To be me it’s just a slab of rubber.

      Beeswax appears to be unique to Clarks, but similar leathers can be found by Chippewa, Doc Marten, and others.

  • thatguyfromthesouthside

    I like the look and would like to buy a pair but unfortunately I suffer from a pair of short legs. Are there any Clark style shoes with a little more sole that you could recommend? :-/

    • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew
      • thatguyfromthesouthside

        LMAO Thanks but I think the jump in height would be a little too obvious!

        • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew

          Isn’t that what you’re asking for with thicker soles?

          • thatguyfromthesouthside

            Yeah I guess I was but I feel like putting lifts in my shoes is just more desperate than getting a slightly thicker sole. I just really need to get over my short guy complex.

          • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew

            I know it’s tough, but lifts are invisible to people, whereas everyone can see the big chunky soles all the time. I have 2 friends that went the lift route and they love them.

          • thatguyfromthesouthside

            I just came across these: http://bit.ly/1W8cNyZ

            I think I can make them work in lieu of the Clarks.

    • Alex Bear

      If you’re looking for a thicker sole on Clarks, maybe The Wallabees? I always think they are the most hideous of boots, but like the CDB they are one of the Originals, and a ton of people love them. http://www.clarksusa.com/us/c/originals-wallabee

      • thatguyfromthesouthside

        Oh dear God those ARE hideous! I think these are more along the lines of I’m looking for: http://bit.ly/1W8cNyZ

  • rogun

    I fully understand the preference for the Bushacre 2 over the original CDB and own a pair of both, myself. I will, however, note that the Beeswax in the CDB and the Bushacre 2 are vastly different. The Bushacre 2 version uses a leather that’s like nubuck and it’s much lighter then the CDB.

    I prefer the crepe soles on the CDB, though. The dirty soles are part of the charm. Also, I view CDB’s like a fashionable house slipper and the harder sole defeats that purpose to me. This is a mentality I think is needed, because neither the CDB or the Bushacre 2 is a great shoe or boot, so I wear them like house slippers (i.e. loosen the laces and give your feet some room to slide around).

    • Jon Sinden

      Did you find the sizing of the CDB and Bushacre 2 to be the same. I keep reading that you size down in the Bushacre 2. Did you?

      • rogun

        Hmm, I’m not sure. My Bushacre size is 10.5, while my CDB size is a 10. But I only wear my Bushacres in the Winter with thick socks and they do seem a little larger. I would say they’re about the same size, but no guarantees.

  • Trevor Barnby

    I have been looking for a nice pair of desert boots/ chukkas for a while now but unfortunately I need a wide and the Clarks were just to tight for me.. Have you hear or tried Astorflex? Looks like the darker sole may help disguise the grime as well. https://unionmadegoods.com/brands/astorflex/

    • Alex Bear

      I know Huckberry loves Astoflex… they keep beating their customers over the heads with them. Honestly I don’t think they are worth the price difference. But I haven’t seen a solid review yet from anyone not selling them.

      I had the same issue with the Clarks being to tight in the toebox and went a half size up and have had no issue in comfort. But another thing is unless you get the Beeswax that one ply suede is going to stretch like a sock after a month, so if they are just a bit to tight I’m sure they will fit like a dream after the break-in period.

      Also, the soles are darker but that is the same color The Clarks’ soles will be after a couple weeks.

  • Greg

    I own 4 pairs of CDBs. Leather upper that I resoled with white vibram, exact same suede/crepe pictured above, brown suede with smooth rubber sole, grey suede with smooth rubber sole. My favorite pair is still the suede/crepe combo… yeah they look beat up but I dig the worn look and the soles flex much more than the other pairs – so much so I can feel the ground underneath. The smooth rubber soles feel clunky by comparison.

  • alsatian_cousin

    A heads up – the toebox is extremely low-profile on either of these boots. I’ve tried, but can’t wear them.

  • Steve

    Curious Andrew….what is the color on the clarks desert boot picutured above?

    • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew

      They’re the Taupe Suede.

  • zmac

    Upgrade seems like the wrong word. I also think Clark’s look best once well broken in sans-trees. I’d probably just get a different chukka boot all together if I didn’t like the charm of the Desert Boot.

    • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew

      They look good sans-trees casually but you lose all the versatility of dressing them up when they’re puckered.

  • Butch_Zee

    Either sole, you can’t go wrong.

  • Jason M

    I have been looking for a good pair of desert boots so I picked these up as well Andrew. Hope they don’t fall apart or are uncomfortable! Also being suede, should I protect them with anything (like a spray)?

  • Ross

    Awesome! I have a pair of Brown leather Bushacre’s and I love them. I thought about looking into a Clark’s desert boot just to have that lighter suede look, but this article has convinced me that they simply aren’t worth investing that kind of money. Thanks for the tips and the advice Andrew! Keep up the great work!

    • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew

      You’re very welcome. 🙂

  • Peter Geist

    The Desert Boot has been my tried-and-true standby since I was 18. I have been curious about the durability of the Bushacre sole, though, because I can easily wear out a pair of Desert Boots in less than a calendar year. Any comments thus far about the comparable durability?

    • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew

      Too soon to tell, but I’ll keep you posted!

  • James

    I’ll throw in my two cents having a pair of both originals and Bushacres. The crepe on the originals is usually cited as being more comfortable than the rubber on the Bushacres. While I agree,I don’t find the Bushacres to be that bad. My biggest gripe with the crepe is not how dirty they get but more with how once they wear down, they get bald like a tire and offer NO traction. I had a pair of originals for years and the soles got so bad even a little moisture on the floor like after someone mopped would cause me to go sliding. You can get them resoled with some vibram soles but for the price it may be better to get a new pair.

    The Bushacres would be perfect if they came is as many colors as the originals. I had the originals in taupe but unfortunately they don’t make the Bushacres in that though I may have to try the sand Bushacres now.

    Someone mentioned the beeswax original vs the beeswax Bushacres being different colors. This is true, but Amazon sells a “dark brown” which is about the same.

    Also, don’t be afraid to get them wet. I live in Florida and they hold up ok. They get some character with wear. Only thing is in really heavy water the leather is thin so your socks may get wet.

  • Bob

    Does anybody have suggestions for a belt that would go with these boots?

  • Dan McKeown

    I’ve had a very similar experience to Robert Hamilton’s. My issue has been if i wear thin cotton socks I get blisters and hot spots because my feet sweat so badly in them. If I wear socks with a little padding they are less susceptible to blisters, but feet still sweat quite a bit. The soles themselves are are also not too uncomfortable, but I will be trying out CDB’s in order to see if they are more comfortable.

  • Mike

    I agree with “John” and a few others in preferring a worn look to CDB and especially in the suede as opposed to going out of one’s way to keep them looking perfect all the time. I’ve tried the bush acre and didn’t like the harsh fit of the sole. This shoe IMO looks much better with a bit of wear. In fact for what it’s worth, I think the shoe on the right in the article’s photo ‘as is’ (the one with crepe sole) looks 100% better than the one on the left. Just my 2 cts. They get dirty, so what? Just adds a bit more character as opposed to someone looking like they’re trying to be perfect, all the time.

  • Mike Wargo

    Just got a pair of these and I really dig them. Any good fall getups for these boots?

  • duokit

    You might know this already, but the Bushacre 2, Bushacre Rand, Desert Aerial, and Bushacre Ridge come in over one hundred different colors all told. Head into your local Clarks outlet and find out what they have in stock; it’s really hit or miss, but some stowaway clearance styles float around in tons of colors for as low as $29.98.

    Clarks Bostonian outlets get loads of shoes in colors that never make it to the ClarksUSA website or full price stores. Burnt orange Bushacre 2s, black snakeskin CDBs, dark purple desert aerials, and much more. You can get all the style of a desert boot with a variety of sole options and incredibly low prices.

  • The Mouse

    Great advice on the Clarks Desert Boots, and I do love the Bushacre 2; have for years now after seeing how ugly those natural soles get on the creped originals. BUT may I suggest something other than placing shoe trees inside of them to keep them from losing their shape??

    I learned long ago to buy at least one half size smaller than my normal shoe size (I apply this rule to any leather shoe). If you actually buy close to your size or a half/full size over; the shoe, when it stretches over time, will become all floppy and wrinkly in the front of the shoe.

    Ever since I started buying a bit smaller, the shoe starts out slightly snug but when it stretches to accommodate my foot, the shoe wears out nicely over time and the front never ever looks all wrinkled or floppy. The foot fits and fills in that area of the front enough to keep it from losing its shape. And the shoe eventually stretches out to your normal shoe size. I hope that makes sense.

    I am not advocating for walking around in pain or with tight-ass shoes, just snug. I just know from my own experiences in always siding on the side of “larger is better”, that when they do stretch out, the shoe becomes one hot mess (even if they look great the first few weeks).

  • Tyler Nay

    I’ve now had both.

    The originals with the crepe soles have never done me wrong. Sure, the sole is now dingy, and they have definitely lost their shape, but the leather is very soft and comfortable. I bought some of the Bushacre 2 at Belk, and from the beginning, I could tell they were made differently. The soles are harder and stiffer, and the soles actually came unglued and separated from the rest of the shoe.

    Fast forward to this Christmas, and I was given a brand new pair of Bushacre 2s. I refuse to even put my foot in them, as I plan to return them and go to the Clarks store for the original Desert Boot.

    Spend the extra money, and get a better shoe. You can thank me later.

  • Mohini Nema

    enjoyed reading your review, and after much deliberation I’ve opted for the bushacres. I’m a lady, and surprisingly the women’s boot is much more difficult to come by than the CDBs. How have your bushacres held up since writing this review? would love to know!
    Cheers

  • jeff

    what brand (and size) is the $8 gray sweatshirt?

  • Roger Hudson

    When the British army officers found them in Cairo the called them ‘brothel creepers’.