Teenage Kicks | Cultural Approach to Dr Martens

Today I attended the very interesting key note lecture held by Cath Davies about Dr Martin boots. She discussed how different subcultures wore the same boots but in very different ways using modification to remake and remodel them into their own subculture identities.

Looking back to the 1970s, Dr Martin boots were symbolic to the Skinheads. The boots were seen as a blank canvas, the Skinheads would customize their boots with motifs. Things like
– Replacing the black laces to different coloured ones.
– Laces tided in a certain way (usual around the top of the boot)
– They wore were mainly 14 hole Docs, so longer than the standard size.
– Usually wore white socks with their jeans rolled up to advertise the boots.
These modifications were things you would only know if you were part of the gang, making it obvious to other that they had remade them to This was a typical characteristic look of the skinheads. This gave the boots new meanings and differentiating them from how other non skinheads would wear them.

The film “This is England” is a perfect representation of the skinhead style and how they modified their  Doc Marten boots to symbolize their own subculture identity.


The punk subculture originates from the late 70’s / early 80’s and Doc Marten were a massive statement of identity. Like the skinheads the would see the classic black boots as a opportunity to customize them. Modifying Docs was important to punks as they used them to show originality, by modifying them in a way that is not seen as fashionable or wearable for others is “anti-fashion” and definitely unique to the goth subculture.
– metal studs / spikes.
– safety pins / plasters.
– graffiti to express and define music taste.
(band logos)

O R I G I N A L | 1 9 8 0 ‘ s

C U R R E N T | D A Y 

When Doc Marten originally started they only came in two colours, Oxblood red and Black. 21st Century Docs can be sold and bought customized, this was something mods, punks and skinheads would have modify themselves.

Because of the subculture styles, Docs were almost always related with “gangs”. This was unfortunate for people who used that boots for working purposes, the boots were created for work and smart wear. Public services and other working class people would sometimes used black polish or paint to cover up the yellow stitching that rubs around the outside sole of the boots. This way they could not be showing any signs of modification like the subcultures would.


Published by


BA textiles - Cardiff School of Art and Design

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s