dr martens black boots Doc Martens Go From Mtv To The Malls
He was recovering from a skiing mishap and wanted a therapeutic shoe he could walk on without pain. An admirable goal, but not exactly hip.
Today, after a 30 year market history, the clunky looking boots once worn mostly by mailmen and factory workers in Europe are gracing the feet of young Americans in ripped jeans and XXX large sweatshirts.
Doc Martens have been a clandestinely cool fashion accessory in the United States for more than a decade, but now they seem to be making a bid for mainstream acceptance.
“In our fall flier, we have a whole page of Doc Martens. We did a lot of the grunge look in our flier,” said Michael Zibel, vice president of marketing for the Meriden based Bob’s Stores. “We think this fall will be the biggest season ever for Doc Martens.”
The basic Doc Martens look like they inspired the guy who penned the phrase “Your mother wears army boots”: black, shiny and with extra thick soles. The boot comes in several colors for women, and the company even makes a tasseled loafer.
Most shoe sellers will tell you it’s a very average looking boot, rugged and plain. But Zibel and others say young people have made Doc Martens a staple of the so called grunge look, which is kind of an anti fashion fashion trend.
The look includes shorts so baggy, the crotch touches the ground; sweatshirts and T shirts layered so thick, not even Bounty is a quicker picker upper; and beat up flannel shirts with more pills than your neighborhood druggist.
Zibel and other retailers said the boots gained a new popularity in America about two years ago, after a few celebrities
were seen sporting them on magazine covers and television.
“If the kids see somebody wearing something on MTV, the next week they’re asking for it,” Zibel said.
Madonna has worn them. Ted Gardner, the producer of this year’s Lollapalooza concert/pop culture tour, was quoted in The New York Times recently as saying, “Kilts for men, T shirts and Doc Marten boots are still happening.” The boots have also become an item ripe for customization, with key chains, toys, etc. hung from the straps.
Some people even use Doc Martens as a generic term meaning any boot, and the brand is now available, gasp, in shopping malls.
At about $110 a pair, Doc Martens boots are among the pricier items available at Bob’s Stores. But they are also sold at places that stock $500 Italian crocodile shoes, such as Bottega Giuliana on Pratt Street.
“They’re the most consistent seller we have. We never put them on sale,” said Daniella Galati, a salesperson at the store. “We started carrying them on order, because people were asking for them. Now we stock them.”
Galati said the Doc Martens are not just trendy, they’re also sought by people who want well made shoes that will “last forever.” But she says it’s the young and trendy who buy the bulk of the boots.
“When you wear Doc Martens, people look at you and know you paid $120 for work boots,” says James Walker, 17, of Windsor, who works at The Wild Pair shoe store in Westfarms mall on the West Hartford Farmington line. James, we’ll buy that, but is there another reason you decided to buy them?
“All my friends wear them,” Walker said.
Walker says he can wear his Doc Martens with shorts, jeans, or his work clothes. The store carries Doc Martens, but they sell so well, Walker says, he doesn’t get a discount on them.
“People are always coming in and asking if we have the newest style, if we have the 13 eyelet boot,” Walker said. “People always want something new.”
Doc Martens are not new. More than 50 million have been sold since the British manufacturer R. Griggs Group Ltd. began mass producing the boots in 1960 as “Dr. Martens.”
The company ships the brand to more than 22 countries via AirWare Ltd., its distribution division, and has annual sales of $187 million.
Dr. Maertens developed the shoes with a sealed, air filled cavity in the sole. Originally the shoes were marketed for people with foot problems and workers who were on their feet all day.
Though they are popular today, some shoe sellers think the popularity is waning.
“They were big at Christmas, but sales are going down now,” said Saurabh Bhatt, manager of Track ‘n Trail at Westfarms. “The boots are very well made, so they’ll probably outlast the fad.”