Crepe soles are aptly named after the material they are made out of, crepe rubber. They were made popular after World War 2, particularly after Churchill’s officers wore them.
They are known for having more grip than leather, but are lighter than hard rubber. A good crepe sole is a great addition to any shoe repertoire to get a casual look easily with a high end flare.
What Is Crepe Rubber?
Crepe rubber is made from the tree sap latex of the South American Pará tree (nicknamed ‘the rubber tree’). It is a type of coagulated latex and is biodegradable.
The process of making crepe rubber happens in a machine called the ‘creping battery’. First the latex is collected from the tree and is mixed with acid to coagulate it.
After that it goes through the ‘creping battery’ where it is pressed and crushed until it is finally rolled out into long sheets to dry.
It is considered an environmentally friendly material as you are able to tap the trees without killing them.
Often described as having a sweet smell, crepe rubber is identified through its crumpled and porous appearance.
As crepe rubber is naturally made, sometimes the density of it will vary across shoes. It may be harder upon purchase and need to be broken in, whereas others may not need breaking into.
Some people have noted that overtime the rubber gets a sticky feeling to it. This can be easily fixed by a shoemaker, but most people tend to prefer it left that way since it can add traction.
Types Of Crepe Rubber
- Pale Latex Crepe (PLC) – Premium grade rubber made from raw field latex. It is rare to find it used in shoe soles, even the high end ones. You will instead find it being used in pharmaceutical and adhesive applications.
- Estate Brown Crepe (EBC) – Naturally coagulated rubber. Most common to be found as shoe soles.
- TPU (Thermoplastic Urethane) Crepe – A more durable synthetic variant. It is also slightly lighter than its natural counterpart.
History Of Crepe Soles In Boot Use
One of the first known uses of crepe rubber in shoes was in the ‘Clarks Desert Shoe’. Nathan Clark (of C. & J. Clark fame) designed the desert boot after the ones he saw during WWII.
Nathan Clark was deployed to Burma and noticed that the military personnel were wearing a style of shoe designed to withstand the desert. These shoes had a crepe sole and a suede top.
They were made at the famous bazaar in Cairo called Khan El-Khalili. Clark bought a pair, and then when he got back home to England he started to study them.
The desert boot was officially launched in 1950 and played a key role in making C. & J. Clarks a household name all these years later.
Pros Of Crepe Soles
There are many advantages to crepe soles, here are a few:
- A soft material meaning that it is flexible. Adds comfort to the shoe.
- The shoe gets comfier over time.
- Lighter than the harder rubber.
- Dressier than sneakers.
- Known for being one of the comfier soles.
- Tend to be inexpensive due to low production costs.
- Biodegradable and sustainable.
- Has great traction in the right conditions.
Cons Of Crepe Soles
Of course with any material there are always some disadvantages, like these:
- It gets slippery when wet. Not great for rainier environments.
- Crepe rubber isn’t as durable as other rubbers.
- It gets dirty quickly. The porous nature of the material means that it sucks up rocks and dirt. This does however add to the well-worn look.
- While the flexibility of the shoe is an advantage, it is not good on jagged terrain as it provides little protection.
- Most peoples issues is that it doesn’t provide much support to the foot, particularly the arch of the foot. If you are more flat footed then this style of sole may not be for you.
Comparison To Other Soles
- Leather – It looks smarter than crepe soles, and allows the feet to breathe. Downside being that it wears quickly and requires special care. Crepe soles are also grippier
- EVA – It is lightweight like crepe soles. It is good for a variety of shoes as it provides a cushion effect. A lot of sport inserts are made from EVA as it is a shock absorber. Over time cushion properties do wear out. It is better as a summer shoe than a winter shoe as it can get slippery.
- Wood – More commonly glued plywood. It is environmentally friendly like crepe soles. Wood gives a classic look to a shoe. Unfortunately it does wear out quickly and has poor water resistance.
How To Style Crepe Sole Shoes
The crepe sole used to be considered a more rugged look, in line with their military history. Nowadays they are seen as a more casual look, and an easy way to dress down a more sophisticated shoe.
