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Doc Martens 50 Years Old

from The LA Times

Dr. Martens: The doctor is still in

The iconic footwear favored by punks and postal workers alike has had a long and storied life. The company is celebrating its 50th anniversary with some limited-edition 1460s and 1461s.

Cinderella’s fragile glass slipper and rugged Dr. Martens boots appear to have nothing in common. But you’d be surprised. That storied maiden slipped into her perfect fit and lived happily ever after. Millions have laced up their first pair of DM boots and, seemingly, lived just as happily, sticking with the footwear for decades. The brand marked its 50th anniversary last week and is still drawing fans from around the world.

Not many shoes appeal to such a range of people. Mail carriers, rock stars, skinheads, rebels and conformists are among the avid converts to Doc Martens.

The official anniversary was April 1, but this iconic footwear (it even appears in the Oxford English Dictionary) has roots more than a century old. In 1901, Benjamin Griggs and Septimus Jones set up a boot business in England, and 10 years later, Benjamin brought in his son Reginald to form R. Griggs & Co. Flash forward to 1945 Germany. Dr. Klaus Maertens has invented an air-cushioned sole. On leave during World War II, Maertens injures his ankle skiing. His army-issued boots are torture, so he designs a pair with finer leather and air-cushioned soles. The footwear doesn’t earn Maertens a reichsmark — until he teams up with Dr. Herbert Funck in 1947. Using abandoned rubber from Luftwaffe airfields, they create the perfect sole.

Maertens and Funck, now running a successful factory in Munich, are keen to sell internationally. Coincidentally, Bill Griggs of the Griggs company has heard of their magic soles. He calls the doctors to see whether he can manufacture them for his company in England. Getting an enthusiastic “ja,” Griggs designs different footwear uppers for the German air-cushions. He conceives the eight-eyelet boot, introduces yellow welt stitching and a two-toned, grooved edge. The famous black and yellow heel loop is added. Anglicizing the name, Griggs now has Dr. Martens footwear ready to soothe weary British soles.

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Posted on April 15, 2010 by Editor

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