In Review: Clarks Desert Boot 2 vs Original Desert, Bushacre 3 vs Bushacre 2 (what’s the difference?)

5 months ago 312

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New Clarks vs Old Clarks. What’s the difference?

About the Author: Adam Terry is a thirtysomething salesman in the HVAC and hydronics industry. He enjoys bourbon, boots, sneakers, raw denim, and working on his dad bod father figure.

Welcome to the Clarks Desert Boot Thunderdome! Today we’re throwing four pairs of their most popular leather desert boots into the arena to see which is best. On one side, we have the budget staple Bushacre 2 and it’s latest rival, the Bushacre 3.  On the other side, we have the fan favorite “Originals” Desert Boot and it’s newest challenger, the Desert Boot 2. Yes, that’s right, Clarks has recently released updates to BOTH of their popular desert boot models. So the OGs vs the Newbies. Four pairs enter, only one pair walks away as Dappered’s champion!

 

 

Details (for all four)

Clarks Desert Boots

  • Brand: Clarks
  • Style: Desert Boots
  • Size: 10.5 US (~44 EU)
  • Last: Unknown
  • Construction: Stitchdown and cemented

 

Desert Boot 2 – $150

Clarks Desert Boots

  • Upper: Beeswax leather
  • Lining: Calf
  • Sole: Crepe-effect rubber
  • Details: Flat, waxed cotton laces
  • Extras: N/A
  • Country of Origin: Vietnam
  • MSRP: $150 USD
  • Oddity: The “Clarks” logo embossed at the heel. The other competitors don’t have that. Could be a deal breaker for some.

 

“Originals” Desert Boot – $130

Clarks Desert Boots

  • Upper: Beeswax leather
  • Lining: N/A
  • Sole: Natural crepe rubber
  • Details: Flat cotton laces
  • Extras: N/A
  • Country of Origin: Vietnam
  • MSRP: $150 USD

 

Bushacre 3 – $90ish

Clarks Desert Boots

  • Upper: Beeswax leather
  • Lining: N/A
  • Sole: Faux crepe rubber
  • Details: Thicker woven cotton laces
  • Extras: N/A
  • Country of Origin: India
  • MSRP: $110 USD

 

Bushacre 2 – $60ish

Clarks Desert Boots

  • Upper: Beeswax leather
  • Lining: Suede and fabric
  • Sole: Rubber
  • Details: Flat cotton laces
  • Extras: N/A
  • Country of Origin: India
  • MSRP: $100 USD

 

Ordering/Delivery/Returns:

All four pairs of Clarks were ordered through Amazon and Zappos (owned by Amazon), both of which have simple ordering and fast delivery times. Everything was ordered on a Thursday evening and all pairs were in hand by Tuesday of the next week. You can’t go wrong ordering from Amazon or Zappos.

FYI: Amazon offers free returns within 30 days on eligible fashion products, including these Desert Boots. Zappos does one better and offers a 365 day return policy, so long as the items are unworn. Nice!

Clarks Desert Boots

Original Desert has a nice box! All the other models… pretty basic.

Packaging/Unboxing:

All of the Desert Boot models ship in a pretty basic tan cardboard box, except for the “Originals” Desert Boots that arrive in a much nicer charcoal grey box. You can tell this was (is?) one of their premium models. Not much shoe protection in the boxes, either, so all of these arrived with small scratches that had to be brushed out upon arrival. Luckily, this leather is casual enough so scratches just look the part.

None of the boots come with spare laces, shoe bags, or any accessories. At full MSRP, I’d expect spare laces at a minimum. Seeing as how these regularly drop below $100 USD, I can excuse some of this.

Clarks Desert Boots

May the best boots win.

First Impressions:

After opening all four boxes and giving each pair a lengthy investigation, the major differences between these boots fall into five basic categories:

  1. the upper leather
  2. the lining (or the lack thereof)
  3. the insoles (or the lack thereof)
  4. the rubber outsoles
  5. and finally, the little details

Since we have four similar pairs to compare, let’s break those down one by one and choose a winner for each category.

