Klaus Maertens was a doctor in the German army during World War II. While on leave in 1945, he injured his ankle while skiing in the Bavarian Alps. He found that the standard issue army boots were far too uncomfortable on the injured foot, so while he recuperated, he brainstormed how to improve the boots. He designed a shoe that was made of soft leather, particularly with soft, air-padded soles. When the war ended and the Germans commenced panicked looting of valuables from their cities, Dr. Maertens went took some much more valuable stuff: shoe material from a cobbler's shop. He made himself a pair of boots with the now-famous air-cushioned soles.

He didn't have much luck selling his shoes until he met up with an old university friend, Dr. Herbert Funck, in Munich in 1947. Funck was intrigued by the new shoe design, and the two went into business that year in Seeshaupt, Germany, using some discarded rubber from Luftwaffe airfields. The comfortable and durable soles made the boot a huge hit with housewives; 80% of their sales during the first decade were to women older than 40.

Sales had grown so much by 1952 that they opened a factory in Munich. In 1959, the company had grown large enough that Drs. Maertens and Funck started looking to market overseas. Almost immediately, British shoe manufacturer Bill Griggs noticed the advertising and bought patent rights from Dr. Maertens so his shoe company, R. Griggs & Co., could manufacture the shoe in the UK. They Anglicized the name, slightly re-shaped the heel design to make them fit the foot better, added the trademark yellow stitching, and started selling the shoes with Dr. Maertens's soles under the AirWair brand name.

The first "Doc Martens" in the UK came out on April 1, 1960; thus 1460 as the name of the classic cherry-red, 8-hole design. They were very popular among workers like postmen, policemen and factory laborers who were on their feet for many hours a day. But by the late 1960's, another group took notice of Doc Martens boots: so-called football hooligans, who made the red boot their trademark, supposedly so that the blood of their enemies would not stain the boot.

By the early 1970's, Doc Martens were ubiquitous among the rising British punk rock stars. Sid Vicious was [arguably] the first punk to make DM's his; after him, it seemed everyone was wearing them, most notably young punk fans. Doc Martens boots were no longer the footwear of the working class, they were the footwear of rebel youth.

Doc Martens are now sold exclusively under the AirWair name, and come in dozens of different styles: everything from conventional black high-tops to steel-toed to sandals, and in all colors, including purple, blue, green, and orange. Pope John Paul II and his staff even have their own specially-made line in pure white.

I've been a DM devotee for about seven years; I have a pair of dark brown, steel-toed, eight-holed high-top boots that have been hiking boots and work boots for that long, and I just got a pair of black five-holed low-tops for more formal occasions. Unlike some trendy clothes that are really just crap clothes with a fancy label (Abercrombie and Fitch, Old Navy), Doc Martens live up to their reputation: sublime comfort and amazing durability.

I love my black Doc Martens.

Some people call them "shitkickers", but I would be inclined to disagree. Their smooth black leather, long laces and thick soles are durable enough for any mosh pit, but my 14-hole boots with "Air Wair" and "Bouncing Soles" are much too pretty to go mucking around in anything, and that most certainly includes shit.

I coveted my wonderful boots for many months before I finally became one with their black leather and rubber goodness (I really am not into BDSM, I'm telling you). For too long, they sat there on the shelf in my local shiny and expensive Journey's store, tempting me, calling me, begging me to lace them up around my calves and become one with my inner badassness.

Unfortunately, when I had finally saved up the funds and nerves to brave the mall and buy the boots, the only size left at Journey's was probably half a size too big. Regardless, they jumped off the shelf and onto my feet, and I emerged from the place as feet-happy as I've ever been. True, If they didn't lace halfway up my calves, I'd probably have left one behind on a sidewalk and ended up instead saying "I love my black Doc Marten." But, miraculously, I became united with my "british punk" footwear, and they became as much a part of my life as masturbation and tortilla chips.

Ages ago I'd never have admitted to my boot fetish. However, perhaps even due to the influence of my black boots, I have recently become an enlightened woman of the '00s, and I can now tell you how much I love the feeling of the cool, stiff leather encasing my lower legs, and how often I gaze endlessly at the frayed, ponderous laces.

I often like to think that my boots have a voice of their own. Perhaps it echoes as I descend stairs, a satisfying "THUNK" as their rubber soles hit the wooden steps rhythmically. Maybe I hear it in the drumbeat of walking from my Aikido dojo to my lover's filthy apartment, to idle burned cups of coffee at late night diners.

Most of the time, my docs just make me feel proud to be alive. I wear them in the freezing cool of winter, to keep my legs warm, and just as often in the sweltering hot summer, just because they look spiffy and add an extra, somewhat scary and foreboding dimension to my ambience of utter sloppiness. The best place to wear them is at school, where they propel me from one class to the next and give me points in my overall "alternativey" score. I'm hardcorer than you, and I have the boots to prove it!

You people might be right. Maybe they ARE shitkickers.

Those boots were damn expensive, so my love for them is certainly warranted, under the circumstances. At $120, extreme fashion doesn't come cheap. No, I don't eternally polish them at night. No, I don't carry a rag in my pocket to wipe them clean of errant dust. Really. (Don't look at me like that.)

My boots are made for dancing, fucking and ass-kicking. The occasional scuff can only serve to make them seem more battle-worn.

When you own boots like mine, the best thing in the world is to casually walk by a mirror somewhere in the general public and catch a glimpse of your be-booted self. I watch myself stalking by in the glass of the big windows at the student commons, and share a sly, knowing look with my reflection. Damn, that's one sexy bitch, I comment to myself. And that right there is some fucking fine footwear.

Doc Martens were known at one point the most comfortable English made boot in the world, but it is not so in this day of age. Now Docs are made in China, which has nothing to say about it's rich history. How can a great English made boot be now the most over-priced Chinese trash: the greedy hands of oversea manufacturing. It is rather sad to see a good boot go bad. The Chinese Doc is smaller and doesn't carry that genuine Doc Marten feel when you first try them on and are not even functional as a steel toe boot. TO those who actually still have the ORIGINAL Doc Martens: Keep them and treasure them, since they are truly part of Britains history.

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