They are usually paired with suede uppers, such as the classic breathable desert boot, but can be found in leather.
In this sustainably aware generation, crepe soles have become very fashion forward. They are very versatile and work well with a variety of materials like denim, canvas, and cotton.
Crepe rubber is usually pale in color when straight out of the box, but it can darken with age. This lighter color sole makes it easy to match with most colors.
Below are some styling tips for shoes that you can typically find with a crepe sole.
Take pride in wearing a bit of history with the origin of the crepe sole. Especially if you choose the Clarks desert boot. Desert boots are a type of chukka boot but with a more casual flair.
They are typically ankle length so work well with slim pants that end just before the ankle to show off the boots. Or you can slightly roll up the bottom of the legs.
Typically coming in a brown color and made of suede, desert boots work well with neutral tones and denim. You can also find them in leather for a more elevated look.
A popular way to fashion desert boots if with layers. A t-shirt, button up, and denim or leather jacket combination can give a modern aesthetic.
If you are aiming for a smarter look you pair them with chinos or a relaxed suit. Make sure to choose a neutral color for your boot to complete the look.
While unorthodox, you can wear desert boots with shorts. The original desert boots were designed for hot weather. We recommend a suede material when daring this look to allow your feet to breathe.
A simple yet sophisticated take on the classic boot. This style has been popular since the mod scene of the 1960s with icons such as The Beatles and Rolling Stones showing them off.
Like the desert boot you can go for a more relaxed look with suede or chic with leather. With its laceless style these boots are easy to put on, making them an easy and stylish choice for when you’re in a rush.
The color of the boot can also completely change the outfit with a brown boot giving an almost country look, and black can give an urban edge.
The sturdy nature of this boot makes it the ideal choice for winter. A simple turtle neck and printed pants will give you a fashionably modern look and keep you warm.
One thing to note is don’t tuck your pants into the boot. The ideal length is to have the bottom of your pant leg sit on top of the boot. Slim cut jeans are suitable for this, not skinny.
One of the joys about wearing boots with pants is that you can wear any socks you want. If you choose to have a simple white sock or bright red knee length no one will be any the wiser.
You can even go barefoot but we don’t recommend that as you may give your boot a odor.
One of the standard types of dress shoe, the derby shoe is a more formal option. However, they are not as high end as Oxfords. Pair that with a crepe sole for a more relaxed version of a classic shoe.
If you are using them in a formal setting, keep them simple. Any detailing you add to the shoe makes them more casual.
It is a modern trend to really dress your derby shoes down with a patterned sock. So if you really want to draw attention to your shoes we recommend investing in some striped socks.
Since they are formal shoes, avoid wearing shorts with them. Even the most casual version of the derby (suede, crepe sole, detailing) are still too formal for shorts. If you want the casual look then chinos are a better look.
Typically shortened to just creepers, these shoes are an alternative take on the crepe sole. Made popular by the Teddy Boy style and then regaining popularity again in the early 1970s.
This youthful style of shoe follows the recent trends of thick soled shoes. While they may seem awkward to style you will be surprised how good of a base a simple skinny jean and button down will make.
Don’t worry if this style of shoe doesn’t appeal to you. Many people are put off by it believing it to look too punk and not in line with their fashion sense.
It may be worth a look into though as there are many different styles of creepers and you might surprise yourself.
If you are looking for the most comfort from a shoe and aren’t planning to go on a rocky hike with them, there is no option better than crepe soles.
Everyone deserves a casual shoe in their collection that they can make work with any piece. Crepe soles provide the natural but high-end look. They can make even a pair of jeans and t-shirt a cohesive look.
You also get the added benefit of not only looking good but feeling good. The knowledge that your clothing choices aren’t damaging the environment can go a long way in making you feel comfortable in your clothes.
So next time you go shopping look closer at the soles of the shoes and be on the hunt for a crepe sole to add to your collection.
That is if you don’t already have a pair and haven’t realized what material they are made out of until now.