One of the few facets of Pennsylvania that I actually like is that as soon as I’m sick of one season, the next one comes knockin’. Truth be told though, I never get sick of fall. Sweaters, jeans, cinnamon, suede and leather boots, pumpkins, hot toddies, fires in the backyard pit, and did I mention sweaters?
The older I get, the more I embrace fall sartorial choices that prioritize comfort and versatility. Yes, I want to look intentionally put together, but can you blame a guy for wanting to be cozy? Anyway, in the continuation of my lifelong search for the perfect fall shoe, this fall I’m leaning into Clarks Wallabees – yes, those somewhat strange-looking shoes that, like me, you find curiously alluring.
Clark’s was founded in 1825 by two English brothers who made slippers from the scraps of sheepskin rugs. In 1950 they changed the footwear world by introducing their iconic Desert Boot, which almost immediately became a ubiquitous closet staple.
In the late sixties, Clarks introduced the unisex Wallabee, designed and produced in Ireland. With its distinctive crepe sole, square toe box, and moccasin stitching, it was, well…a little odd. Luckily the Desert Boot had already put Clarks on the sartorial map, and the Wallabee caught on quickly. By the 80s the Wallabee was the casual shoe of the prep (second only to the Weejun). The nineties brought about a new-age shift when the Wallabee was embraced by hip-hop and grunge cultures. This only promulgated the idea that the Wallabee really is a shoe for everyone.
Fast forward to 2022 and the Wallabee is still one of Clarks best sellers, and with sixteen different finishes, you can pick the one that suits you best. I say you can’t go wrong with beeswax, dark brown suede, or my personal favorite, the hairy oak suede. So what makes the Wallabee the perfect fall shoe?
To me, Wallabees look most at home with dark denim and a comfy fall sweater or sweatshirt. The crepe sole not only adds an insane level of comfort, but it gives Wallabees a laid-back aesthetic. Since crepe naturally darkens quickly, it will develop a patina that lends itself to a homey feel (Dare I say folksy? No…no that’s too much). Throw on a pair of fun socks, and you’ve got a handsome casual fall outfit.
And Business Casual
I don’t wear a suit to work everyday (I feel like most of us don’t these days). My everyday work getup is a pair of slim (not skinny) chinos, a button-down shirt, and a necktie or bowtie. If there’s a chill in the air, I’ll throw on a navy blazer or a sport coat. In terms of the season I’m in, the devil is in the details. In the fall, I wear a lot of wool ties, and I prefer a cotton pocket square over silk. Why? Fall is about texture, and silk doesn’t have it. I also wear muted, earthy colors: khaki, olive, navy. This is where the hairy oak suede Wallabee shines. The suede brings the texture, and the oak color keeps my outfit grounded in those earthy tones. Wallabees aren’t dressy enough to cut it with a suit, but for business casual, they’re just formal enough.
It Works Beyond Fall
I’m praising Wallabees as the perfect fall shoe, but truth be told, you can rock Wallabees in spring and summer as well. In fact, with a pair of no-show socks, Wallabees looks great with shorts and a t-shirt or polo. And while there’s no rule saying you can’t rock Wallabees in winter, I would just caution against exposure to harsh weather. If you go for suede, hit them with some 303 fabric guard for an added layer of protection.
They're Super Comfortable
While the design of Wallabees has remained largely the same, Clarks has spent its shoe-making tenure striking the balance between old-world methods and new-age technology. They still use hand-carved lasts for their shoes, but they’ve also embraced 3D printing and using an iPad app for figuring out your kid’s perfect shoe size.
How does this translate to Wallabees? The newest tech allows Clarks to design the most ergonomic insoles and cushioning. Couple this with the original crepe sole from the sixties, and your joints feel like you’re walking on air. Crepe soles are made from natural rubber that’s been separated at the micro level into latex – this makes them shock absorbent, incredibly lightweight, and flexible.
They're Good Looking
I said it before: Wallabees are kind of weird-looking shoes. They’re boxy; the sole is chunky, and you’ve seen everyone from your college professor to your offbeat aunt wearing them. The thing is, that’s what I love about them. When I’m going to work, the Wallabee adds a little flare; when I’m going casual, the Wallabee adds a little cozy. They come shy of being a statement piece, but they’re far from just another pair of shoes. And when you can successfully mate good looks with versatility and intentionality, isn’t that the perfect shoe?