It’s been headed in the right direction for a while, but with ASOS reporting shoe sales in Dr Martens rising by 265% 2011-2012, soaring global sales figures and March’s announcement that they had made profits of £22 million, we can firmly say that Dr Martens are officially back.
The British footwear brand was fabled to have been born when a German Army doctor, Klaus Märtens, made improvements to his army-issue boots – softening them with leather and tyre-padded soles – to make them more comfortable following a foot injury.
Initially the soles were a big hit with housewives with 80% of sales in the first decade going to women over the age of 40. But in 1959 a British shoe manufacturer bought patent rights, anglicised the name, slightly re-shaped the heel, added the iconic yellow stitching, and trademarked the soles as AirWair. On 1 April 1960 the first Doctor Martens style 1460 boots came out in the UK.
First adopted by working men such as police officers and postmen it wasn’t until, according to Martin Roach author of Doctor Martens: The Story of an Icon, The Who’s Pete Townshend wore them in the latter part of the 60s that they became fashionable.
By the early 1970s they’d become a marque of the skinheads and by the late 1980s they had gained popularity with punks and other youth subcultures. In the 90s they were every teenagers (you know who you are) must-have boot, much to the despair of their parents.
But then there was a big wobble and sales of Dr. Martens declined so dramatically that in 2003 the company was forced to cease all production in the UK, and move their factories to China and Thailand.
It took a few years, but like a Phoenix from the flames – and just in time for their 50th anniversary –they were back in with the cool kids. With the likes of Johnny Depp ordering Doc Martens as party gifts for his daughter’s birthday, there were new styles and designer collaborations upon us everywhere.
Everyone’s been wanting to get in on the game – Jean Paul Gaultier, Yohji Yamamoto, Vivienne Westwood, Prada, Raf Simons to name but a few. Even Hello Kitty got in there. And with Dr. Martens back once again producing footwear in the original Cobbs Lane Factory in Wollaston, it’s great to see the collaborations with other iconic British brands such as Suspel and Liberty. In April Liberty launched their Dr Martens collection with a window installation and pop-up shop as part of their ‘National Treasures’ campaign.
Naturally there have been a host of celebrities at the trend-setter helm sporting the iconic 1460 boot, but arguably none have done as much for the brand as Agyness Deyn. So it will come as no surprise (if somehow you didn’t know) that good ol’ Agy is Dr Martens’ latest collaborator. Her collection launches on the 15th August, and you can take a look at her film here.
So, like a Phoenix, will Doctor Martens also live 500 years? Who knows, I’m just praying they’re not going to bring back the Bomber jacket.