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The history behind the infamous boots

Doc Martens is an infamous brand in the shoe industry, known for its durable and long-lasting work boots with polyurethane soles offering a truly unique boot. Doc Martens started in the UK in the 1960s with their work boots costing $3 per pair but now can cost up to $225. The big question is how did they become so expensive?

Doc Martens is a style icon that has endured over 50 years of popularity that started in a family-owned local factory to an international fashion brand owned by a private equity firm. Since 2014, the price of the boots has raised by nearly 25% with sales growing up to a 70% profit increase from 2018 to 2019.

One of the distinct features of these boots is the air-cushioned sole that was invented in 1945 by a German army doctor, Dr. Klaus Maertens, who injured his ankle in a skiing accident and was looking for an alternative to hard leather-sole boots. Doc Martens started out by providing women with practical and comfortable footwear, being advertised as perfect gardening shoes at one point.

When this technology came over to the UK in the 1960s the air-cushioned sole was licensed to the Griggs company in Northhampton and the iconic Doc Martens 1460 boot was born. The boots were known for their iconic stitching and heel loop that was sold to factory workers across England.

The 1460 boots originally cost $3 at the time, which is only $50 with current inflation rates. These boots were cheap and durable enough for postmen, policemen, and workers that are on their feet all day. Doc Martens became more popular through becoming a style staple in counterculture styles including glam, punk, ska, and goth style.

After the boom in the ’90s, the boots were considered less fashionable and the company was struggling almost bringing an end to Doc Martens in the early 2000s. With the industry shrinking, the cost of manufacturing shoes in England became more expensive, resulting in a rise in price.

By 2002, a pair of Doc Martens cost $87 or $140 with current inflation rates. Northhamptonshire was once the home of shoemaking in England with over 2,000 shoemakers working in the region but a majority of them closed down their business or moved their production abroad. Now there are only 30 left in the region with Doc Marten forced to move production to Asia but 2% of their production remains in Northhamptonshire.

When Doc Martens started they only offered one style and the company now produces 250 different styles each year. In 2014, the company was sold by the family to private equity firm Permira and has resulted in a price increase by nearly 25%.

From 2018 to 2019 the brand has seen profits increase 70% thanks to the success of their vegan leather boot. Doc Martens now proudly produces 7 million pairs of boots per year.