Klaus Märtens was a doctor in the German army during World War II. While on leave in 1945, he injured his ankle but his standard-issue army boots were too uncomfortable on his injured foot. While recuperating, he designed improvements to the boots, with soft leather and air-padded soles made of tires.
An exclusive license was acquired and a few key changes made and the new boots were branded as ‘Airwair’, came complete with a black and yellow heel loop featuring the brand name and the slogan “With Bouncing Soles”. Taking its name from the date of its inception, April 1st, 1960, the eight-holed 1460 Dr. Martens boots had arrived.
By the later 1960s, skinheads started to wear them, "DMs" being the usual naming, and by the late 1970s, they were popular among scooter riders, punks, some new wave musicians, and members of other youth subcultures. Meanwhile, US Hardcore musicians touring the UK began to take pairs of DM’s back to the west coast, thus inadvertently starting American subculture’s adoption of the brand.
The boots and shoes became popular in the 1990s as grunge fashion arose. The brand also became synonymous with festival culture. Because of its popularity, Dr. Martens department store was opened in Covent Garden in London, in 1994.
In the 2000s, Dr. Martens were sold exclusively under the AirWair name, and came in dozens of different styles, including conventional black shoes, sandals and steel-toed boots.
In 2004 a new range of Dr. Martens was launched in an attempt to appeal to a wider market and especially young people. The shoes and boots were intended to be more comfortable, and easier to break in, and included some new design elements.
Dr Martens have managed to adjust their branding throughout the years to appeal to people who cultivate their own unique style, but share the same spirit. Docs have always been the badge of honour for individuals who are proud to show their sense of self-expression.
Dr Martens has always been open to brand collaborations which reach out to further customers and gives their loyal fans a chance to get their hands on limited editions of their classic silhouettes. Notable collaborations include Marc Jacobs, Hello Kitty, Lazy Oaf, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Supreme.
Dr Martens products have always been built to last but it’s equally important to develop and manufacture sustainable products that are safe for consumers and have a minimal impact on the environment. Dr Martens currently do this in a number of ways and are committed to continuing to explore opportunities to improve the sustainability of their products and reduce the impact on the environment through research and innovation.