Doc Martens – once symbols of rebellion and identified with subcultures in Europe – have gone mainstream, according to some enthusiasts.
Now they are bought by a younger and more impressionable generation who has lost sight of the history represented by the iconic eight-eyelet boot.
Twins Jessica and Ashleigh Jones, 22, are long-time fans of Doc Martens, having collected more than 16 pairs between them and proudly identify themselves with the subcultures that come associated with the image of Docs.
“When I started wearing them a few years ago, they weren’t really fashionable. Only punks and gothics wore them,” says Ashleigh.
“But I’ve never really been a girly girl and I knew they came from England where skinheads and the new romantics and punks wore them in the 1980s but now they’ve just become part of this mainstream trend.”
“A lot of the younger generation wouldn’t know about the subcultures,” says Jessica.
“They just wear them because they see them in video clips and celebrities wearing them.”
Both twins, who share each others shoes, recognise that high profile fashion designers like Kate Sylvester who integrated Doc Martens into their fashion lines, have allowed the shoes to become more acceptable in mainstream fashion.
But they say it still doesn’t excuse the younger generation for not being aware of what they are donning.
Dr Klaus Märtens, a German doctor who served in World War II, invented Doc Martens.
While on leave, he broke his ankle skiing in the Bavarian Alps and so designed a boot with air-cushioned soles to accommodate his injury.
They were first sold in 1947 with 80 per cent selling to women over the age of 40.
In the early 1980s, they were popular amongst scooter riders, punks, NewWave musicians and members of youth subcultures who felt the shoes brought together individuals who felt neglected by social standards and they allowed them to develop a sense of identity.
“These days it’s become about fitting in with other people which the total opposite of what they were originally worn for,” says Ashleigh.
“They’re now identified with these new age indie kids.”
“There’s a massive grunge revival and now it’s popular to look grungy,” says Jessica.
One Doc Marten enthusiast who did not want to be named said she didn’t believe the younger generation was aware of anything that had historical implications when it came to fashion.
“They just see people that they admire buying them and then they want to them too.”
“I’m pretty confident they’ve got no idea and I think you need to be careful.
“You wouldn’t go around wearing a swastika but I think when it comes to Doc Martens these days, it’s pretty harmless,” she says.
An experienced salesman working at Auckland’s Pat Menzies shoe store who only wanted to be known as Dave, says that the original boot are still the most popular selling shoe.
“Nothing can touch them,” he says.
“Retailers are catering to a wider younger generation with boots in flowery prints and even have Hello Kitty printed on the side and teenagers are buying them in droves.”
“These 13 and 14 year olds come dressed in their mothers’ Bohemian clothes and it’s all about if Mary has a pair then Sally needs a pair.”
“They don’t have a clue about subcultures.”
Two years ago Doc Martens won two awards at the 2010 New York Fashion Show for ‘Most popular men’s footwear in latest fashion’ and ‘Best cultural footwear of the decade.’
There are also social networking sites that have sprung up in the last year with over 74 pages and group appreciation pages dedicated to the brand.