Shoes

A Cool Visual History of the Dr Martens Boot

While they haven’t had much common ground over the decades, skinheads, punks, mods and grunge kids alike can agree on one thing: the brilliance of the Dr Marten boot.
 
Having trampled through the decades, becoming an iconic symbol for numerous subcultures, it’s arguably been just as important to pop culture and music as it has been to fashion, selling over 100m pairs in the process…
 
So come with us as we take a quick visual recap of this storied fashion piece.

[Images: Rex, Getty, ads]

  • A Cool Visual History of the Dr Martens Boot

    Painful beginnings

    On leave from the German army during World War Two, doctor Klaus Märtens injured his ankle while skiing in the Alps. And after realising he’d need something more comfortable boot than standard army-issue boots he set about using soft leather and air-padded soles made of tyre to forge a better one. When the war ended he took this design further.

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    A Brit special

    By 1959, Märtens’ company was so big that British shoe manufacturer R. Griggs Group bought patent rights to manufacture the shoes in the UK and a star was born. The first official pair rolled out on April 1, 1960. Your grandad might have been first in line.

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    Workers unite

    Originally targeting those who worked in manual labour (miners, factory workers, etc.) Dr Martens would soon become a staunch symbol of the working classes. No sign of any actual doctors wearing them for a few years.
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    Mod-ish

    Much in part to their blue collar association and no-nonsense aesthetic, they were eventually picked up by mods and their hard-core cousins the skinheads, wearing them as a badge of honour throughout the sixties and beyond.

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    Who?

    This mod-factor also helped propel Dr Martens to the forefront of the UK’s music scene, where many young British rock stars quickly adopted the boots in a show of working class solidarity during shows. The Who’s Pete Townshend was rarely spotted on stage without his jet black 1460s and even claimed to go to bed in them.

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    Feeling lucky, punk?

    As the early eighties dawned, and new breed of impetuous, music loving mavericks came to the fore, these famous boots were handed to a new generation. Call it what you like - hard-core, psychobilly, industrial – but no collective genre of music is more allied to the Dr Marten than these denim-favouring heroes.

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    For the young ones

    Perhaps the greatest ode to the boot’s enduring popularity came in classic eighties sitcom The Young Ones, when Alexei Sayle belted out a song entitled Dr Martens boots during the episode Oil. Watch it here

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    Pure nirvana

    It wasn't until the nineties that the Dr Martens' impact would be so strongly felt again, naturally through the guise of music. Grunge was that genre and its legacy is still felt today.

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    Some things never change

    Fast-forward to the noughties and Dr Martens are still worn by the biggest musical acts. Here Ellie Goulding apes that famous shot of Pete Townshend to flash her own pair. Nowhere near as good at the guitar, mind you.

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    The 1460 rebooted

    Yes, you can now do as Townshend once did and don your own pair of 1460. Primed for another moment of glory this autumn, it still has the air-cushioned sole, Goodyear welt construction and durable smooth leather, and looks as great with tailoring as street-wear. We recommend you wear it suited (with cropped trouser leg) and booted.