The History of Dr Martens

Fashions tend to come and go and to be adapted for a new era but there is one iconic brand which has produced a style that has remained current and undeniably cool across more than 5 decades. Dr Martens first hit the UK market in 1960. There have been numerous different styles produced across the years but the original designs are still popular and are sold relatively unchanged today.

Early Days

The Griggs family of Northampton had been making boots for over 50 years when, in the late 1950’s, they found an advert in a trade publication which piqued their interest. The German Duo of Dr Märtens and Dr Franck had produced an innovative air cushioned sole and marketed practical boots for working men. The invention of the new soles arrived as a result of a foot injury to Märtens, sustained whilst skiing. His military boots subsequently became uncomfortable to wear so he put his design skills to the test. Whilst the new boots had met with some success in Germany the duo were now looking for a partner to develop the product for the overseas market. The Griggs family stepped into the breach, made some small modifications and changed the name to Martens and a legend was born.



The boots were initially sold as durable and comfortable footwear for industrial workers but everything changed for Dr Martens when the cultural landscape of the country underwent a revolution. Until the 1950’s there had been no recognisable youth culture in Britain and fashion trends had changed slowly over the years. The Two World Wars had seen years of austerity and millions of young men sent to fight for their country. The nation was struggling to survive and there was no place for frivolity and rebellion but the post wars years were very different. The mood had lightened, people were celebrating freedom and for the first time young people were striving to be different from their parent’s generation. With rock and roll came the first major youth culture and by the dawn of the sixties young music fans were heavily influenced by the images of their heroes. This is how Dr Martens got a massive break.


Pete Townsend

Rock star and member of legendary group the Who, Pete Townsend, was disillusioned with the stage fashions of his contemporaries and wanted to create a utilitarian look that clearly aligned him with the working classes. He wore a pair of Dr Martens on stage and there was soon a clamour for the boots which were then adopted by the Skinhead movement and subsequent youth cultures from Punk to Brit Pop. The boots were an integral element of the cultural uniforms of movements spanning 50 years and the footwear remained totally cool and undeniably rebellious whilst changing little in style.


After nearly 50 years of continued success the fortunes of the brand began to decline in the noughties, possible as a result of there being few definable youth cultures. The company’s sales had dropped by a massive 75%, but in recent years the boots have returned to favour and Dr Martens are firmly back on the fashion map. Has there ever been an item of fashion which has endured and prevailed like these iconic boots?

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Article by Sally Stacey a keen writer and a fan of Punk

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