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


  1. Keep em coming! What a great idea for a blog! Just ordered some brown suede Clarks Desert Boots! Did you know George Harrison is wearing beige Clarks on the cover of Abbey Road!?

  2. I love my Clarks desert boots! Cheers for the info, and cheers for reading the blog.

  3. Nature formed last Clarks Wallabee Boot allows for natural toe spread. Genuine plantation crepe outsole. Removable EVA footbed with leather sockliner. Suede and full grain leather uppers. Roomy toe box. Clarks England

  4. To me, the original Great Escape boots look more like a beat up pair of Red Wing Iron Rangers in the Hawthorne color. The styling, color, and sole seems identical.

  5. hi,It feels so nice to find somebody with some original thoughts on this subject. Really thankful to you for starting this. I really like the shape of the shoes.Thanks!


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

  7. Your kiddin me right?

    A whole page on Steve McQueen's boots?

    I would like to thank you milk sops for a wonderful example of EXACTLY what is wrong with today's generation of young men. To be fair, it is not ALL your fault since I did read an article that said that some plastics leak estrogen into the food supply which could explain why your testicles have never descended and why you spend your life trying to intimate a some movie actor rather than actually being a real MAN.

    Oh, don't gt me wrong, Steve McQueen was a fine actor and a fellow Marine but, the man crush your pussy generation has on other guys and the fact that you have no REAL idea what it means to be a MAN makes real men worry about our species.

    You think a pair of boots is going to make you cool are they going to make you a real man and get you a little trim? Here's a little observation for you knuckleheads, do you see women on this page? No? So, if your not wearing Steve McQueen boots to impress, other dudes?

    You want to do something manly? Want to be like Steve McQueen? How about, instead of sitting around the house bitching about the war and throwing around all that cool military jargon you learned playing "Call of Duty", and watching war movies, you try turning off the XBox, getting off your dead ass and joining the Marine Corps? You want to wear "cool"? try wearing a pair of Dress Blues BUT I will tell you up front that it is NOT the uniform that is special and that if you have not earned the right to wear it you will NEVER understand what I am talking about.

    One day, if this sad pussy generation of yours survives that long, you might just will figure out that "Cool" means not having to worry about whether or not you are cool and that the definition of uncool is is doing things like trying to dress like Steve McQueen; who I should add is not only turning over in his grave but also laughing while he is doing it.

    A whole page on Steve McQueen's boots, jez....isn't it about time for your manicure appointment?

    Semper Fi Mac

    GySgt. USMC (Retired)

    1. Oh no, not you again. I'm never going to sleep with you, and that's that.

    2. I think you're a bit lost, mate. This blog is called "Steve McQueen Style," not "angry rants from (probably poorly dressed) dudes on the internet."

  8. @Anonymous GySght. USMC (Retired) - 6 August 2012

    U mad?

  9. Gay Gunny is Gay Gunny. You can come out bro. It's OK now!

  10. Love the Gay Gunny logic, only dudes are ibterested in your shoes. So by that szme Gay Gunny logic you should get some nice pink stiletto slingbacks, then the girls will be interested in you! Where do you get YOUR combat slippers from Gunny?

    Thanks for the interesting original post, it's good to be informed :-)

  11. whoa, talk about in the closet. I can only reason that he found this web site
    in search of roughout boots. Which of course begs the question of whether
    he really is preaching to himself. I never knew that my interest in cool characters
    (eg. Steve McQueen) would be a sensitive issues to others.

  12. Soldier Of Fortune website – sofmilitary.co.uk – have the 1943 Roughout Boots for £64.99.