Leather

I was always under the impression that the “Originals” Desert Boots had a slightly higher quality upper leather compared to the Bushacre models. That, combined with the natural crepe rubber sole, was what separated the two models and made it “worth” the extra bucks, right? Well, by comparing all four pairs side by side, any difference in quality of the upper leather is almost imperceptible. All of these Desert Boots use a finely corrected, top grain cow leather. While on the thinner side, this chocolate brown “Beeswax” shade of pull-up leather is oily and waxy and gives the boots a matte, almost dusty look when new. If you’ve ever owned a pair of Clarks Desert Boots, you’ll know that this leather shows every crease, scratch, and dent almost immediately when worn. However, because this leather is so oily/waxy, a vigorous brushing will move those oils around and cover up almost any daily defects. I will say that the Bushacre pairs look a little darker than the other two pairs, but they’re all within the same vein of beeswax.

Winner: “Originals” Desert Boot but it’s a very, very narrow margin. They’re all the same, man!

Clarks Desert Boots

The Original Desert Boot’s version of “Beeswax”.
Materially pretty much the same, with the Bushacre 2 and Bushacre 3 darker in shade.

Lining

Each model has something different lurking inside. The Desert Boot 2 has a pretty nice calf leather lining that runs the full length of the interior. There’s a nice little suede patch at the heel that helps prevent heel slip, too. The “Originals” Desert Boot has nothing – you can clearly see the shaved down flesh side of the leather hide here, which tells you Clarks is using top grain hide splits. It, too, has a roughout suede heel cup to help lock your heels down. The Bushacre 3 also has no lining, but does have a fabric toe puff/interlining above the toe box and a very minute suede or fabric heel cup. The Bushacre 2 is a curious beast. It has some sort of ultra thin suede or faux suede fabric lining around the rear half of the boot that transitions into a twill fabric lining for the front half of the boot. You can see this clearly on the backside of the tongue. The Bushacre 2 also features a super thin layer of suede around the heel cup.

Winner: The Desert Boot 2 clearly has the superior lining.

Clarks Desert Boots

Full leather lining in the Desert Boot 2 = winner here.

Insole

The Desert Boot 2 and the Bushacre 3, being the newest models in Clark’s stable, have removable foam insoles which make a HUUUGE impact on comfort as compared to the older styles. The top tier Desert Boot 2 has a leather topped Ortholite footbed made from multi-density, breathable foam with a unique outline that Clarks claims to be from gait mapping technology to help target the cushioning for improved posture and more comfortable walking.

Clarks Desert Boots

The newbies (Desert 2, Bushacre 3) both have new, hugely improved removable insoles. 

The runner up Bushacre 3 also has a removable multi-density Ortholite insole, but it’s a more basic unit with no zone mapping tech and no leather topper. The “Originals” Desert Boot has a burgundy ¾ length leather insole that’s glued down to the support board/midsole. This piece of leather is essentially just decorative because there’s no real cushioning here, but the foam heel pad is a nice touch. The Bushacre 2 technically also has a ¾ length fabric insole that’s glued down, but it’s thinner than your Hanes t-shirt. Does that even count?

Winner: The Desert Boot 2 clearly has the best insole. It’s a big improvement!

 

Outsole

Here’s where things get a little more interesting. The “Originals” Desert Boot was always the better option over the Bushacre 2 because of that natural crepe rubber sole – essentially two die-cut slabs of coagulated latex that’s harvested from latex trees by tapping them like you would tap a maple tree for maple syrup. The crepe rubber sole only had two real drawbacks: it’s terrible in wet or icy conditions and it starts to look dirty real quick. The Bushacre’s hard, brown sole was the better choice for those who wanted more grip and less wear and tear. Now that’s all changing with these new models. The Desert Boot 2 takes regular natural rubber soles and adds more traction with rougher sections at the heel and forefoot. It’s like a pencil eraser in that it feels firm, but it also compresses easily. The Bushacre 3 takes that same natural rubber material and gives it a crepe-like appearance BUT it’s brown! Hooray! You don’t have to worry about your white crepe soles becoming dingy with dirt and street juices.

Winner: Bushacre 3 has the best combination of material, texture, and grip.

