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Top Ten Things of 2022

The 365 days collectively known as 2022 are coming to a close, and while it might be tempting to just jump straight to the prerequisite booze-based reverie, we thought we’d hold off on the Babycham for a bit and reflect on what was decent in this year.

So here you go – our favourite things of 2022…

10 – The Berghaus Ice Cap 78 jacket

Just making it in at number ten is the Berghaus Ice Cap 78 jacket.

No offense to the all the humanitarians and philanthropists out there, but considering he’s heroically badgered and helped reincarnate these things trice now, surely Uncle Nige deserves some sort of award?

The Nobel Foundation – our phones are open.

9 – Pastel Hues

Even a cursory glance at the broadsheets will tell you this year has been particularly rubbish, but considering 2022 saw tongue-tingling pastel hues make bold strides toward mainstream acceptance, maybe it’s not been all bad?

There’s were plenty who had a hand in pushing the boat out this year, but the prime optimism-inspirers this year were orSlow and their tuck-shop-hued climbing shorts (which, incidentally, we had a hand in making).

8 – The Clarks Trek 50

The Clarks Desert Trek reached the ripe old age of 50 this year, and we heartily rolled out the champers and finger food for them.

As the rest of the world barrels towards an ironic non-future filled with technical gimmicks and quirky nonsense, it’s comforting to know that the rootsy combination of suede and crepe continues to endure. Long may this continue.

7 – Leisure Suits

In at number seven we’ve got leisure suits.

With full seersucker safari suits from Fujito and the hyperactively-hued clothes we made with Universal Works on the scene, we’re hoping that 2022 will go down in the history books as the year when dressing like a nameless background baddie from a schlocky 60s TV serial reigned supreme.

6 – Fujito

And since we’re already on the subject, let’s give a round of applause to Fujito, who absolutely smashed it this year with a dangerously high-brow assortment of ultra-swanky Americana.

If we’re being honest, this lot definitely deserve the top spot, but seeing as there was a useful segue in the previous entry (and that the fact that this list is inadmissible at best), they’ll have to settle for number six.

5 – Wacky Knitwear

At five? Wacky knitwear.

Whilst low-profile knitwear should never be taken for granted, there’s been something in the air this year that’s pushed our appetites for bold patterns, brash colours and progressive designs into uncharted territories.

Beams Plus, Andersen-Andersen and Howlin’ did the Lord’s work in this regard.

4 – This Kaptain Sunshine Duffle Coat

Long associated with marmalade-munching bears from Peru, the humble duffle coat had a real renaissance this year. Gloverall was quietly working away making their pitch-perfect recreations, Engineered Garments freaked it with this progressive beast, but we’ve got to give the kudos to Kaptain Sunshine and their ultra-high-class version.

You may have noticed this is hued exactly like a Terry’s Chocolate Orange wrapper, which may or may not have tipped the balance in its favour.

3 – ‘Upscale Comfort’

Taking the top third spot is what we’ll call ‘Upscale Comfort’. Anyone who goes out jogging with King Siam will know what we mean by this – essentially, it’s wearable, everyday garb that’s had the luxury levels cranked up to 11. Think s.k. manor hill’s sweatpants… think A Kind of Guise’s mohair shirts… and most definitely think Teddy Santis and his ceaseless parade of dangerously-classy New Balance trainers.

2 – The Oi Polloi Extended Universe

Just missing out on the top spot we’ve got… err… ourselves.

Obviously it’s well conceited to put your own stuff in a list of the best things of the year, but considering we’ve stayed busy dancing the collaborative tango with Fred Perry, Universal Works, orSlow, Mephisto and Lavenham, as well crafting clobber under our own Sportswear and Knitwear labels, we thought we deserved a bit of a victory lap.

1 – The Pink Arpenteur Loft Jacket

Rightfully taking the top spot is this unbelievable howitzer from Arpenteur.

What do we need to say about this thing? It’s intricately designed… it’s dead warm… and it’s dead pink. A lot of things in life are open to debate, but others are universally, unimpeachably mega. You know what category this doozy lies in.

The Clarks Desert Trek – An Oi Polloi Champion

In the breakneck and high-octane world of ‘footwear’, most designs typically expire about as fast as a box of fruit. Plenty of brands have now settled into the role of court jester, whittling away their days embarrassing themselves in attempts to appease the fickle whims of the herd, soiling classic wares with naff gimmicks and moodboard-friendly designs in the process.

You don’t have to be a Nostradamus-type to know a fair chunk of this stuff is destined for the landfill, nor do you have to be some sort of genius to realise that lowering the heat and giving something time enough to simmer makes the wearable sauce all the sweeter.

