What do you imagine under the term “for your whole life”? For me personally, it’s materials like wood and leather. And rightly so, since in this post, we’re going to be talking about the immortal leather Dr. Martens. And when I say immortal, I mean it, these shoes will last your whole life – the people that say no probably never owned a pair, or didn’t read this article. Check out this small recap of the brand and tips for how and when to wear Dr. Martens.

Why Dr. Martens?

Our story begins in 1901, at the end of the industrial revolution, in a small English town called Wollaston, where the Griggs family made durable and robust shoes for work. Fast forward to 1945. During the end of the second world war, while German soldier and doctor Klaus Maertens was recuperating from a broken ankle, he noticed that all-leather soldier’s boots were too hard and uncomfortable for an injured foot, and came up with the idea for a softer midsole. He created a pair of shoes with soft leather and air-filled soles made from a car tire. He showed his creation to an old friend, mechanical engineer Dr. Herbert Funk, who was immediately excited and the catalyst for a joint business venture was born. The sales went very well, and it turned out that older, wealthier women were a good target group.

In 1959, Klaus and Herbert decided it was time to expand and started advertising their boots in overseas magazines. And what do you know, Bill, one of the Griggs brothers, saw their ad. He liked the innovative, air-filled sole enough to buy a patent to make the shoes in Great Britain. He added the iconic yellow quilting, slightly re-designed the heel, changed the name to Dr. Martens and printed the AirWair trademark onto the soles, along with the slogan “With Bouncing Soles”. And behold, the first official Martens, titled 1460, were born.

Dr. Martens as a symbol of expression

It’s important to remember that the Martens came to be in a relaxed period of Europe’s history, both in politics and culture. Lots of new movements were formed, people started living more of a consumer lifestyle, the popularity of drugs was on the rise, and lots of bands started forming – for example The Who, The Doors or The Beatles. Put shortly, the world was opening up and Dr. Martens grew up in a age of changes, innovations, cultural and social revolutions. Quite the background for a work shoe, don’t you think? At first, postmen and plant workers wore them, but then something incredible started happening.

Out of nowhere, ska-loving skinheads started wearing the leather boots, proudly representing the British working class. Even Pete Townshend from The Who wore them, and gradually, Dr. Martens started becoming a symbol of a subculture. Later, during the 80’s, wearing them would become a cult of self-expression. Since Britain’s society was quite disrupted back then, even more “tribes” and subcultures started popping up – as we well know, the political and societal state of a country always reflects in is culture and art. But the “Docs” popularity was also picking up pace over the Big Pond. American musicians Hardcore, started bringing Dr. Martens back home from their travels over Great Britain, which inadvertently started the brand’s adoption in American subcultures.

How to wear Doc Martens?

Since 2003, the brand focused on rebranding and got in touch with fashion designers and artists from all around the world, gradually changing and updating the 1460 model, for example through collaborations with Keith Haring, Pleasures, A-COLD-WALL, or the recently announced collaboration with Supreme. Docs gradually started appearing on catwalks, took of the label of being a specific subculture’s shoe, and became the favorite shoe of everyone who likes to express their stance and opinion through fashion – including me. There isn’t any other shoe with such a vibrant history that can survive the crowd under a stage, a snowstorm, an overly-excited puppy or a fashion week. All you need is proper care, a piece of cloth and a cleaning solution, and the boot’s long life is guaranteed, along with a fresh look and protection. Dr. Martens are also a great all-round shoe. You can wear them with a tracksuit, wide trousers or a suit or dress for more serious occasions. I’d recommend following the brand’s Instagram account, where you can find tons of inspiration.

Which model is right for you?

There are countless DM silhouettes available, so it can sometimes be hard to find the right one for you. With laces, without, all black, on a platform, white or yellow quilting, high top or low? Phew. So which silhouettes are a sure bet?

Dr. Martens 1460

The classic among classics. The first model to see the world. You can recognize them at first glance thanks to the 8 shoelace holes, yellow quilting, smooth leather and an air-cushioned sole. They fit well with slim trousers or jeans. Fun fact: that number isn’t random. It’s a reference to the 1st April of 1960, when the silhouette was first released. You can check out a more in-depth dissection of the shoe here.

Dr. Martens 1461

The low version of the 1460, fits well with a skirt or track pants. I like the all-black version, because you can wear it to your graduation, promotion, or even a wedding. Look for the word “mono” in the name.

Dr. Martens Jadon

These Docs are a purely women’s affair. They feature a platform, are robust and make your legs look so pretty, that I don’t even wear any other shoes with a skirt anymore. Also, you’re guaranteed to feel safe in them, both during a night out and at a festival or concert.

Dr. Martens 2976

Are you a fan of chelsea boots? If yes, I probably don’t need to introduce the 2976 to you. As far as I’m concerned, these are the ideal choice if you’re looking for an elegant, quality boot and the 1460’s aren’t quite your cup of tea. You can find this silhouette at Footshop, as well as all the ones mentioned above.

Dr. Martens and sustainability

Sustainability is an important topic and big brands realize this all too well – Dr. Martens is one of these brands. Unfortunately, leather boots aren’t the most eco-friendly product out there. The shoe is made from leather and the sole from hard rubber. You can obviously imagine that making things from leather is complicated, and also accounting for the carbon footprint associated with the production. So the executives at Dr. Martens set a goal to eliminate leather waste by 2024, aiming to reuse leather and invest into research and developmentof more sustainable materials, without impacting the quality of the boots. Quite the challenge, but after all, modern technology is quite advanced.

I’m a fan of the Docs and believe they’re going to achieve their goals. If you find yourself window shopping for them but don’t like the fact that they’re leather, I have good news for you – check out the vegan-friendly models. You can identify them easily by a “V” or “Vegan” in their name, and as far as quality’s concerned, they’re on the same level as the real thing. P.S: because they’re not made of leather, you won’t get blisters while breaking them in!

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