Doc Marten History Long Version     Back to Doc Marten Boots

 

            Dr. Martens
Dr. Martens is a brand of shoe, often known as "Doc Martens", "Docs", or "DM's". They have a characteristic air-cushioned sole developed by Dr. Klaus Maertens (note the different spelling).
 

A pair of "classic" black leather Dr. Martens, with the distinctive yellow stitching around the sole.

Klaus Maertens was a doctor in the German army during World War II. While on leave in 1945, he injured his ankle while skiing in the Bavarian Alps. He found that the standard issue army boots were too uncomfortable on the injured foot. While recuperating he designed improvements to the boots. He designed a shoe that was made of soft leather, and softer, air-padded soles. When the war ended and the Germans commenced panicked looting of valuables from their cities, Dr. Maertens took something truly valuable: leather from a cobbler's shop. He made himself a pair of boots with the now-famous air-cushioned soles.

He didn't have much luck selling his shoes until he met up with an old university friend, Dr. Herbert Funck, in Munich in 1947. Funck was intrigued by the new shoe design, and the two went into business that year in Seeshaupt, Germany, using some discarded rubber from Luftwaffe airfields. The comfortable and durable soles were a big hit - with housewives; 80% of their sales during the first decade were to women over 40.

Sales had grown so much by 1952 that they opened a factory in Munich. In 1959, the company had grown large enough that Drs. Maertens and Funck started looking to market internationally. Almost immediately, British shoe manufacturer R. Griggs Group Ltd. bought patent rights in order to manufacture the shoes in the UK. Griggs anglicised the name, slightly re-shaped the heel to make them fit better, added the trademark yellow stitching, and trademarked the soles AirWair.

Skinhead style: DM boots with Levi's jeans

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The first Dr. Martens in the UK came out on April 1, 1960; thus 1460 as the name of the classic 8-hole, cherry-red, Nappa leather design. They were very popular among workers like postmen, policemen and factory laborers who were on their feet for many hours a day. But by the late 1960s, skinheads took notice of Dr. Martens boots: street gangs made cherry-red boots a trademark of their style.

By the early 1970s, Dr. Martens were ubiquitous among the rising British punk rock stars. Sid Vicious was among the first punk to wear DM's. Soon, it seemed all punk fans were wearing them. Dr. Martens boots were no longer the footwear of the working class; they were the footwear of rebel youth. Devotees of the shoes tend to be very loyal. Dr. Martens have been the subject of a song by Alexei Sayle and the cover art for a Madness single.

Dr. Martens are now sold exclusively under the AirWair name, and come in dozens of different styles: everything from conventional black shoes to sandals and steel-toed boots. Meanwhile, many punks and skins have turned to competing manufacturers' boots: Grinders, Gripfast, and Rangers.

On April 1st, 2003 the Dr. Martens company ceased all production in the UK, eliminating over 1,000 British jobs. All Dr. Martens shoes and boots are now produced in China.