A transversal icon that has crossed 60 years of history while maintaining its essence intact, which over time has been enriched, consolidated and entered by right into the collective imagination. Dr. Martens has become a symbol that has penetrated the social fabric starting from an intrinsic link with the British working class and then become a representation of expression and individuality thanks to musicians, free thinkers and sub-cultures around the world who have worn the brand enhancing it and making it unique in the world of footwear.
However, if there is one model that best represents this incredible journey, it is the iconic 1460 boot.
But to tell the genesis of this timeless must-have, we have to go back in time to 1901 and go to Wollaston in Northamptonshire, a county in central England in the East Midlands region, where Benjamin Griggs and Septimus Jones founded a company that manufactured boots.
The partnership between the two went on for about a decade, and once it was over, both continued to manufacture footwear locally.
More precisely Benjamin and his son Reginald gave life to R. Griggs & Co. Ltd becoming in all respects the heart of the English footwear industry producing very robust and durable work boots.
At this point in the story, we are around 1945, we have to move momentarily to Germany, to Munich, where a 25-year-old soldier, Dr. Klaus Maertens, while recovering from a broken foot after WWII, invented an air-cushioned sole for his boots. He made a prototype of a shoe fitted with the new cushion and presented it to an old college friend, mechanical engineer Herbert Funck, who was enthusiastic about it.
The two went into partnership using now disused military supplies as raw materials, and in 1947 they began production that led them in ten years to set up an important business based mostly on the sale of boots for mostly elderly women.
Let’s now go back to England and go forward to 1960. At that time the Griggs company was managed by the third generation of the family: Bill was at the head, followed by his brothers Ray and Colin and his son Max.
The turning point of the story arrived by chance, as it often happens.
Bill was reading a shoe magazine and his eye fell on an advertisement advertising an innovative air-cushioned sole, the very one made by Dr. Klaus Maertens and Herbert Funck.
Griggs acquired an exclusive license plus made a number of essential changes that still represent the unmistakable iconography of the Dr. Martens 1460 boot: the yellow stitching, the grooved edge of the two-tone sole, a unique sole pattern and a heel loop with ‘AirWair’ branding, all accompanied by the slogan “With Bouncing Soles”.
April 1, 1960 is the date of birth of this absolute icon that will remain forever imprinted thanks to the intuition of calling it 1460.
The 1960s coincided with a collective awareness that led to a series of decisive social changes that would radically alter the collective way of thinking.
The 1460 quickly became a symbol of rebellion and of the countercultures that were developing in that period, starting for example from the skinheads who made it their distinctive sign – to emphasize that at the time the skinhead culture was born and remained a social movement, multicultural and non-political and that included young people of the British working class.
The first real prominent personality to wear them publicly was the leader and guitarist of The Who, Pete Townshend, as a representation of his working-class pride and as an expression of rebellion.
In this way the boot 1460, from a simple work shoe, made the final leap into the global counter-culture becoming an emblem.
The ’70s defined even more the imagery and iconography of the boot thanks to all the subcultures that were born numerous, such as the first wave of glam, punk and two-tone that all had a common denominator: the 1460. Each new wave adopted it as a representative shoe, a distinctive sign of self-expression that came straight from the heart of British youth culture.
Real music icons of the time such as the Sex Pistols and The Clash made the boot an essential part of their aesthetic and consequently of that of the entire punk rock movement.
The 1980s marked the landing of 1460s in the United States thanks to American bands going to play in England and sensing and understanding its appeal and legacy. And in 1984 they began to be sold on the other side of the Atlantic as well.
In the following decade grunge dominated the American music scene: Eddie Vedder wore them during concerts and Marc Jacobs brought them on the catwalk with his iconic Spring/Summer 1993 show.
In 2000 the brand went through a period of decline, but thanks to a series of collaborations with top designers and brands – such as Raf Simons and Stüssy in 2009, Pendleton, Supreme, Bape, Off-White, NEIGHBORHOOD to get up to the present day – Dr. Martens has never lost its appeal. Martens has never lost its attractiveness and on the contrary, it constantly remains at the side of contemporary revolutionaries and rebels who still today fight and struggle to change what is not working in the world and who uphold those values that society today needs more than ever to be supported. In this way it continues to affirm and attest even more strongly its decisive aesthetic, cultural and social impact and its absolutely priceless legacy.