Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Walk A Mile In His Boots

OK, this blog will have to be occasional rather than weekly.

We've missed three things:

1. Life has put up a set of largely unfamiliar Steve McQueen photos (see image below).

Steve McQueen (1963) by John Dominis for Life

2. Clarks has again put up the price of its desert boots (mostly £75 now).

3. It was the man's 80th birthday on 24 March.

We've successfully established that Steve had a bit of a thing for brown desert boots. One of his more recognisable footwear choices is, of course, the boot in The Great Escape.

The Great Escape (1963)

Steve tended to wear clothes that looked good rather than clothes that were historically accurate to the period in which his films were set. (Clothes that look good rather than accurate. Another lesson from the Book Of Steve. Amen.) Those trousers in The Great Escape, for instance, are suspiciously slim-fit. The boots, though, are US military World War II boots. They're known as M-43 Type III boots.

They're sometimes confused with US Marine Corps (USMC) boots, also known as boondockers. (The US occupied The Philippines in the late 19th century. Marines took the word bondoc, which means mountain, and turned it into boondocks. The boondocks meant the mountains, the jungle, anywhere remote. They began to call their GI - government issue - boots boondockers in WWII.) They look similar, and Steve was a Marine, but he wore M-43 Type III boots in The Great Escape rather than boondockers.

They're rough out (or roughout), which means they're non-shine. (Rough-out leather is the flesh side of skin. It differs from suede, which is thinner.)

Toys McCoy Great Escape boots

Japan, as so often, makes the definitive version. Toys McCoy is a Japanese brand that deals in high-end figurines and classic clothes. It's produced a Steve McQueen range that includes a pair of reproduction boots. Good stuff, but you probably won't be able to find them, or at least find them in your size, or at least want to pay for them (¥72,450/£500).

The War Lover (1962)

The American sounding Buzz Rickson company - named after McQueen's character in The War Lover - also makes a great version of these service shoes.

Buzz Rickson's 1943 US Army Type III service shoes

What's more, they're cheaper ($485/£315) and it's easier to get hold of a pair (through US online shop History Preservation).

US Army WWII rough-out boots from Epic Militaria

Put something like "US Army WW2 Rough Out Boots" through Google or eBay and you should be able to get something decent. (You might want to vary searchterms, like "M-1943", "M43", "M1943".) I just found a great pair for £65 from a site called Epic Militaria.

Red Wing 3143

Less military but similar options include Red Wing's sand suede chukka available from, among other places, East London online boutique The Three Threads (£139). More on Red Wing next post.

Orvis rough-out desert boots

Orvis is the oldest mail-order company in the US. They've colonised the UK and online, and they make a practical rough-out desert boot (£85).

Clarks suede desert boot (colour is "wolf")

The good old suede Clarks desert boot in their "wolf" colour (£75) provides a lighter, slightly smarter option (the light colour guarantees they'll look nicely worn soon enough, though).

OK, the moral, in case you missed it, is wear a pair of suede or rough-out leather boots (combat, work, desert or chukka) in a tan or light brown.

Next time: The Wonder Of Shoes