For years I have looked at a Dr. Marten shoe and just thought; Oh God, they are so...well, ugly. The clumpy sole, thick laces and stitching really didn’t do it for me. Once, my brother bought a pair and came to pick me up from school in them. I made him get straight back in the car, at the time thinking I was hardly being unreasonable. They do just look a bit… goofy. Yet, a recent change of heart towards Dr. Martens has led me here, singing their praises, so let me enlighten you...
The boot began as the creation of two friends in Germany, Dr. Klaus Maertens and Dr. Herbert Funk, who used discarded military supplies from WW2 to create a shoe with an ‘air cushioned sole’ to aid ex-soldier Maerten's broken foot. Production of the shoe began in 1947, and today they are one of the most popular shoes out there. Next time you’re walking about town avert your eyes for a minute, look down and count the number of people you see wearing Dr. Martens. I guarantee you will notice more than you think, so what are they doing right?
DM's are proudly neither masculine or feminine; they are just a shoe, which is what I love about them. Too much clothing continues to be restricted to one sex, and the British made brand has challenged barriers since emerging as an anti-establishment symbol in the 1960s and 70s, indicative of individuality and self-expression. This can still be seen today nearly 50 years on with their ‘Worn Different’ campaign. From musicians, to artists, high fashion runways to street style, Dr. Martens continue to be a versatile accessory, inspiring differentness in both men and women. That is, and continues to be, what counts.
And as for the clumpy sole, thick laces and open stitching, I now think they are just charming, albeit a little kooky, but that makes them loveable. The bottom line is that the staple boots are useful and can be dressed up or down. Their bulky brogue is punchier than your run-of-the-mill high street find, just how I think the brogue should be. And their statement yet simple cut out sandals are cooler than any designer brand I’ve seen.
Society has changed dramatically since the 1970’s; Moore’s law highlighting the accelerating advance of technology, the growing isolationism of nations, faceless communicating through social media, avocado’s being readily available for one and all, Trump. The Dr. Marten has been there all the way, their styles have stayed the same, adapted by generations and sub-cultures. Dr. Martens don’t care if they’re ‘cool’ or if they ‘follow the trend’, all they want is for you to be you whilst wearing them. I couldn’t be more proud of the boots, and I can now see that they couldn’t be more proud of me.
Keep doing your thing.
Cover image Gavin Watson, 1979.
ALL PHOTOGRAPHY JEM HAMBRO.