Evolution of Dr Martens: from the German housewives to punks and now Agyness Deyn

Most of us can remember the grungy fashion staple of the 90s; the black doc with its’ characteristic canary yellow stitching. Recently it has gone though a makeover with Agyness Deyn the new face of the brand, launching the First and Forever campaign. Here we have a look at its evolution over the years, from grunge to everyday staple.

The iconic shoes were created by a German named Klaus Märtens in the 1945, who hurt his ankle skiing and need shoes with better ankle support. The original 14 hole lace-ups were modelled on army boots but were made with softer leather and had a air-padded sole. They were a huge success in Germany among housewives in the 1950’s due their incredibly soft soles. When Märtens began exporting his shoes overseas in the 1960’s with British company Griggs taking up production, they Anglicized the model; changing the shape of the heel, adding yellow stitching, making it an 8 hole lace-up and changing the colour to a brown/red, known as Oxblood. The model, known as 1460 (still produced today) was popular first among factory workers, police and postmen.

It wasn’t until the 1970’s that Dr Martens began to take shape as a fashion statement, as a popular footwear choice amongst the punk movement at the time, with the fashion aspect driven by Vivienne Westwood. Then other youth subcultures like “goths” in the 1980s and 90s. It was during this time when the brand released a series of print ads that featured all kinds of kooky ads that featured children dressed up as goths, wearing Dr Martens.

It was thanks to the grunge movement in fashion during the 1990s and the various indie fans like Pearl Lowe and Courtney Love that helped push Dr Martens into the pages of fashion magazines and on the feet of savvy fashionistas around the world. Though it’s hard to imagine now, Marc Jacobs also played a huge role in helping pioneer the grunge movement in fashion during the 1990s.

Fast forward a decade and in 2000 Dr Martens began to produce a vegan friendly line, showing incredible foresight into future consumer demands, the line used synthetic materials (called the felix rubb-off) instead of leather. However, in 2003 the company suffered financial hardship, and moved their manufacturing from the UK to Thailand and China and as a result had to temporarily stop production of the vegan line.

Despite this dip in sales during the early 2000’s, Dr Martens celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2010 and have sold over 100 million pairs to date. Their 50th Anniversary advertising campaign (pictured above) leveraged their heritage in music, commissioning 10 contemporary musicians from various genres of music around the world to reinterpret cult classic tracks from the brand’s history.

But Agyness Deyn isn’t Dr Martens first fashionable IT girl as their face, previously British model/socialite Daisy Lowe was the face, posing in of a series of personal-style fashion blogger photos.

Also, in April 2010  the original 14 hole Doc won two fashion awards at the New York 2010 Fashion Awards, notably the award for most counter-cultural footwear of the decade.

Today there are over 250 different styles of Dr Martens, available in every colour and pattern combination imaginable. From checked to patent metallic hot pink to floral print or animal prints like leopard. But what makes Dr Martens still relevant? Versatility. Today their range doesn’t just include boots; brogues, sandals and loafers all make up part of the Dr Martens range.

The new First and Forever collection expands on this introducing moccasins and sheep-skin lined boots. What is our pick of the new range? The re-vamped original black docs, now with a heel and a zip on the side or the suede cream moccasins.

For more on the history of Dr Martens, watch the short documentary below the brand put together for it’s 50th anniversary.