WORDS: AMY ALBINSON
‘Music is the lifeblood of DM’s,’ explains Darren, brand manager of iconic shoe brand Dr Martens. Originally manufactured as a boot for the working class, made with quality and durability in mind, the shoes spiralled into completely new territory as they became a staple within youth culture.
In 1967 The Who’s Pete Townshend donned a pair, as a symbol of pride in his own working class roots, and ever since the brand have rocketed. Picked up by Skinheads who sanded down the leather to reveal the steel toecaps, the subculture lashed out at the ‘peace and love’ ethos of the earlier 60s solidifying the shoes as a statement of non-conformist attitudes, rebellion and a celebration of the working class.
With a defiant need for self-expression, the brand became a firm favourite amongst the likes of The Clash and Madness, finding a home amongst the punk, two-tone and grunge scenes of the following decades. ‘I feel music and fashion both appeal to individuals on an emotion level,’ Darren explains, his own passion for music and the brand clear. ‘[There’s] the opportunity to make your pair reflect each person’s emotional need to be different and stand for something…painting florals, laces being tied differently, listening to grunge music or Manga Saint Hilare… the list is endless.’
Having opened their own venue in Easter of last year, or more specifically converting their flagship Camden store, The Boot Room, into one at night, it’s self-evident that Dr Martens’ energy revolves around the music and artists that have solidified them as one of the most recognisable British brands of the last sixty years.
Using the space for DJ workshops and more recently an exhibition of artwork, the brand is supporting more than just the established acts which at a grassroots level could not be more important. Between sponsoring music festivals around the world, hosting in-store gigs and offering exposure to up and coming artists through their partnership with music charity Strummerville, the brand are increasing their involvement as active participants in the music scenes that have so widely accepted them. In their designs they have balanced the old and the new with the brand remixing their classic 1460 boot in June of last year with album artwork from both Joy Division and New Order.
More recently they hosted a show, at The Boot Room, in which they gave away a boot painted by Jimmy Wizard of high-energy, hardcore quintet Higher Power.
Asides from music, what is impressive about the brand is how they have combatted the ever-changing nature of popular culture. ‘Classics are classics for a reason, they are trend adverse and provide something more than a look,’ Darren explains, ‘for us, durability and comfort are key traits that we consider in all we do’.
Guarding the brand’s DNA has been at the forefront of their design process as they refuse to chase trends, instead creating their own innovations. It is this DNA that has been vital to the company’s success as Darren continues ‘be it Punks, Goths, Grunge Kids, they all brought the brand into their world’.
On their consistent popularity, he notes a change in the fashion-world, explaining ‘consumers nowadays have a vast choice for their wardrobes and are becoming more conscious of the price/value relationships, so adopt brands they can trust and brands who can be with them beyond one season. I think this has allowed Dr. Martens to maintain its relevance across 6 decades’.
With the classic yellow stitching and recognisable silhouette, the brand has proven its versatility as their boots can be seen anywhere from hardcore gigs to weddings. ‘Our wearers choose DM’s not just for aesthetic reasons,’ Darren muses, ‘but because our footwear empowers people and gives them a feeling of rebellious attitude and self-expression’.
Although it has been decades since the first pair of Dr Martens boots rolled off the production line, the process has hardly changed. ‘Dr. Martens are quite literally made like no other shoe on earth,’ Darren exclaims, ‘It is an honest practice born of pure innovation. That’s why we use the same machines to create every pair of Dr. Martens, wherever in the world that may be.’
With such clear authenticity the brand’s continued popularity is showing no signs of stopping. ‘Whether you go back 10, 20 or even 50 years the same boot could be worn and be as relevant then as it could now or in the next 60 years’ he smiles. ‘ Ultimately, we just make the footwear; the consumer does the rest’.