After a certain Dr. Maerten injured his foot in a skiing accident in 1949, he and partner Dr. Funck created a revolutionary sole that trapped air inside two layers of rubber polyurethane.
Originally marketed as orthopaedic shoes and sold to housewives, Dr. Maerten sold the cushioned sole rights to Bill Griggs in 1958, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The first official ‘Dr. Marten’ (note spelling change) work boot walked off the production line on 1 April 1960, and was branded style 1460 after the momentous occasion.
The sturdy yet comfortable eight-eyelet ankle boot became a staple for postmen, police officers and other workers until it marched onto the British skinhead scene in the late 1960s. The adoption of the boot by a teenage sect marked the transition of lower-class functionality to across-the-classes fashion.
Mods adopted the shoe as part of their stylish uniform after The Who‘s Pete Townsend made the boots a part of his wardrobe. The Who’s 1975 rock-opera movie Tommy featured a towering Pinball Wizard (played by Elton John) in a 54-inch high pair of twelve-eye Doc Marten boots.
Four years later, revivalist Mods adopted the cherry red “Docs” to wear with their parkas while cruising the streets on their Vespa scooters after watching the Who-inspired movie, Quadrophenia (1979).
The punk exposure fuelled the fervour for the British boots in the US and American hardcore bands like Black Flag adopted the boots for their street credible style.
Long before this type of footwear could be purchased in every mall in the western world, Dr Martens boots were the ultimate status symbol in the punk (and skinhead) community. ‘Docs’ rated up there with Mohawks, safety pins and black leather jackets.
They could pretty much only be found in underground shops or gimmicky sub-culture ephemera shops that dealt in studded dog-collars, bondage pants etc, and were not nearly as commonplace as they are today.
The higher up the boot, the more punk (or skin) you were. You could go to 20 hole Dr Martens (who hold the patent for the oil resistant/fat resistant/petrol resistant/acid resistant/alkali resistant airwear ‘bouncing sole’).
The icing on the cake was steel toe caps . . .