Nowhere is this more apparent than the Clarks Desert Trek. These wide-toed beauties have pretty-much remained un-tinkered-with (aside from the odd material excursion) since their inception 50 years ago. Seeing as we forgot to put the champers in the fridge, a lowly write-up celebrating their half-century-long reign will have to suffice…

We’ve got the late-great comfort shoe connoisseur Lance Clark to thank for the Desert Trek (among countless other foot-based belters). The yarn goes that while Lance was running Padmore & Barnes in Ireland at the tail end of the 60s, he noticed his drawing instructor, a Dutch potter named Sonja Landweer, wearing a phat-centre-seamed pair of comfort shoes she’d brought over from the Motherland. Stricken by its uncanny resemblance to a Cornish pasty, Lance courteously borrowed a pair, tweaked them, and christened them with, in his words, “a great name” – the Six Toe.

Big man on campus Lance Clark. Photo by Sam Waller

Sensing he might just have struck gold, Lance Airbussed across the Atlantic with the Six Toe nestled firmly in his carry-on. The Yanks buzzed off the Beatnik flavour of the shoes, but they weren’t as enthusiastic about the name – much to Lance’s chagrin – and thus, the Six Toe was renamed the Trek. It was also during this trip that the iconic drawing of the rambling man strolled into the equation. Lance had previously commissioned the illustration from Sonja’s artist boyfriend, who apparently wasn’t too pleased that Clarks were making webs based on his girlfriend’s shoes without chucking the couple some wedge. Either out of goodwill or a cunning act of headache-swerving, Lance offered the mithering artist £500 to draw something to go on the back of the shoe. The royalty strongarming ended there, and the iconoclastic hiker was brushed into existence.

Launching stateside in 1971, the Trek made its way to Blighty a year later, under the sportier guise of the ‘Hike’. Greeted with little fanfare upon release, Clarks decided to yank the Desert Trek from their domestic range after only a few seasons. The book might’ve closed on our centre-seamed protagonist then and there if it wasn’t for an entire nation of dedicated fans on a small island in the Caribbean…

The ‘Clarks in Jamaica’ tale has been well-documented in the glossy pages of Al Fingers’ now-canonical tome of the same name, so those seeking a more comprehensive history should turn there, but for those pressed for time, here’s the abridged version. Even though they’d been knocking around as far back as 1911, Clarks mania didn’t reach fever pitch until the early 60s, as poor inner-city kids searched for sophisticated shoes that’d actually last longer than five minutes. Due to the fact that these English bulldogs were made in Blighty, Clarks fit the ultra-exotic, highly-exclusive bill perfectly, and their relatively simple construction meant they could be repaired without much hassle.

Some patriotic, custom-made beauties. Photo hoiked from ‘Clarks in Jamaica’ by Al Fingers

It wasn’t long until this blossomed into a fully-fledged subculture, which became known as ‘the rudeboys’. Amped up on a diet of showmanship and political discontent, fuelled the government’s economic bed-wetting in the wake of Jamaica’s independence, these lads earned their moniker thanks to their surly attitudes and flippant view of the law. Strangely enough, this propensity for crime helped cement Clarks as part of the uniform, as the spongey crepe soles wouldn’t make too much noise when you needed to creep up on someone and administer a bit of contact counselling. The Clarks/rudeboy association was so strong that in the early 70s, law-abiding, suede-loving Jamaicans ran the risk of a state-sanctioned smackdown from the rozzers just for wearing a pair.

Some naughty boys with their Airsoft rifles

Young lads appropriating something aspirational to one-up their peers and wind up the more traditionally-minded isn’t an unfamiliar narrative, but unlike many sartorial and cultural movements, Clarks’ power in Jamaica has yet to waver. From Rudeboys and Rastas to modern-day dancehall crooners like Vybz Kartel (who has a trilogy of tunes dedicated to his favourite shoemakers) and Popcaan, the crepe-soled power of Clarks still reigns supreme, with the Desert Trek (or the ‘Bank Robber’, as it’s known over there) still standing as one of the nation’s firm favourites.

Now, the Desert Trek is settling nicely into middle-age as one of the more discerning options on the Clarks shoe rack. While miles of the information superhighway has been exclusively cordoned off to Wallabee waffle, less lofty praise has been lapped upon the Desert Trek (well… until this article goes out at least), giving it the sort-of ‘if-you-know-you-know’ appeal of an obscure European comfort shoe.

Nestled firmly in the murky, hard-to-define zone known only as ‘smart-casual’, these have seen action on dancefloors, dirt paths and perhaps even your living room carpet, and unless the trajectory of human evolution takes a terrible, footless turn, we’re sure they’ll continue to pound pavements for another 50 years.

The Clarks Desert Trek at 50

The Clarks Desert Trek turned 50 this year. Rather than organising a shoddy shindig in the dingy basement of a conservative club, complete with stale finger-food and flat lager, we thought we’d go the extra mile and do a fancy photoshoot to properly celebrate them reaching middle-age.