Sticking the boot into skinheads: reclaiming Doc Martens

By Mannikaran Singh

In the 1960s Doc Martens were born, and as their legacy began they brought an unexpected change to society with new ideas, cultural changes and large social movements. Shortly after their release in the 1970s, people from various subcultures started expressing themselves through the traditional work boots. People would use different styles of the classic boot to express their personalities.

For example, the early Goths of the British youth would wear the 1460 eight-eye boot, a lace-up, robust leather boot reaching just above the ankle which comes in a variety of colours (but most commonly in black).

Another subculture that adapted Doc Martens into their dress code as ways of expressing themselves are a group called the Skinheads who originated amongst the working-class in 1960s London.

In the beginning skinheads were not exclusive and accepted different ethnicities such as Jamaican people of the working class in London. Skinheads were hellbent on one thing which was being proud of their upbringing showing off their working-class qualities. This is the main reason they used Doc Martens as a way of expressing themselves as, in the 1960s when Doc Martens emerged, they were one of the most affordable boots made for the working-class costing £2.

Shortly after the subculture emerged they were highly influenced by radical right-wing politics and were immersed in the idea of open racism and exclusively holding British values. This is an example of how the working-class politics influenced people into profiling others.

So what does it mean for me to wear Doc Martens:

As I am part of British society and an ethnic minority with different norms and values to most, the feeling I get from wearing Doc Martens is empowering as it gives me a feeling of unity with others from our society and a sense of feeling welcome.

This feeling is shared across the world after overcoming right-wing groups such as the skinheads and doc martens are now seen as a fashion statement rather than being used for their original purposes.


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