Icons: Dr Martens, an enduring classic

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dm-logo

I have a few thoughts about shoes and would like to start out with one I consider to be a true icon in footwear. The original Dr Martens black patent leather work shoes. Now, I’ll confess to having always thought of these as being British, so found myself quite surprised upon reading the entry in Wikipedia about Dr Martens to discover that the true originator was a German, Dr Klaus Märtens! He started work on the original design during WW2, using soft leather and tyres to make his first design with air-padded soles. Their initial sales success was to 40+ housewives, mainly due to the comfort. Give how the boot versions where much later such a hit among British skinheads, we can truly say these shoes capture the imagination of a wide range of people!

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The shoes first came to Britain in 1960, the brand was renamed Dr Martens, the soles trademarked as Air-Wear, the yellow stitching was added and a legend was born. Hard to imagine this shoe has been in production for over 50 years now. Although the shoes have been popular among workers such as postmen, policemen and factory workers, have been the shoe-du-jour among youth cultures as diverse as skinheads, mods and grunge rockers, the general sales have varied over time.

In 2003 the factory was so hard up that production was moved to China and Thailand. In fact, my own shoes, bought 3 years ago, are produced in Thailand, a fact that caused me much consternation when I discovered it. My partners older (and perfectly kept pair) are original UK production. I’ve been quite jealous of this fact! All is not lost however, as in 2004 they restarted the original factory in order to produce limited numbers of shoes as part of the new “Vintage” line. These cost more than the foreign produced variants, but for someone keen on things being Made in Britain, there is a kick to be had knowing they only produce 50 pairs a day. I can see myself buying a pair of the “Vintage” line.

As far as I can tell, the UK made shoes have better leather, so the around 50% hike in price is probably worthwhile in the long run. And we do know that paying more for quality works on all levels, right?

I’ll admit, I came late to the Dr Martens, it’s a little embarrassing to buy your first pair when you’re past 40 (my partner has been wearing them on and off since her teens). Then again, if we can’t dare to venture a little outside our comfort zone, how can we possibly expect to improve ourself?

So, for the dad that wants to upgrade from sports shoes, I can strongly recommend a pair of classic Docs, for work, leisure and even party (but make sure you keep them well polished!)

Here’s a crummy shot of our Doc’s. Mine are nicely scuffed and dusty after 3 days of traipsing round London.

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And here are my girlfriends vintage pair in the urban street-environment of Bergen, Norway. Not how well they cope with the rough surface and discarded cigarette butts!

doc martens bergen

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16 Comments

  • ManofKent 01/03/2013 at 20:19

    I lived in DM’s at university, then didn’t wear them for almost 20yrs. Buying them again was like finding a long lost friend. They’re also one of the best shoes/boots to wear on icy pavements. Personally I favour the classic designs over some of their more outre offerings – 1461 shoes and 1460 boots, but I do have my eyes on the new Harris Tweed collaboration.

    The made in Vietnam shoes get a bad press, but I think it’s a little undeserved – the leather quality does vary, but both the Aniline and Matt finishes aren’t bad at all – better than many shoes available at far higher prices.

    Reply
    • Well Dressed Dad 01/03/2013 at 20:21

      DM and Harris Tweed? Sounds interesting!

      Reply
    • New User 11/10/2013 at 10:55

      I have 2 questions. The DM made in vietnam is original product of DM’s? Are you sure there’s a factory of DM in vietnam.

      Reply
      • Well Dressed Dad 11/10/2013 at 13:09

        The Vietnamese DMs are the official product of Dr Marten, yes. And yes, try googling Dr Martens Vietname and you will be able to confirm quite easily that their main factory is now there.

        Reply
        • New User 11/10/2013 at 16:00

          Thank you.. But i still afraid if i bought the limitation one even it’s from a shop in london.

          Reply
          • Well Dressed Dad 11/10/2013 at 16:02

            That is a problem Dr Martens will have to address… If you are in London though, go to one of the official Dr Martens shops. I very much doubt any reputable UK shops will stock fake Dr Martens though.

          • New User 11/10/2013 at 16:41

            Thanks again for the info that really satisfied me. Coz my gf already bought for me Aztec Crazyhorse yesterday for 100 pound. Reasonable..?

          • Well Dressed Dad 11/10/2013 at 17:05

            That would appear to be about what they usually cost, yes. You could of course buy the Made in Britain version of the classic DM, at about 50% over the price of the Vietnam made version. No idea if the build quality is any better.

          • New User 11/10/2013 at 17:16

            Thanks for your kind respond n time. Appreciate it so much. Have a good evening, mate…

  • Scratch 17/04/2013 at 15:32

    Similarly I used to like DM’s when I was a younger man but then stopped wearing them and must admit, never have any desire to get back into the habit.
    I never remember them being particularly grippy in the ice or the wet either – so much so I recall speaking to an off duty mountain rescue bloke once from Wales. He said that such was the number of people who they’d rescued having slipped off mountains were wearing DM’s, that the shoes were referred to as “DeathBoots” by his team.

    Reply
    • Well Dressed Dad 17/04/2013 at 17:40

      Fair comments, Scratch! I find them decently priced, fairly rugged, quite smart looking, and a good choice for dodgy weather. I’d not be looking to use them for mountain climbing though, even on poncy British mountains 🙂 Given a price range of around 80-120 pounds, are there better options? Also, the grey wool ones they did recently were quiet nice looking!

      Reply
      • ManofKent 30/04/2013 at 20:02

        Agreed! They’re strictly urban shoes – there’s not really enough tread for light grassy slopes. But for urban shoes (the classic 1461) or boots (the 1460) are cheap, decent quality and have a true style history.

        Reply
  • Bob 24/02/2014 at 15:29

    Hi , i have 1 question. Which model DM is on ‘doc-martens-bergen.jpg’ photo? Is this DM 1461PW ?

    Reply
    • Well Dressed Dad 24/02/2014 at 18:54

      Hi Bob, I’m really not too sure, as these are WDGs “vintage” pair, made in the UK in the early 90s. I think it’s likely you are correct though as they are the most classic variant. Perhaps todays equivalent is the Made in England 1461?

      Reply
    • Well Dressed Dad 24/02/2014 at 18:55

      Except, the new 1461 is in a soft leather. These are all the hard as cardboard leather that really takes it’s toll while breaking in…

      Reply
  • Steve 24/06/2016 at 03:48

    That was my exact first pair of “cool” shoes in my teens (circa 1985 or so). Bought them through the mail from DM via catalog (I lived in California, USA, at the time). I loved those shoes! Thanks for the memories!

    Reply

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