For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow: Dr. Martens Celebrates his 50th

by Elli Stuhler

We young and invincible folk are quick to associate fiftieth birthdays with comb-overs and “it’s all downhill from here” jokes. Looking at the fiftieth anniversary collection, it looks like Dr. Martens has dodged any metaphorical hill, has a head full of hair (a mohawk, we like to think) and is still trotting into the hearts (and onto the feet) of youth subcultures everywhere.

The Doctor had a little gig in Toronto to show the media their fiftieth anniversary, summer and even fall/winter collections at the Windsor Arms Hotel – and oh! – the things you can create from a simple boot. It may have started as the eight-eye 1460 boot, but the Doc has since sprawled in all directions. 12-eye? check! Buckles instead of laces? High heels? Check, check! Metallic, velvet, floral? Check, check, check! And not a comb-over to be found!

Even the noble minded who buy boots for function over form are in luck. The collections feature durable rain boots, lined boots for the winter and even a take on the canvas shoe that is actually made of leather. Could have had me fooled.

The iconic boot was originally developed with the WWII army boot in mind. The earliest of these, called the 1460, is the one that comes to mind when we hear Dr. Martens. Its numerical name commemorates the date the first pair rolled off the assembly line on April 1st, 1960. An icon was born.

Dr. Martens gained consumer recognition in the early days due to their unique air-cushioned soles. They were popular among blue-collar workers for their comfort and durability and slowly the style trickled onto the radar of East London skinheads later on in the decade. By the 1970’s they began showing up on the feet of punks, mods, glams, and all the other rebels with or without causes. Thanks to the grunge movement they exploded in the angst-ridden nineties, perhaps most famously by Courtney Love who would juxtapose her clunky Docs with girly baby-doll dresses.

Some would even go as far as saying they are the boot of the dead rock star, but Courtney Love isn’t one of them. In 2007, a campaign in the UK featured posters of Kurt Cobain, Sid Vicious and Joey Ramone wearing the coveted boot in heaven, with a slogan stating “Dr Martens Forever.” Court wasn’t too happy, and while using dead people as means to sell a product isn’t the most moral way to do it, the notion of Sid and Nancy wearing Docs in punk rock heaven isn’t a far-fetched one.

International Sales Manager Doug Segal has seen it all when it comes to people being attached to the shoe. “In some cases we’re peoples therapists,” he says, “ people call us and tell us stories about hardships they’ve had and they were wearing their Docs. People come up to me at trade shows and do this; you’d think I had a couch for them to lie down on.” Today, Docs shake up the runway; ultimately lending the designer they accommodate a badass East London feel. It’s no surprise they’ve since been seen on the feet of Agyness Deyn, Daisy Lowe, Pixie Geldof, and Kate Moss.

So happy birthday to the Doctor, you look great for 50!

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