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Dr. Martens Turns 50, Rocks Out

Posted by Abe Sauer on March 31, 2010 06:43 PM

Sure, the occasion may happen to occur on April 1, but this is not a joke. The Dr. Martens brand is 50 years old.

To commemorate its half-century mark, the Dr. Martens brand is doing something a little old school. Literally old school. On April 1, the brand's flagship store in London's Covent Garden will sell several colors of its iconic "1460" model, eight-eyelet boots, for just... £14.60.  The 1460s were first boot style sold by the brand in 1960.

To some, Dr. Martens' age may appear to be a liability in the fashion industry. This is especially true of a brand that seems to do very little to change with the times. Others however will recognize Dr. Martens' stubborn approach to its image the exact characteristic that has made it iconic and ageless. Yet, the challenge the brand faces is one of its own success.

Instantly identifiable by the yellow stitching along the sole, Dr. Martens were born of necessity. Klaus Märtens, a WWII German army doctor, added air-padded soles and softer material to his standard issue boots. While the brand counts 1960 as its birthday, "Dr. Märtens" shoes were sold and popularized in Germany through the 1950s. The 1960 date marks the first time the brand's boots were sold in the U.K. By the 1970s, after a road-bump where the brand was identified with the neo-Nazi movement, Dr. Martens became the footwear of the punk rock scene. The brand's image has never changed."

This strict tie to the "punk" aesthetic has not always been a boon for the brand. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, with the punk style on the wane, the brand closed up shop in the U.K. altogether. But with punk fashions again on the rise, the Dr. Martens brand is seeing a resurgence, and a reopening of production in the U.K.

The style that guarantees Dr. Marten's brand success, like any style, rises and falls; but to distance itself from that style would be to distance itself from the very core strengths of its brand. Like many 50 year olds, the brand finds itself trapped in a bit of a paradoxical quandary between who it is and who it was, and may want to be.

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