When the Dr. Martens boot first catapulted from a working-class essential to a counter-cultural icon back in the 1960s, the world was pre-internet, pre-MTV, pre-CD, pre-mp3s, pre-mobile phones... hey, they'd only just invented the teenager. In the years before the boot's birthday, 1st April, 1960, kids just looked like tribute acts to their parents, younger but the same. Rebellion was only just on the agenda for some - for most kids of the day, starved of music, fashion, art and choice, it was not even an option.
But then an unlikely union of two kindred spirits in distinctly different countries ignited a phenomenon.
In Munich, Germany, Dr Klaus Maertens had a garage full of inventions, including a shoe sole almost literally made of air; in Northampton, England, the Griggs family had a history of making quality footwear and their heads were full of ideas. They met, like a classic band audition, through an advert in the classified pages of a magazine. A marriage was born, an icon conceived of innovation and self-expression.
Together they took risks.
They jointly created a boot that defined comfort but was practical, hard-wearing and a design classic. At first, like some viral infection, the so-called 1460 stooped near to the ground, kept a low profile, a quiet revolution.
But then something incredible started to happen.
The postmen, factory workers and transport unions who had initially bought the boot by the thousand, were joined by rejects, outcasts and rebels from the fringes of society.
At first, it was the working-classes; before long it was the masses.
Skinheads were the first subculture to adopt the boot in the early 1960s, spilling out of the East End of London, then across Britain and the world; initially non-racist and obsessive about their fashion, by the time the skinhead movement was corrupted with elements of right-wing extremism, Dr Martens had already morphed into a torchbearer for a brave new world.
The late 1960s and 1970s saw the boot adopted by - not thrust upon - nearly all the 'tribes': Mods, glam, punks, ska, psychobillies, grebos, Goths, industrialists, nu-metal, hardcore, straight-edge, grunge, Britpop...
Then pop started to eat itself.
The internet spread like an epidemic, reaching fifty million users in eighteen months - a feat that took radio forty years. The first mobile phone text was sent in 1992; within three years, email was like oxygen. Everything had changed.
There were no tribes anymore. At least, "not like they used to make 'em."
You don't see one tribe fighting another anymore, a haircut does not define a person to four albums by three bands.
The tribe is down to one person.
A one-man army.
The personal revolution manifests itself in a million ways. So-called 'indie' and 'punk' record labels of the 1970s and 1980s were created to cut out the suits. They were called 'labels' because of the round adhesive label smack bang in the middle of the vinyl.
Now, you don't even need a label.
Record, mix, master and post on the web from your own empire.
Hit the charts from downloads alone.
There is no one left to cut out. It's all down to you.
Of course, just because we can all now 'create', doesn't mean we are all actually any good. But the cream floats to the top, whatever the mode of transport.
Same with Dr. Martens.
Decades have come and gone, brands have exploded and then imploded, but the 1460 is still there, unique, individual, original. Anti-fashion defined in eight holes.
What's seen as information overload to the older generation is just everyday surfing to the new generation. In one weekend edition of The New York Times, there is more information than a seventeenth century man was exposed to in his entire life. Dr. Martens haven't been around since the 1600s, but in terms of â€š'brands' that mean something, that last, that reinvent and evolve, they pre-date pretty much everything.
By the mid-1990s, Dr. Martens had festered in the minds of youth without a single penny of 'marketing spend', longer than the majority of global brands had even existed. There is no comparison. This is not a brand, it is a way of thinking, a mode of expression.
The problem with 'brands' is that they dictate. They might offer the must-have item of the
season, but they design it, shape it, form it and sell it. You have no say, other than handing over your money. Look at the word: 'brand'. That's what they do to cattle.
Create your own brand.
Dr. Martens have always been different. No other brand has been mutated, customised, fucked up and freaked out like DM's. Without asking or being able to stop it. It happened to them. They were just fascinated bystanders on a journey that has raced through every crevice of subculture, every twist and turn of youthful creativity and now, here, with a generation who have always had email, mp3s and downloads, it is as relevant and vibrant as ever.
Because although the tribes no longer stride through London or New York, although individuality is the music for the masses, although fashion is just another way of defining yourself, the Dr. Martens 'brand' has come full circle, it is a blank canvas on which a generation can paint their personality. You can wear your grunge shorts, your emo hair, your punk tatts, your metal piercings and your pride on your sleeve, all at the same time, there are no limits, no boundaries, no pigeon-holes to fit into.
To be creative sometimes you have to rebel.
To rebel you have to have something to rebel against.
Driving fast, drinking cheap beer and smashing windows isn't rebellion. The best form of rebellion is individualism. Thinking for yourself.
Information overload is the most fantastic element of modern life. You can have it all. You don't need to align yourself with one band, one tribe, one venue, one gig; you can share your console with a complete stranger twenty thousand miles away; you can post your demo on a site that has a greater population than most countries.
But you need anchors in this sea of creativity.
You need things you can rely on.
Things you can recruit to your army.
Friends, whether they add you or not.
Tunes loaded, down.
Ideas loaded, up.
Fashions that express.
Possessions that matter.
Things that inspire self-expression, not commodities that spoon-feed an identity.
Dr. Martens anchor you, liberate your creativity, inspire and fuel your identity. Our heritage fits your future; your future is our future.
