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At this point, it’s become a right of passage. Getting ready for your first legit job? A big date? Simply want to upgrade your style a bit? Time for a pair of desert boots from Clarks Originals. Hell, there’s even internet shorthand for them: “DBs.” Countless guys have invested, and countless more have heard the mantra. And you know what? That’s great!
But it’s 2019, and things are changing. More men are dressing better than ever. The goalpost is moving. And while I’ll never tell someone to shy away from DBs, right now there’s another Clarks OG that you should be setting your sights on: the Wallabee. It’s a little weird, entirely wonderful, and something you might not have even considered until this very moment. Here’s why it deserves a spot in your closet.
Its history is cool as hell.
First debuted in 1967, the Wallabee has more than a half-century of history behind it. Originally based on a German-designed moccasin, the style didn’t catch on in Clarks’ native Britain initially. But it enjoyed success in North America, and it was a runaway hit in Jamaica. See, Jamaican “rude boys” had already adopted the desert boot—which was launched in 1950—as part of their de facto uniform, and the associated criminal activity made the footwear a target for police. When Wallees came onto the scene, they were immediately brought into the fold.
Whether that made their wearers any less likely to catch the eye of law enforcement is up for debate. But thanks to the influx of Jamaican immigrants to New York in the ’80s, the shoes became a staple of the early rap scene. A favorite of Wu-Tang Clan, Wallabees became a hip-hop icon that—like self-declared “Wallabee Kingpin” Ghostface Killah—is still a part of the genre’s fabric to this day.
It hits the sweet spot between sneakers and dress shoes.
If provenance isn’t your thing, know this: Wallabees aren’t just great because they’ve got a good story. The square-toed chukkas sit at the perfect middle ground between sneakers and more traditional dress shoes. Considering the ever-blurrier lines between dressing up and dressing down, that’s a pretty powerful place to be. Want to give things a slightly more pulled-together vibe but keep it comfy at the same time? Just lace up a pair and let that signature crepe sole make your feet happy all day long. Need to knock the formality out of a suit? Wallees will do just that, and they won’t feel quite as expected as the now-standard move of throwing on a pair of minimal white sneakers. Basically, if you’re not quite sure what shoes will work with a given outfit, Wallabees will more than likely solve your problem.
It’s just different enough.
Remember when I mentioned that everyone has heard the gospel of desert boots? That’s still a good thing, but it also means pretty much everyone has a pair. Same goes for sneakers. But Wallabees, despite their revered status in some circles, haven’t hit a saturation point in popular culture. You can walk down the street on any given day, and whether you’ll see a pair or not is a toss-up. If you’re someone who enjoys standing out for the right reasons, you’re probably seeing an opportunity here. A shoe with some real cultural relevancy, that’s super-comfortable, super-versatile, and isn’t everywhere yet? That’s something you should have in your rotation. So the only question left is: Why don’t you?
Prop styling by Miako Katoh
Photography by Allie Holloway