24 Jan 2011

Fashion Review - Doc Martens

My best shoe purchase of all times is likely to be shunned by fashionistas and shoe-fetish bloggers out there. I would be pleasantly surprised to find out that the fashion pack's all-time favourites include amongst their ultra-feminine Louboutins, sparkling Ginas and sky-high Manolos a pair of hard-wearing, no-nonsense, sensible, masculine flat laced leather shoes by Dr. Martens.

I am a DM convert and believe that everyone - men or women - should own a pair of DMs. Not just for fit and comfort purposes (although that alone would make you an orthopedist's best friend), but also for a certain alternative punkside street-cred and its tame side of rebellion.

I remember my DM purchase like it was yesterday, certainly it left an impression on me like a lifestage moment, an initiation rite almost. I bought my shoes back in 1992, in Manchester, not even from an off-the-beaten track indie shop down Manchester's bohemian Northern Quarter as would be expected, but from a rather sedate middle-of-the-road high-street shoe retail chain called Dolcis. The shop was on Market Street, Manchester city centre's busiest shopping street, albeit not the prettiest nor trendiest, considering that one side of the street is entirely devoted to a 1970s architectural carbuncle called the Arndale Centre.

I bought my DMs for £32.00, an average price at the time. Amazing how I remember such details, but as I mentioned earlier, it was a special moment, the act of purchase had been researched and rehearsed in my head a few times before finalising my decision (this was no random purchase, that's for sure). I could have chosen my shoes in an incognito colour like black, but that wouldn't be the point. In buying DMs, the point is to make a lifestyle statement, and be conspicuous about it. So I chose them in the brash colour purple, and instantly I got noticed, by friends or random strangers commenting on them, always appreciatively.

With my DMs on I broke some fashion rules and Trinny & Susannah or Gok's seal of approval, but did I care? I wore my DMs with a floral dress or a short skirt, with lacy tights, not just with a pair of jeans or combats. I felt feminine wearing them, alluring and in control at the same time.

My DMs went all the way with me: from art college to museum visits, from the working week down to wedding parties; from trekking to travelling, from driving to clubbing, from metal gigs to muddy music festivals, from paint-balling to gardening, from DIYing to dog walking, from formal to the more casual activities, round the year, round the clock, in all weather conditions, and I never even got a blister wearing them, bliss!

I looked after them religiously for years, polishing them, nourishing the leather, wiping the soles and replacing the laces. They were the most hard-wearing shoes I'd ever owned, with that patented fat- and oil-resistant bouncy air-cushioned sole that cushions your feet and admirably shields them from the cold, complemented by that high-quality thick smooth shiny leather, and legendary stitch! They were still proudly manufactured in England when I got mine (most of the production lines have since sadly shifted overseas).

These shoes were regal and I simply can't fault them. They are also a part of me, of my personal history. I have literally walked hundreds of miles since I've had them. Now at 19 years old, they look rather sorry for themselves, like their better days are firmly behind them, and they are entering their decommissioning phase. One of the shoes is no longer waterproof, due to the natural wear and tear, with the natural creasing of the leather over years of foot movement when walking (or running!) giving way to a crack. But come on, we are talking about 19-year-old shoes still in use today, that have been extensively worn, not always in the best conditions (think muddy fields or that frequent Mancunian rain, for instance!). Having said that, the sole is still amazingly preserved.

My Doc Martens embody British craftsmanship at its best. Youth movements, media personalities and rock stars have worn them (or still wear them now), and I'd personally rate them over Converse any time for that iconic status and edgy street-cred. Plus the fact that they do last the distance!

DM Boot Design: click on image for higher res view
I don't think I'll ever part from my DMs. It would feel like throwing a personal diary away. They're one big mnemonic testimony of my life, of the great times and other times from my past 19 years.

The + sides: durability, craftsmanship, classic unisex cut, comfort, price, all backed by a lifetime guarantee
The - sides: only a limited range is still UK-manufactured; some might say that the brand has lost some of its panache, despite innovative initiatives like the DM Boot Design (see above picture).

The 3-eye shoe model I wear is reference 1461 (a 1960 core original). Although no longer available in plain purple (polished finish) in the U.K, its closest colour contender today is either (U.S. only) the 'Purple Smooth' (pictured above, $95.00), or the 'Grey QQ Dot' in purple (still on the spec sheet but no longer available to purchase).

An alternative style contender (U.S. + U.K.) is the 'Cherry Red Smooth' as pictured at the start of this post, retailing at £65.00 from Dr. Martens official online U.K. store (or $95.00 from the official online U.S. store).

1 comment:

  1. Ah, you got my attention with street cred. Me with street cred! - that's so hard to fathom that I might have to buy a pair.
    Actually, I just walked by a shop today that seems to specialize in DMs. I was surprised at how they have changed.