Dr. Martens fashion history
Dr. Martens fashion history covers fifty years of music and cultural changes
The history of Dr. Martens boots tells a story that is as much about fashion and culture, as it is about teenagers finding a means to self-expression, and holding on to it. This widely popular brand is well known today for its air-cushioned sole and iconic shape, but fashion innovation was the furthest thing from the creator’s mind when he made his very first pair of "Doc Martens."
The beginning -
Dr Martens fashion history begins in 1945. While on leave from the German army, Dr. Klaus Maerten injured his ankle while skiing. During his recovery, he designed improvements to his uncomfortable army boots. He made air-padded soles from tires and used a softer leather to create more comfortable boots that were highly durable. Maerten’s soon joined up English boot makers and their first factory opened in 1952.
The upper shape was re-designed in 1960 and completed with yellow welt stitching and a grooved sole edge. These 8-eye boots were called the 1460 and sold mostly to factory and postal workers until the mid 1960s.
Youths in England, many of them skinheads, began wearing the boots as a nod to their working class roots. The Guardian cites that this, combined with Pete Townsend from The Who wearing them on stage, redirected the sturdy, practical footwear into the heart of youth subculture and fashion history.
Hello, subculture -
The driving styles of the 1970s came from the edge of extremes. Glam, goth and punk fashion prevailed. Teenagers customized their own clothes with scissors, safety pins and markers. Hair was shaved and spiked and dyed all the colors of the rainbow, but British youth was not trying to make itself look pretty. They sought self-expression, and Dr Martens became a symbol for rebelling from the establishment.
Into the 80s and over to the U.S. -
In a time before online shopping could turn regional trends into global best sellers over night, it took over thirty years for Dr Martens to travel to the United States. They first hit the West Coast’s hardcore scene in 1984 and spread rapidly. "Doc Martens" can now be found at online shoe stores, where a huge selection of styles is available for both men and women.
Teenagers showed their love by customizing their boots with paint, neon laces and attaching accoutrements to the laces like beer caps and charms. In the 1990s, Dr Martens fashion did what many popular bands couldn’t, they adapted to Grunge and other 90s style trends. Worn in musical festivals throughout England, the United States and other western countries, the Dr Martens brand began putting out compilation CDs. They even published a coffee table book on the boot’s place in fashion and music history.
The turn of the century brought a dramatic decline in sales. Factories shuttered throughout the UK. The Dr. Martens website says the dark period lasted from 2001- to 2003. Dr Martens re-emerged only a few years later when designers began reinterpreting the original design. Vivienne Westwood, Jimmy Choo and Jasper Conran created a few of the many designs that introduced the brand to a new generation.
Dr Martens fashion story continues into its 50th year. Paging through the brand's history takes us far beyond the footwear department. Dr Martens boots are linked to five decades of music and cultural changes. They’ve been worn by rock stars, thinkers and countless individuals during a critical time in their lives. Dr Martens continue to provide a vehicle for self-expression, and many people are more than happy to take the drive.