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My Love Affair With Dr. Martens

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For my 30th birthday a very dear friend gave me a pair of shoes. They were dirty and ripped, the soles were completely worn out and they smelled of 15 years worth of feet. In fact they used to be my shoes before I gave them to this friend. Yet as he passed these old, degenerate shoes to me I couldn’t help but beam with appreciation.

Rewind about 12 years to 1994. I was a senior in high school. Nevermind had been out for a couple of years, Grunge and alternative were still all the rage. My wardrobe was full of flannel, t-shirts, baggy pants and sneakers. At the time I was well into a pair of skater-styled Vans. The hair was long, the attitude sullen.

Enter Dr. Marten. I had eyed many a pair of those brown leather beauties many a time. But at over $100 a pair, neither my wallet nor my mother was willing to shed that kind of dough.

Ah but my brother, the savior of footwear, the beater of siblings, tormentor of all things me, came through like a mackerel in cheese. He gave me my first pair of Dr. Martens, and he didn’t even charge me a dime, or a wet willie.

It seems my brother had received the shoes as a gift from a buddy. The buddy had bought them and worn them for a year or so before he decided to buy a new pair. My brother, likewise, wore the shoes for another year or so before deciding to buy his own new pair.

[ADBLOCKHERE]I loved those shoes. They fit so well with my whole style in those days. They were comfortable, wore well, felt great on my size 11 feet, and looked pretty stinking cool.

I wore them every single day. No kidding, for three years those shoes were on my feet every day, with the rare exception of really special occasions like weddings, proms, and the odd couple of months right before I got rid of them that I finally decided to start donning sandals.

I have a picture of me wearing the Dr. Martens, black socks, a pair of plaid checkered shorts and a horizontally striped shirt. Besides the slacker, Generation X grunge look, I had the ‘I don’t give a flipping flop how people think I look’ look. And those shoes didn’t leave my feet.

After three years, I finally decided to get myself a new pair. I did the loyal thing and promptly gave the old pair to my roommate.

He wasn’t quite so dedicated to the now five-year-old, fourth generation shoes as I was, but they were donned by his feet at least once a week for the next year.

Yes, he liked them so much he bought himself a new pair of Doc Martens. Yes, he gave the old pair to a mutual friend.

At this point I lost touch with the shoes. The new owner split the heat of Alabama to the hills of Tennessee. He tells me he wore them often and with love. He dropped me a note of sorrow when, while playing a game of football with buddies, the shoes scored a large rip through the toes, rendering them unwearable.

When I opened the bag that was my birthday present and found those shoes, I couldn’t help but get a tear in my eye. Once the smell of six pairs of feet over many sweaty years wafted away, I got a big grin on my face and knew I was looking at the best present ever.

Coming home to my little den, I placed the old Doc Martens next to the pair I bought in their stead, some ten years prior. A pair I still wear to this day.

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About Mat Brewster

  • http://www.markiscranky.org Mark Saleski

    very cool mat. who knew that guys can have attachments to footwear.

    well, i suppose st. hubbins did (the patron saint of quality footwear).

  • http://trinimansblog.blogspot.com/ Triniman

    I have the same love affair with my Docs, and the same model, two. I began wearing Docs around 1991 and haven’t looked back. Every 2 to 3 years or so, I treat myself to a new pair.

    The Docs of today, however, are not the same as the Docs of the past. Today’s Docs aren’t made in England. They come from Asia and use a different quality of leather. Inferior looking leather I might add. Also, the local chain store that I used to buy them from stopped stocking them. The local cool, indie shoe store, run by punks, also can’t seem to get them in, and they are the only place in town that did carry them in the past few years.

    I ended up buying them by mail order through the ‘net.

    I wonder if others have had trouble finding new, genuine Doc Martens in the stores.

  • http://midnitcafe.blogspot.com Mat Brewster

    Thanks guys.