Clarks Desert Boots

Bushacre 3 with rubber but crepe-like textured soles. Winner!

Details

Starting from the bottom of the pile, the Bushacre 2 has no extra details to give. The laces feel thin and the eyelets are painted metal that almost look like plastic. The “Originals” Desert Boot has some lovely antiqued brass eyelets and even thinner cinnamon brown laces. The Desert Boot 2 has antiqued copper eyelets and flat waxed cotton laces. Best of all, the Bushacre 3 has the same antiqued brass eyelets as the O.G. Desert Boot, but adds in the best laces of the bunch. These things feel like little braided ropes or Paracord. I dig ‘em.

Winner: Bushacre 3 has the best combination of eyelets and laces. Admittedly, this is subjective.

Clarks Desert Boots

Best laces, nice eyelets. Bushacre 3 wins again!

 

Comfort, Fit, and Sizing

Comfort is always subjective, but I wasn’t a fan of the Bushacre 2. The harder rubber sole is stiff and there’s practically no padding inside the boot. The “Originals” model is a bit better thanks to the natural crepe rubber sole and thicker foam heel pad. The Bushacre 3 is the runner up with the Ortholite foam insole and softer faux crepe rubber outsole. Best in class for comfort award goes to the Desert Boot 2. It wins because the leather lining is plush, the leather topped foam insole is very comfortable, and the softer rubber outsole compresses just enough to hide the daily debris you walk over.

All four pairs are sized 10.5 US and run true to Brannock size, but each model differs slightly. Wearing my usual medium weight Darn Tough socks, here’s how I think they fit:

  • The Bushacre 2 feels slightly loose but not floppy. Feels slightly too long, too wide.
  • The Bushacre 3 fits a bit tighter, thanks to the removable insole and shorter toe box height. My toes do feel slightly cramped vertically here, but that may change over time.
  • The “Originals” Desert Boot is noticeably narrower and also has the short toe box height.
  • The Desert Boot 2 feels the best out of the box with no noticeable fit concerns.

Clarks Desert Boots

Desert Boot 2 = Most comfortable of the four. Good cushioning, & plush leather lining. 

As usual, this is a fresh out of the box fit test and my first impressions. Unfortunately, I can’t wear all of these in for months to see how they evolve. I do recall my old “Originals” getting better over time, though. I suspect that all of these will feel looser as they break in, so take that for what it’s worth.

For reference, I am a 10.5 D/E on a Brannock device and usually take a 10 D in wider-fitting dress shoes, including Alden’s Barrie last and Grant Stone’s Leo last.  I take a 10.5 E in Allen Edmonds 65 last, as that last runs too narrow for me.  I also take a 10.5 in Vans and an 11 in most Adidas or Nike sneakers.

Clarks Desert Boots

No noticeable fit concerns on the Desert Boot 2 either.

Final Thoughts:

These newer models are a noticeable upgrade over the older ones, and the Bushacre 3 is a major improvement on the Bushacre 2. At the end of the day, all of these will fall into the same style basket – they’re casual chukka boots that look best when paired with casual night and weekend outfits like button-down Oxford shirts with chinos and flannel shirts with jeans or five pocket cords. You could certainly pair them with relaxed business casual wear (think polo and chinos), too, but I personally wouldn’t push the boundaries much past that.

Winner: Clearly the Desert Boot 2 is the best of the bunch. However, I’d choose the Bushacre 3 as it’s the perfect combination of style and substance. The upper leather is practically the same as the others and the new Ortholite foam insole is a major upgrade. Best of all, prices should be in that sub-$100 sweet spot with the right deal or coupon code. If you’re looking for a bit more comfort, go ahead and splurge for the Desert Boot 2 and enjoy that leather lining and better foam insole. You’ve earned it, champ!

Personally, here’s how I would rank them, in order from first place to last place:

  1. Bushacre 3
  2. Desert Boot 2
  3. “Originals” Desert Boot
  4. Bushacre 2

Clarks Desert Boots

The New Bushacre 3 and The New Desert Boot 2.
Not just new, but new AND improved.

 

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