Fashion reboot: why Dr Martens keep coming back in style

The famous footwear is currently a catwalk staple and favourite of the modelling elite

There are few styles of footwear that have enjoyed seven decades of consistent and widespread popularity. Now, thanks to a new generation of enthusiasts, Dr Martens are undergoing their next renaissance.

The search engine Lyst, which has called it “a powerful moment of reinvention”, has reported that searches for the English boot brand were up by 110% in the final quarter of 2018 compared with that of the previous year. In the same period, #DrMartens was mentioned close to two million times on Instagram.

While there hasn’t been a decade since their inception in the late 1940s that Dr Martens haven’t been aesthetically adopted by a sub-culture as part of their identity – the skinheads in the 70s, punks and new-wave artists in the 80s and the grunge movement of the 90s – the current resurgence in popularity comes as the world’s most influential mainstream fashion icons have been spotted wearing them.

Lyst cites “the chunky soled, model-approved Jadon boots”, as seen on Gigi Hadid, as the bestseller worldwide. At Asos, Dr Martens make up 25% of its “branded labels” sales (anything that isn’t made by Asos), and while the category’s buyer Charlotte Lee says they have always been popular she has noted “a huge growth in sales over the past couple of years”.

Lee attributes their current popularity to a mixture of being on trend and their perennial appeal. “There has been a huge increase in unisex chunky flatform Dr Marten sales which has been a strong trend for over a year with no sign of stopping. Classic DMs always sell out on Asos and that seems to be due to a mix of brand loyalty, trend, catwalk inspirations and key influencers and VIPs wearing them year after year.”

Other factors have also contributed to the renaissance. The 72-year-old brand has been working with the world’s most famous cultural figures. In December it launched its collaboration with American designer Marc Jacobs – a homage to his 1993 grunge collection for Perry Ellis in which they featured. A collaboration inspired by Sex Pistols imagery, seen by many as the ultimate poster band for the boot, came out last week.

They look set to stick around on the agenda for the rest of the year, too. As well as multiple street-style favourites being spotted wearing them at New York fashion week, on Friday they popped up on the London fashion week catwalk at the Fashion Scout merit award winner Tolu Coker’s debut show, entitled Juvenile Consciousness. Coker is one of a number of emerging designers to explore “hybridity and fluidity in societies and cultures” which she hopes to translate into sustainable collections.

“You have people that wore docs as a statement of politics and people who wore them for comfort and durability – they have so many purposes outside purely an aesthetic level,” says Coker, who grounded her unisex looks in classic black and oxblood styles. “They will always have a place because they’re timeless. This idea of relevance, it’s a fad. Things go in and out of relevance all the time and that’s got little to do with anything – there are things that stand the test of time. Create something classic [like Dr Martens] and they transcend the trends.”

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