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A Brief History of Dr. Martens

A Brief History of Dr. Martens

Written by Sara Fender

And how one pair changed this writer’s life.

I bought my first pair of Dr Martens my junior year of high school. I was hanging out with the skater kids, wearing Airwalks and JNCO jeans; a pair of black lace-up boots seemed like the next natural progression of things. There was only one store in town that carried the famed Dr Marten brand and I went there right after school. I tried on every pair they had, which for women, were two pairs. I settled on the canvas ones, mainly because I had never seen anyone wearing those and I wanted to feel like I had something that not everyone else had. 

The next day I put on my favourite baby-doll dress – black with a green floral pattern -and my Docs, and I have to admit, a confidence I had not previously felt came over my entire body as I walked to school. I was never what you would consider one of the “popular” kids, but I also wasn’t necessarily “unpopular” either (at least, I don’t think I was). I managed to skate through in the middle, participating, but virtually unnoticed, until, I put on that first pair of Dr Martens lace-up boots. I felt different. I felt cool and invincible, like I no longer wanted to blend in and hide. Not that I wanted to be the centre of attention, by any means, but I just no longer cared what people thought because, in my mind, I was cool and confident and no longer concerned with the opinions of others. That was when I started to discover and cultivate my own personal style.

According to the official website Dr. Martens’ appeal to people who have their own individual style but share a united spirit – authentic characters who stand for something. People who possess a proud sense of self- expression. People who are different.

On a stylistic level, Dr. Martens’ simple silhouettes allows their wearers to adopt the boots and shoes as part of their own individual and very distinctive style; on a practical level, their famous durability and comfort make them ideal for the unforgiving world of gigs and street fashion; and then finally on an emotional level, they are a badge of attitude and empowerment.

Even though Dr Martens’ started from necessity, in Munich in 1945 with 25-yr-old soldier, Dr. Klaus Marten, creating an air cushioned sole to aid in his healing from a broken foot, it wasn’t long before the boot took on a much deeper meaning. 

In the 1960s, in the midst of a cultural shift and people starting to go against the societal norm, Dr Martens were mainly being worn by the British working class, which included “multicultural ska-loving skinheads.” Next, Pete Townsend of The Who started wearing them as a “symbol of his own working class pride and rebellious attitude” and the rest, as they say, is history. Dr Martens became the unofficial fashion symbol of self-expression of the anti-establishment culture.

I felt that on every level. With my first pair of Dr Martens, I began to feel a sense of who I was, who I wanted to be, and how much fashion played into those feelings. I began to feel more inclined to experiment with music, art, and activities as well as my fashion, without fear of my peers and their opinions. I no longer had tunnel vision in my world view (I was raised in the church and was very, very sheltered) and  began to see all the possibilities the world had to offer me – it was life changing. Twenty-five years later I can look back and clearly see how much that first pair of black canvas Dr Martens changed my view and allowed me to have a new life trajectory. Yes, I still own that first pair of boots…they are on the top shelf in my closet and are a daily reminder for me to follow my heart, do what I want, and to have the confidence to do it all with abandon. And for that, I will be forever grateful.

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