    A buddy of mine says he got some cheap docs from overstock.com. So you might try there, Triniman

  • http://alienboysworld.blogspot.com Christopher Rose

    Mat: we are shoe brothers! Ever since I got my first pair of Cherry Red DM boots one Summer I spent as a skinhead, Dr Marten has been a fashion staple for me.

  • http://midnitcafe.blogspot.com Mat Brewster

    It’s funny how many subcultures have made Docs there footwear. The doc marten website lists like seven different ones.

    The thing is though even with their sort of outsider look, they are still dang comfortable.

  • http://www.djradiohead.com DJRadiohead

    Good stuff, Brewster. I’ve never owned a pair of Docs because I have no style and because the difference between them and another pair of shoes can be counted in multiple CDs. But I do understand the attachment to it all.

    It’s outstanding to see you writing around here again. See that it continues.

  • http://midnitcafe.blogspot.com Mat Brewster

    Thanks DJ! The price thing definitely holds me back on buying more Docs. The things last for like ever so they are well worth the investment.

    I am definitely trying to get back into writing. There was a needed break for a variety of reasons, but I think things have smoothed down now and I can get back on it.

  • http://www.markiscranky.org Mark Saleski

    i have to admit here that i usually share the dj’s “cd calculus”. however, that doesn’t extend to shoes…i own three pairs of docs: brown, black & black boots.

    the black boots go to every concert. they’ve seen some good stuff over the last 10 years.

  • http://www.zappos.com The best

    Doc Marten’s are in fact no longer made in england, due to the extremely cheap labor in china. At least they don’t stamp it made in china. They don’t make them at all in england anymore becuase its just too damn expensive to manufacture there.
    http://www.zappos.com sells a lot of doc martens, however the ones from asia. To find a pair actually made in england is pretty rare and costly now a days.

  • preston landry

    want to know where in new orleans or metairie that I can find dr. martens shoes

  • MkLA

    I bought my last pair of blk doc boots back in 2003, right before all manufacturing went to China and/or Thailand. It’s almost next to impossible for anyone to find a pair that says “Made In England” on the soles, but who can blame them? Cheap labor in China/Thailand wins. I’ve heard Docs are out of style, but, I don’t give a crap if people think they are out of style…..as I have them on my feet right now, staring at that dark black leather with gold stitching, the rubber soles, who can resist? I know I can’t.
    So, is it weird that I’m Asian and I wear Docs? Even though they were made popular by skinheads?

  • Mat Brewster

    I just got a brand new pair, and I don’t care if they are out of style either. they are so freaking comfortable.

    I hope it isn’t weird that you are asian and wear docs for I’m American (with an English heritage) who is about to live in China, and you can bet I’m bringing my docs!

  • Elizabeth

    I bought my 1st pair of Docs in 2001 in Lomdon and they are still alive. They should be made in England, because they are part of English culture. And for me their move to China equal to move all Britain to China.

  • Patausaure

    I bought a pair last week in london (1460 black not made in england for only 30 GPB) and i compare them with an old pair of 1460 gaucho made in england not weared that i brougt 5 years ago in France.
    There is a difference of size between them!
    the last are 1/2″ bigger! So, be careful!

    In london, we can find 1460 between 50 and 65 GPB.
    I was lucky, the woman in the shop made me half price.
    At Camden, in london, i found a 1460 sand for only 40 GPB but i didn’t know if they were real dr Martens.

    My girlfriend bought a pair of 1460 with uk flag for only 49 GPB in Cambridge (not made in england).

    Most of internet shops are expensive.

  • senxtee

    True, i detest the idea, that the ultimate english boot is now made in asia. if I buy an item of brand like dr. martens, I buy it for the quality, the history and the identity of the product. both have just vansished for the sake of more profit. I personally boycott all those developments, and really: who is going to buy chinese porcelain made in turkey? nobody does, but consumers obviously don’t care enough when it comes to clothing and shoes…

  • alisa Lingua

    Hello,
    I just wanted to say I think it is a travesty that doc martins have moved to china, I had an original pair in high school as well and wore them to their grave, I don’t know what happened to them, I faintly remember tossing them due to the fact that my feet would be wet after a day out wearing them from a large crack in the sole and various other holes along the sides, I am now 30 and in search for a 14 hole black leather women’s size 6, am I to switch my beloved brand? Honestly, the way I feel about out -sourcing in America is equivilent to the way I feel about the war- abominable. With that said, I think I will swith to jungle boots.

