Chukka Boots: Features, history & popularity

Posted by Issa on

Originally designed for war, desert boots are durable, practical and rugged. They look good on any casual attire but only chukka boots will look appropriate on both casual and business settings.

After war, chukka boots remain a popular choice not just for men but also for women looking for a footwear that’s stylish, easy to wear and great for a variety of situations.

On this post, you will explore:

  • the essential chukka boot features;
  • the chukka boot history; and,
  • the chukka shoes trend.

What are chukka boots?

Chukka boots are easy to spot. They are minimal, ankle-high boots that come in leather or suede in a variety of colors, with crepe or rubber soles, barely visible or hidden side stitches, and two to three eyelets for thin, rounded laces.

If a pair of boots has more than three eyelets or reaches higher than the ankle, then it is unlikely a set of chukka shoes.

Chukka boots and desert boots are often used interchangeably - and for a valid reason. Both look just about the same except for a few small differences. (The Difference Between Chukka and Desert Boots)

The Short History of Chukka Boots

The word “chukka” (pronounced as‘CHUHK-uh’) came from the sport ‘polo’. Chukka refers to each number of periods in the game. Polo players used to wear chukka-like boots, explaining the link to the ubiquitous chukka boots we know today.

Originating from the Hindi word,cakkar, and Sanskrit term,  cakra, ‘chukka’ means ‘circle or wheel’. This is why many strongly believe that the chukka boots came from India. The similarities between jodhpur boot and chukka boot also add proof to the connection.

In addition, the late Duke of Windsor was known to be the first person to wear chukka boots, bringing the shoes from India (where he played polo) to the US in 1924. Since the duke usually wore a few pairs of chukkas on his visits to the West, the Brits likely got the shoe style idea from him.

World War II marked the massive production of chukka boots in response to the specific footwear needs of British forces. Clarks was the first shoe company that made chukkas famous when they sought out a way to deal with sands and rough terrain in the African desert during WWII. They invented the ‘desert boots’ - originally ankle-length leather boots with rubber soles and only three eyelets at most.

This chukka boot look-alike provided the British army protection from sands; support and comfort during long walks; and effortlessly fast lacing.

Are Chukka Boots in Style these Days?

Historians say that chukka boots or desert boots reached the height of their popularity in the 1940’s and 1950’s. But that would be a modest assumption given the variety of chukka shoe styles and designs available today.

If there was only a single manufacturer of chukkas fifty years ago, now there are more than 30 of them. The demand for chukka shoes will likely increase as more men and women learn about their extreme comfort, supreme quality, and enduring style.