Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The 1460 Originals Are Classic In Black

If there ever was a shoe that has had the occasion to become a victim of its own success, it's Dr. Martens. What started as a smoldering success among an early British skinhead subculture (pre-fascist) that grew in contrast to the hippies of the 1960s, became a ruggedly rebellious symbol of hard rock.

Ever since Pete Townshend donned a pair of black 1460s to offset The Who from what had become an era of dandy psychedelia, the boot has become an icon of individualism among skins, punks, hardcore, straight edge, goth, grunge, and every emergent musical culture with an attitude since. So much so, its success sometimes wavers as subculture posers pick up a pair and popularize them.

When that happens, whatever subculture embraces the boot inevitability slips them back in the closet until the temporary en masse fashion fervor dies down. And there they sit, unpolished and scuffed, until the next wave of change angst causes an always needed counterculture class.

The best time to buy Dr. Martens is when nobody else does. 

Maybe the time is right for the timelessness of a restart. Dr. Martens has been rolling out a reinforced 1460 classic again. The leather-upper, brutish rubber outsole is making another run for both men and women.

While the Airwair heel, compound (oil, fat, acid petrol, and alkali) resistant tread, and brilliant yellow stitch remains the same, there are a few stylistic variations being added to these timeless boots. Notably, men's colors come in black, black patent, cherry, navy, or adorned with the Union Jack; women's colors come in black, green, red, purple, and white. There are also floral patterns for women that are just pretty enough to be feminine but ugly enough to be cool.

Black is easily the favorite, with my personal preference leaning toward flat (not patent), but the cherry is still favored on the Britpop scene in the U.K. and the Union Jack adds a boldness that is hard to resist, even if it does limit the number of places you might wear them. Either way, it's good to see Dr. Martens putting the focus back on classics.

Before ever ordering a pair, there are a few things to know about Dr. Martens. Wear them as much as possible for the first two to three weeks to break them for your feet. They don't become comfortable until you do. They're also more durable and heavier than most, and I wouldn't wear them hiking.

Second and more importantly, Dr. Martens boots and shoes are sold in U.K. sizes. Make sure you convert them if you live in the U.S. It's not a bad idea to try on a pair, given the conversions tend to run between U.S. sizes (e.g., a women's size 4 is a U.S. 6 to 6.5 and a men's size 9 is a U.S. 10 to 10.5).

The 1460 is the classic, but other styles stand out too. 

As Dr. Martens grew up so did its diversity. Although still considered a classic, the 1461 provides a dressier look without the boot shaft. For men, the same look is achieved under the padded collar moniker. Those are my first choices when a boot doesn't work.

But for something different, women might take a look at the subtle silhouette of the Joylyn Desert Boot. Built around the stylings of the chukka, the low shaft boot is made with a supple, textured broadway leather, making the boot feel lighter, more comfortable and a little more understated.

For men, the Jasper and Alfie boots provide a lightweight alternative to the 1460 classic (or padded color shoe), but it's the urban cut Callum that carries a unique take on the timeless techniques at Dr. Martens. The upper is made from canvas, not leather. In terms of comfort, it can rival Vans.

A crazy bit of Dr. Martens history on the quick. 

Dr. Martens
The Griggs family that founded Dr. Martens had been making boots in Northampton, United Kingdom, since 1901. It was Bill Griggs who caught an advertisement for a German design team that was looking for partners to produce its air-cushioned soles. The duo, consisting of Dr. Maertens and Dr. Funck, was two freethinkers who came up with the concept after Dr. Maertens injured his foot in a skiing accident.

Naturally, with World War II still fresh in the minds of Britons, a German name wouldn't have caught on as quick. So the three of them, Griggs, Maertens, and Funck decided to anglicize the name. With the Maertens and Funck sole and the Griggs family watershed silhouette, the timelessness of Dr. Martens was unknowingly assured, fading in and out of history for generations.

The 1460 By Dr. Martens Scuffs Up 9.6 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

There are always two kinds of people who tend to gravitate to the classic cut, but it's not very hard to tell them apart. Dr. Martens is a natural fit for the individualistic, rugged countercultures that emerge any time society begins to get a little too soft. And then there are the poseurs, folks who will line up for anything they think is the next trend.

How do you tell the difference? Anyone made to wear a pair Dr. Martens keeps them forever, wearing them most often when everyone else has moved onto to something else. You can find the full line of Dr. Martens at Planet Shoes. Amazon also carries the Dr. Martens 1460 Originals for men and the Dr. Martens Women's 1460 Re-Invented Victorian Print Lace for women.
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