  • justin-n

    i just bought my first pair of docs a couple days ago.my brother had a couple pairs in high school in the 90s.i have the 1460 8 eyes there still not broken in yet but i can tell there going to last.i agree there really hard to find.

  • Dave Attila

    Docs made in China are about 30% cheaper in the stores, but little short of junk compared to when they were made in England…which would last me 5 years (the soles would be the first things to wear out!) and the ones made in China have started to fall apart from the inside after 6 months -which is about how long they took to break in!
    **It seems quite obvious that they have reduced the quality of the materials, as well.

  • Shawn

    Dr Marten has reopened the original factory and are now making the classics under the Vintage moniker. Ordered a pair online and just put them on. Perfect!

  • Greek85

    Just found out that some Docs are now being made in England again. Bought two pair today at Zappos.com. Only the “Vintage” collection is made in England now. Bought my last pair in 2002 when they were still made in England and haven’t bought any since they were made in China. Big mistake on their part and put me into a depression when they moved to China. “Made in England” is an integral part of the brand for me, no matter how much more they may cost. Actually, paid $110 in 1990 and just paid $130 today in 2009, $20 in 20 years is not too bad for inflation. I have a love affair with these shoes that won’t die, they’re so handsome and have such a history to them. I rarely wear other shoes. Thank god they finally saw the light and moved some back to the UK. Hoorah!

  • Fred

    Wow. I’m 8 years older than my sister. I graduated from HS in 1987. She got a pair of doc martens when she was in high school (probably 1992 or somewhere thereabouts). They were the black boots. I said they were stupid looking (I was much more conservative than her). However, I noticed while I was in law school, more and more people were wearing them, so broke down and bought a pair of the greasy black padded shoes. Best pair of shoes I ever owned. This was probably 1995 or thereabouts. I began practicing law in 1996, and have bought probably a pair a year for the last 15 years. I usually alternate between the greasy black, and the crazy horse (basically one brown shoe, and one black). I’ve worn them in front of countless judges, and are what I wear to work pretty much, every day. However, I went to purchase a pair this week, online, and noticed that they don’t make the sole they used to have. Only then did I discover this blog, and that they were now made in china. This explains why my last several pairs didn’t seem to last as long as the ones I bought in the late 90’s. DM needs to get back to making ALL of them in england. Especially my crazy horse and greasy blacks.

  • Andrew

    I recently dug out a pair of beat up docs i must have had since 1998 that are a bit torn up. i forgot how incredibly comfortable they are. i’ve even been wearing them around, even though half the leather is rubbed of the toes. i hear that they aren’t making them up to the same level of quality anymore. that’s a shame.

  • Sue

    I have had my doc martens for 18 years. They have gone through everything with me. Have bought the one’s made in China and after a year threw them away. Are the ones made in England now as good as the original, original ones? Is there a source for the original original ones? Hope someone reads this blog. I want my doc martens!!!!!!!!

  • Nick

    I got a pair in 2000 while my wife and I were still dating and wore them every day for at least two years. I still wear them to this day, but mostly in the winter time or when I’m working outside in the fall and spring. I’ve found that I can rinse them off and put a little conditioner on them and they still look great. I’ve since gotten another pair in a lighter brown. I cant complain about them. However I’m a bit upset to find out that they are now made in China. I wear Danners at work and am pretty happy with them. I hate to say it but the next pair of boots I get will no longer be Docs. I’ll be switching to Danners which are made in the US and can be re-soled (which is the thing that wears out the fastest for me) as long as you get a pair that is made to be re-soled.

