Ankles, ads and footgauges       Clarks HQ with Clock Tower In the beginning | 1825-1900 | 1900-1946 | 1946-1990 | 1990-present

What the latter days of the 19th Century had started, the new millennium carried on with a passion. Science and technology were the watchwords. Inventions came thick and fast and included everything from the telephone and the zip to assembly line automobiles. Meanwhile, mass production and inexpensive alternatives to fabrics like silk meant a nation increasingly interested in fashion could finally afford to indulge itself.

With John, Roger and Alice Clark now running the company, Clarks continued to expand. Emerging from the buttoned-up days of the Victorian era, women in particular were a major new consumer. The female ankle was suddenly on display and shoes that showed them at their best were a must-have for every elegant lady of the time. C&J Clark was happy to oblige.

Spreading the word

With more and more product to promote, Clarks began advertising – our first press ad appeared in 1936. We opened our own chain of shops called Peter Lord, a name which remained on the high street until the 1990s. We also introduced a choice of width fittings to our children’s range, not forgetting the first ever Clarks foot gauge – two innovations which became a benchmark in the care of growing feet.

Before the 20th century was even half over, the world was plunged into two terrible wars. British industry stepped up to play its part in the war effort and during the Second World War the main Clarks factory was used to make torpedoes. On the home-front, meanwhile, the global conflict led to all sorts of shortages; raw materials became scarce, testing the ingenuity of manufacturers determined to meet the demand for everyday essentials. Clarks, for example, designed a unique, hinged wooden sole, so we could carry on supplying the nation with shoes even when leather was hard to come by.