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Get To Know: Dr Martens

Posted on February 06 2019

Ever wondered about how your trusty pair of DM’s actually came about? In the first part of a new series all about our favourite footwear brand, we delve into the history of Dr Martens.

Who was Dr Marten?

The story of Dr Martens dates back to 1945 in post-War Munich, when an injured soldier, Dr Klaus Maertens, created a soft sole for his boots to aid the recovery of his broken foot. Maertens then showed his creation to his friend Dr Herbert Funk (great name) and the two went into business, using discarded military supplies to make their shoes. In 1959 an advertisement for the revolutionary sole was seen by the owner of Griggs’ Footwear in England, a few modifications later, including the addition of the iconic yellow stitching and the ‘Airwair’ boot was born. The team used the date they were created, 1st April 1960, as their namesake and the iconic 1460 boot was born.

The brand was popular with people in the workplace for a sturdy, long lasting pair of boots. Then Dr Martens unexpectedly became the brand of choice for working-class subcultures and societal rebels, this was the beginning of their cultural iconic status.

Dr Marten’s in Subculture

The brand grew along with the consistent rise of British subcultures in the 1970 and 80s, from punks to goths, every disaffected youth of the time was wearing them and the trend for customising the laces and painting the boots was born. The trend had also moved across the water at this stage and bands in America were stepping out in DMs, taking the iconic boot worldwide. By the 1990s the grunge trend had kept DMs firmly in the limelight and the brand now became the choice for festival goers.

Our Top 6 Dr Marten Influencers

It was Pete Townshend, lead guitarist of The Who, that first brought the Iconic 1460 to the attention of the public, wearing his as a symbol of solidarity with Britain’s working class.

Bands like The Specials and Madness championed the Dr Marten boot in the 1970s and 80s during 2 Tone and Ska revival, again as a nod to their working-class routes.

The sex pistols personified teen rebellion in the late 1970s and 80s, the punk subculture embraced Dr Martens as an emblem of their discontent.

It was bands like Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam that made sure the DM boot stayed a subculture favourite during the 90s.

Love this video or hate it, you can’t deny it got people talking, in 2013 Miley Cyrus rode naked on a wrecked ball in just her Docs.

In more recent years, bands like Babymetal, a 3 piece kawaii metal band, have made the Dm boot part of their signature Japanese Gothic and Punk Lolita style.

Rise and Fall of Dr Martens

By the early 2000s, the brand was experiencing a huge downward turn in sales, which resulted in store and factory closures across the UK. The brand launched a new range in 2004 aimed at young people, intended to be easier to break in and more comfortable to wear. In 2007 the original factory was back up and running, producing the hand-made boots, the traditional way.

Thanks to innovative collaborations with Vetements, Supreme and Yohji Yamamoto, the brand has stayed at the forefront of fashion in recent years. With a knack for reinvention and a reputation for quality, no doubt Dr Martens will be around for the next 60 years (your Docs will probably still be in good shape then too.)


 Words Megan Hunter