  • Fiza

    My love affair with Dr Mart started when I was in high school. That was 1990-93. My gf was always wearing hers with her dress. I couldn’t afford mine then. In 1996, I fell in love with mine which was love at first sight and with my first pay as a part-timer. I wore it once and the buckle came off and I was separated from it for a month to get it sent back to the Uk to be fixed. And when it came back, it was on my feet everytime, rain or shine. And mom was always asking me why I would wear such heavy shoes. But Dr Mart was my best friend. Always. Till he grew old and looked so old that I had to stop wearing them. Then, I got my second pair a few years later. But it was never the same chemistry. The love wasnt eternal. They were made in Phillipines… sob.. sob..

  • MagikoZari

    hi there

    i bought a pair of Dr martens 1490 10 eyelet black vintage 2 weeks ago

    they are very hard to break in even i polish them and wax them every 3-4 days

    they are not very comfortable but i hope soon to be!

  • Fiza

    Hi there, does Zappos sell Dr Marts Made in England? I got one Made in England. I’m just waiting for the pair to get more accustomed to my feet. It sure feels different having Docs on my feet. Or am I just hallucinating? ha ha ha..

  • Yong, MY

    I read all the comments and cant help feeling the same. Recent made in Thailand or China Doc Marts wont last long. I had a pair of 1460 crazy horse, bought it in 1995 and still wearing them. Luv my boots, best shoe I’d ever had.

  • Eric

    For those looking for english made quality try Solovair… which used to produce Dr Martens back in the day. I have bought a few pairs after DMs took it to China/Thailand and find them to be of that same well known DM quality. You can tell by the sole.

    BTW I have recently purchased the DM 50th anniversary 8 hole oxblood… very nice, well made in England.

  • Daniel

    I have heard good things about docs and my girlfriend told me that if I wanted boots that lasted I should go with them. Sad to say I was very disappointed. They cost about double what I normally pay for boots and wore out faster then even the cheapest boots I have ever bought. 2 months after I got them they were falling apart and unwearable at the 3 month mark. Yes they were Made in China.

  • pat

    I just bought a pair of made in England Docs at the thrift store in my home town. I work in the mens lockeroom at a golf club. I mink oiled them, polished them, and buffed them out on a machine. They look brand new!how lucky can you get.

  • Lilie

    I’m 21 and just bought my first pair a few weeks ago. None of my other shoes seem to please me anymore!! It’s a real bummer that they’re no longer made in England or the same way… I got them in SoHo in New York City so dunno if that makes them mre legit.. It’s the only sore in the state. My Docs are purple. Breaking them in was a bxtch though. Now that they fit perfectly, I wear them every day! I am in love with them, and always will be.

  • Sturdaddy

    I bought my first pair of Docs in 1998 while a freshman in college. I had to buy a second pair in 1999 after someone stole my first ones :( I still wear my Docs to this day. I can’t believe how well they’ve treated me over these 12 years. I’ve had to replace the insoles multiple times, but the outsides still look great. Docs used to be the best bang for your buck when it came to shoes. Now I’m in the market for new boots and would like to get some Docs, but am apprehensive about the Made in Asia aspect. I’d hate to spend the money to get boots that don’t compare to the Docs I’m used to.

  • Eric Layne

    Such a huge disappointment that Docs are now made in Asia, yet cost the same as when they were made in England. I bought a pair of DM work shoes in 2010 and the QUALITY IS COMPLETELY SHODDY. So to the greedy arsewipes who made the decision to move manufacturing to Asia, I would like to say “Screw you and your piece-of-shite shoe!”

  • JC

    What are the model of the DM’s in this article? Are those 1461’s?

  • bob

    stupid

  • Weldpuddle

    Are the china ones that bad? I mean they seem pretty confirtable, I was in the same boat as you all, but tonight I broke down and bought the doc marten pier boots, I love the look and after trying them out they are very comfy… I mean only time will tell but they seem well made, and I do believe they can be re-soled by a professional if and when the time comes?

    I was going to by some solovairs (original docs) but I really like the look of the pier boot. Sort of old fashion/newish military boot. :-)