Dr Martens and the Swiss watchmakers

3 01 2012

I remember reading somewhere that during the second world war the watchmakers of Switzerland made a tidy profit by selling wrist watches to both the British and the Germans. Same watch, but presumably not with the modern style multi-lingual instruction pamphlet. I bet the guy on the help desk had a fun time. Maybe he hedged his bets and answered in Swedish until the caller made their nationality known.

Of course that might be a false memory because it just feels like it SHOULD be true. Or maybe I saw it on TV. Or the back of a matchbox. Or a beer mat. No matter…

This posting is about the boot and shoe brand: Dr Martens. Ironically, Herr Doktor was one Klaus Märtens (a real doctor) who began manufacturing the boots in Germany once he was demobbed from the army. He allegedly began by using stolen leather from a cobblers he looted, and made the soles from rubber scavenged from decommissioned Luftwaffe airfields. By 1959, sales were so good that he took the design to the international market. R. Griggs Group Ltd. bought rights to manufacture the boots in the United Kingdom. Griggs tweaked the name to Martens, added the trademark yellow stitching, and created the name AirWair for the soles. The classic “style 1460” as seen below made its debut on April Fool’s day 1960 and is still going strong.

Dr Martens 1460 BLACK SMOOTH.

Classic Style 1460 DMs

Classic Style 1460 DMs

Because of their comfortable air-cushioned soles they were a quick success with people who spent a lot of time on their feet – like policemen. I distinctly remember my father lovingly polishing his DMs every morning before he began his daily beat as the local village bobby.

By the 1970s though skinheads, punk rockers and other anti-establishment types were creating another potential market for the Doc. What to do? Obvious… cherry red and a few more holes!

Cherry Red 14-hole DMs

Cherry Red 14-hole DMs

In 2003 production left the UK for China and Thailand, but in 2007 the “Vintage” line returned to Northampton in the UK for manufacture. There are now a whole selection of shoes, boots, scarves… all manner of things. For the rabidly nationalistic, there’s Union Jack toed boots:

UJ toed DMs

UJ toed DMs

And for the ex-punk now turned mature geek (and wearing a tie and collar over the “cut here” neck tattoo), there’s a DM USB thumb drive too:

Doc Martens USB thumbdrive

Doc Martens USB thumbdrive

What you lookin’ at?

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