The birth of the Dr Marten boot couldn't have been in better company during the decade it was created.
We are of course talking the 1960's, or to be more specific...the 1st April 1960, hence the iconic name 1460.That's right, the first boot to stomp off the production line was an 8 hole 1460 in that delicious shade of cherry red, but it didn't arrive exactly as planned. Designed to be set to work in the fish markets of east London, it's creators intended the practical footwear to have a an oil like finish, but when a dodgy load came out accidentally uncoated, equally as effective and better looking, the classic DM boot as we know it today was born.
This very same year the contraceptive pill was launched, prolifically changing the lives and attitudes across all generations of Brits. Fast forward seven years and we're talking the summer of love, decadence and psychedelic intoxication. So, there's nothing more exciting and eclectic than a youth movement, a shift in how the future of our country (or even the entire world nowadays with a wealth of social media platforms) chooses to communicate to us, one another, or indeed just the universe.
Now it's always going to be an expression of some sort, it's a huge reason why we love, live, sleep and provide vintage clothes for you, EXPRESSION!! Obviously it comes in different forms, fear, anger, sadness, hope, pride, and joy but once the train starts moving it ain't stopping, and before you know it BOOM, it has defined a decade and a generation!!!!
So let's take a look at these decades and explosions of youth culture which turned a work boot worn by factory workers, postmen, builders and policemen into the iconic Doc Martens we know today.
Early sixties youth movements didn't have much space for DM's. Teddy boys came too early, and the mods vs rockers bank holiday tear ups championed other footwear. But in 63/64 the mods started breaking into splinter groups which would be the first spring board for the making of the Doc Marten, and ironically, the destroyers of it - The Skinheads. The music was soul and Jamaican ska with parties going off in Brixton and Lambeth, introducing them to new music as well as the highly influential Kingston Rude boy scene that had migrated from the Caribbean with young Jamaicans. Born out of grim post war council estates in areas like Bethnal Green, East London there was an air of danger which grew through the likes of Millwall football hooligans. When Dr Martens introduced the steel toecap, some bright spark had the idea of welding spikes onto them. Police immediately classed them as offensive weapons and confiscated them on sight. DM's had officially become part of the skinhead uniform, some wearing them several sizes too big to exaggerate their presence. They saw the simple utilitarian design as an anti-fashion statement and a nod to their working class roots, as well as a badge of both power and pride, although the violence began to stereotype the boot.
1976, Concorde took its first supersonic flight, Steve Jobs and Stephen Wozniak formed Apple Computers and Britain was experiencing the driest summer since 1727!! 6th November 1975 an angry manager of a tiny upstairs room at St Martins School of Art killed the power on the band he'd booked because they were too loud!! The band? The Sex Pistols. Two young lads saw the Pistols at high Wycombe and formed their own band, The Buzzcocks, three young lads saw them open for the Pistols in Manchester and formed THEIR own band, Joy Division! See what I meant about the train not stopping once it gets moving?? This is a movement! It makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck because these teenagers were making history. So, back to punk. The Damned beat the Pistols to release the first punk record. But there was momentum and more legends rising. Subway Sect, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Vibrators, and of course The Clash!! Punk was now exploding. The masses were about to go crazy against this new movement. A dance called 'The pogo' was invented. It was the episode where Bill Grundy drummer for Siouxsie and the Banshees was doing the pogo and a glass was smashed against a pillar at a gig and a girl was blinded in one eye, along with the pistols swearing on prime time evening TV that had older generation officially upset. The U.K. was awash with hand painted t-shirts, tight trousers, mohair jumpers, leather studded biker jackets and of course the staple Dr. Martens boot.
