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Outdoor Boots and Doc Martens

It’s hard to record a history of the youth movement of the last century without mentioning Dr. Martens footwear. The British footwear brand, also known as Doc Martens, Docs or DMs, became an iconic symbol of the cultural youth revolution that began in the Sixties. The brand came into existence in 1960, on the cusp of the youth movement. The story of how Doc Martens came to be associated with rebellious youth is as surprising as it is compelling. Long indentified as a British brand, Doc Martens owes its design to a World War II German army doctor. Dr. Klaus Märtens sought to improve the design of army boots while recuperating after an injury he incurred during a ski accident.

He added an air-cushioned sole to the design and used softer leather to fashion the boot. After the war, Märtens partnered with a former university school mate, Dr. Herbert Funck, to open a footwear business in Germany in 1947. The two used discarded wartime rubber to fashion the boots. By 1959, the two doctors were ready to expand the business internationally. Bill Griggs of the family-owned British shoe manufacturer, R. Griggs Group Ltd., chanced upon an advertisement by the German duo in Shoe and Leather News magazine, seeking international partners. The Griggs family had been producing shoes since 1901 and immediately saw the potential of the uniquely designed shoes. In 1960, they bought the patent rights, anglicized the name and added the Doc Martens trademarked yellow stitching. The comfortable and durable Doc Martens boots quickly became identified with the working class.

The youth of the time, however, had their eyes fixed upon the fashion of rock and roll superstars, and were quick to note when Pete Townshend of the rock band, The Who, began to wear the boots onstage. Townshend further commented that while on tour, he went to bed with “A cognac bottle and a Dr. Martens boot.” The Doc Martens trend began with Townshend, and has continued ever since, embraced by punk, hardcore, goth, industrial and grunge subcultures. The Doc Martens enduring appeal comes in part from their exceptional guarantee. Every pair of shoes from the company’s For Life line is guaranteed for life. Shoes that are worn out will be repaired or replaced. How many youth take advantage of this guarantee is not known. Fans take pride in sporting the battle scars of their well-worn Doc Martens.