Dr. Martens is located in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan. The historic SoHo neighborhood ("South of Houston") is bounded by Houston Street to the North and Canal Street to the South. Originally known as the Cast Iron District due to the many buildings with such façades, SoHo's historic roots date to the mid-19th Century, when cast iron was discovered as an architectural material that was cheap, flexible, yet sturdy enough to use to build decorative building facades. Craftsmen transformed what had been rather bleak looking industrial buildings made of brick and mortar into structures of architectural splendor and grace. SoHo today still exhibits the greatest concentration of cast iron architecture in the world. SoHo's decorative facades, along with its ornate fire escapes, Corinthian columns, oversized windows, and beautiful lobbies, are the signature features of a neighborhood that first-time visitors often instantly fall in love with. For the bulk of the 20th century, this neighborhood remained a relatively quiet and unassuming manufacturing district. The SoHo we know today emerged in the 1960's and 70's when artists discovered that the cheap factory spaces vacated by departing businesses could be converted into lofts and studios. The wide spaces and tall ceilings the factories had required were especially appealing to artists as they could create and store large pieces of artwork there. The New York Loft Board, charged with regulating and resolving issues regarding the legalization and use of certain loft buildings converted to residential use, assisted artists-in-residence in negotiating the complex legal issues. After the SoHo Cast Iron Historic District became synonymous with the inflated art prices and lavish exhibits of the 1980s, more and more artists sought out other areas to work and reside, such as Long Island City, Williamsburg, and Chelsea. In turn, SoHo loft prices skyrocketed, and multimillion-dollar prices for full-floor lofts became rather common in the new millennium. Rents rapidly increased, and galleries moved north to the old garages of far-west Chelsea. In an ironic twist of fate, now galleries are leaving overpriced far-west Chelsea for the Lower East Side in the wake of the New Museum of Contemporary Art building its permanent home on the Bowery. While western SoHo fortunately is largely protected from the current spate of building ugly large glass towers, Donald Trump's massive hotel on its westernmost fringes as well as forthcoming projects on the Bowery will permanently change the historic character of this fragile neighborhood. Architecture buffs will want to take our walking tour of the new architecture of Manhattan, which takes in a number of recent SoHo creations. Now that SoHo has flourished and grown for over 35 years—ever since it gained credibility and status as a neighborhood when New York City officially recognized this up and coming district in 1973—visitors marvel not only at the architecture, but also at the vibrant cultural and commercial life on the neighborhood's historic streets. During the day, the sidewalks in this district are generally teeming with tourists, shoppers, and vendors selling t-shirts, jewelry, and original works of art. Shopping addicts know the area has some terrific vintage clothing stores that are true SoHo shopping experiences and bargains. Lower Broadway is home to everything from Bloomingdale’s to Calypso (whimsical, gorgeous clothing and furnishings) to Pearl River Mart (Asian housewares and gifts.) Many of SoHo's famous stores and boutiques are found on Prince and Spring streets, with Prada, Chanel, Kid Robot, and two relatively new additions, Jill Sander (at the corner of Crosby and Grove Streets), and an Apple Computer Store (in a former post office on Prince Street) all located in this vicinity. In fact, there are so many cool boutique, vintage and consignment stores in SoHo to choose from. Add, a spacious accessories shop, caters to handbag connoisseurs who worship designer bags but would rather not drop thousands at a luxury boutique like Prada or Louis Vuitton. West Broadway, the Champs-Elysées of SoHo, also features an impressive list of boutiques across a broad spectrum of choices. Tag Heuer Boutique presents an impressive collection of Swiss luxury sports watches. Cleo & Patek, also on West Broadway, deserves mention for its fine accessories collection, and if men's fashion is what you're looking for you'll find high quality clothing at Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, and Reiss of London here, or just around the corner and down Spring Street, you can check out the latest J. Lindeberg collections. Great restaurants are literally everywhere you turn in SoHo, and they are well-known for both the fine cuisine they serve and their stylish milieus. The French bistro Balthazar, and the authentic Raoul's for Italian fare are both highly recommended. Along West Broadway you'll find celebrity hotspot, Cipriani Downtown, and the inviting, often open-windowed façade and lively atmosphere at Felix. For Japanese cuisine two blocks over on Sullivan Street you can dine at Blue Ribbon Sushi. Beloved for its neighborly old world beauty and charm, and its nearly skyscraperless skyline, SoHo has also become a favored choice for luxury hotel dwellers, especially among those who wish to escape the hustle and bustle of midtown Manhattan. The Mercer Hotel is SoHo's foremost luxury boutique hotel and the first of its kind to offer an authentic taste of loft living. At the lower end of West Broadway near Canal Street sits the noble SoHo Grand, a popular overnight choice for visiting celebrity clientele, and on the western side of SoHo lies SIXTY SOHo, a boutique hotel designed by famed interior designer, Thomas O'Brien. Notable landmark architecture in the SoHo neighborhood, aside from the approximately 250 cast iron buildings (such as the E.V. Haughwout Building at 488 Broadway), include The Little Singer Building on Broadway, designed by Beaux-Arts trained New York architect Ernest Flagg in 1902; the six-story iron front building at 112 Prince Street designed in 1889 by Richard Berger; and lastly, New York's most peculiar subway map, an 87-foot long work of art consisting of concrete rods embedded in the sidewalk at 110 Greene Street which was created by Belgian artist, Francoise Schein, in 1986. You might also admire the five-story trompe l’oeil mural at 114 Prince Street, which is a longstanding two-dimensional cast iron façade—in paint. If you want to stay in a historic neighborhood where great restaurants abound, where the stores are boutique chic, and hotels marvelously accommodating, SoHo is simply the place to be.
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