1979 Punk had lost its edge. Now we're in grim, grey Coventry, famous for Lady Godiva, bicycles, cars and getting smashed to pieces in the Second World War. The disaffected youth of Cov in 1979 were restless, with unemployment high and nobody listening. Well!! Enter Jerry Dammers and his band The Specials. Their blend of ska and punk created a new energy and 2 Tone was born. As in all movements it needs more than one, so up pop Madness, The Beat and The Selecter. The specials masterpiece 'Ghost Town' hit no 1 just as Britain's inner city rioting ignited in Toxteth, Brixton and Handsworth. The song reflected the desperation of inner city life, the poverty of some people in early Thatcherite Britain. DM's fit just perfectly into the clean cut 2 Tone black and white image. The logo being a man in a black suit, wearing black sunglasses, white shirt, black tie and pork pie hat.
LOVE and PRIDE.
1985, it's first confirmed there is a gaping hole in the ozone layer over the Antarctic and Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior was bombed by French agents. Half a decade after 2 Tone and we are still in Coventry!! (Trust me I know the feeling, like you wouldn't believe) This band was about to change the face of the Dr. Martens boot forever. The band was KING, brainchild of Paul King. He was obsessed with Bowie, Glam and 2 Tone and invented his own look, called 'psychedelic skin look' or multi-tone. He was fascinated by A Clockwork Orange and each time the band preformed on TV he wore different coloured DM boots. In the video to Love and Pride we saw dozens of kids spraying their boots multi colours. Kings boots were also decorated with straps across the laces, buckles and patent leather. Well now, off goes another movement! A rash of other bands in the mid 80's wore DM's too including The Smiths, Morrissey.
1990, Seattle, bubbling during the late 80's was an underground movement developing that would, during a brief flurry of breath-taking musical brilliance, turn the global mainstream on its head. Grunge!! Sonic Youth, Steve Fisk, the U-Men, Skinny Puppy and of course Nirvana. It was scuzzy, furious raw energy. With the music came the culture, like punk before it was truly thrift store chic. Bedecked in Flannel shirts, oversized shorts cut off just below the knee and long, lank hair, the grunge kid quickly picked up the tag of loser. Girls often wore flowery dresses with thick leggings, or trousers with oversized band t-shirts. And on the feet of both male and female grunge kids were invariably a pair of DM's, black with coloured laces left untied, so the sides of the quarter flapped loosely around the ankles. The boots anti- label fitted in perfectly with the anti-establishment feeling.
We're back in Britain and the first whiff of the Britpop movement is emerging with a band called Suede. Singing about a highly stylised, romantic London in a peculiar camp Englishness, it gets this 'New Wave of a New Wave' scene on the go. 1993 sees Blur's pivotal second album 'Modern Life is Rubbish' released and a string of new confident British bands take over. Blur, Suede, The Boo Radleys, Pulp and even a rejuvenated New Order. British youth abruptly put their grunge clothing away and started rifling through their British bands records again. Cut off shorts and flannel shirts were returned to the charity shops, long hair was cut short and in came a variant of the 80's causal look, mixed with elements of Mod and other unique styles, including the odd Hawaiian shirt!! Trainers were popular, Harrington jackets make another comeback and even the Oxfam look of Pulp's Jarvis Cocker was copied. Once agin though DM boots managed to be accepted by this generation of music. Bands like Elastica, Supergrass, Shed Seven, Portishead, The Bluetones, Marion and Dodgy all championed the classic Doc Marten. Oasis were late comers to the scene who took all the honours but they tended to wear desert boots or adidas gazelles and were rarely seen in DM's. By 1996 the movement was effectively dead. As with many musical movements the most accomplished, original and innovative players have the ability to transcend the genre they have often reluctantly been associated with.
There was no way in 1960 it would've been considered that this standard, simple basic boot would attain such a status and cultural significance. With each shift in youth fashion it stood strong and was adopted by the movement. We try our very best here at Loot to provide you with all these awesome pieces of iconic clothing from all the genres and movements that youth culture has throw up over the decades past.
Now as for the future, we're yet to see Kim Kardashian in a pair of DM's (thank f@*k) but we can certainly hear the sound of the train taking off its air brakes and getting ready to leave the station. All aboard, next stop! Well that's in the hands of the youth!!