The first appearance by Doc Martens in the U.K was on the 1st April 1960, a mere two months after my birth. The boot, known as the 1460 and something of a design classic, was to pave the way (no pun intended) for hundreds of designs and variations on a theme.
The birthday of the Doc Marten is being celebrated in the U.K this week, no I don't know why it wasn't April either, and feet everywhere will be stamping their appreciation and giving thanks to Klaus Martens a German army doctor who injured his ankle whilst skiing in 1945 and made improvements to the boots he was wearing using leather as an air-cushioned sole.
Eventually after a couple of false starts production and sales reached high enough numbers for the enterprising Doc and his business partner to look at expanding into other European countries, strange what a popular pastime that was among our Germanic cousins during the 20th Century isn't it? Anyway the R Griggs Group of shoe makers bought the UK rights to manufacture the boots and the rest is history as they say.
Except it isn't really as Dr. Martens is a classic case of a British improvisation and improvement becoming a victim of its own success, changing fashion trends and the decline in British manufacturing during the last decade. On 1st April 2003 production in the U.K of the legendary brand name ceased as production moved to the sweat shops of China and Thailand.
I can clearly remember the moment the idea came into my head that I should own a pair of 'Docs'. I was standing on the platform at Romford station sometime in the summer of 1974. I was wearing a pair of Oxford bag trousers (look them up on Google and you have my permission to laugh), platform shoes, a leather coat and shirt. I had shoulder length ginger hair and in my hand I had a copy of one of Richard Allen's 'Skinhead' novels, the formulaic, almost romanticised vision of sex, violence and music had an instant impact on me. Such was the reputation at the time of Allen's novels (his real name by the way was James Moffatt) that I had cut out the bottom of the inside pocket of my rather expensive leather coat so that I could sneak the books in and out of the house without my Mum noticing!
I had my first pair of 'Docs' before the new school year started, the shoulder length hair was gone, and I have been wearing them ever since, not the same pair of course but not far off. I think over the past thirty six years I have only owned half a dozen, pairs of boots or shoes, the telling thing though is that since that revelation on Romford station I have never owned anybody else's footwear apart from trainers and football boots. I currently own two pairs of 1461's. You can tell how long they last by the fact that one pair still has the legend 'Made In England' on the sole, the other pair sadly does not, something I'm not too chuffed about to be honest.
Now how many other products can we honestly say last on average six years and are used at least six days of the week, every week?
There is fortunately a happy ending to this story and that is the upsurge in sales of Dr.Martens shoes and boots, a new shop has opened in London and there are plans to take the product nationwide again. There used to be a well stocked Dr.Martens shop in Southampton, having not been shopping there yet this year I cannot comment on whether or not it still exists.