Teenage Kickings

Dr Marten?  Doc Martens?  DM’s?  Doctor Martens?  Whatever you call them, they have gone from being produced for a very workaday role, to being the uniform for the anti-conformist to a mainstream shoe for those who want to be cool.  Objects are not able to talk, to explain their meaning, but once under ownership of a particular group, they take on a meaning, represent a particular point in history, show emotion or simply mean someone likes chunky black boots.  


Skins, punks, goths, crims (?), used Doc’s as part of their uniform, modifying them specifically to their tastes, so that anybody who saw them at a distance knew exactly which gang they belonged to.  Given several black and white photo of people wearing doc’s, an expert – the lecturer – would be able to tell when that photo was taken, and which gang the person was part of.  Doc’s can be effectively be seen as an historical document, pinpointing specific (key phrase), era’s within (un)popular culture, showing the world the attitude of certain groups of people during that time.  The Doc’s have connotations of rage, anger, violence, flipping the bird to the norm, sadness, troubles and conformity.  It was argued that the shoes were designed for civil servants – the antithesis of conformity – and then modified by these gangs to become anti conformist, but I counter that these boots were worn in such a specific way, by these groups, that they became conformity for that group.  A uniform, no matter how unusual it is, is still a uniform; uniformity: an attempt to impose administrative and cultural uniformity – i.e. conformity.

It was mentioned that the Police wore the same Doc’s as the people they were fighting against and decided that they couldn’t be seen wearing the same footwear – the same uniform – as the people fighting against society, so they polished over the distinctive yellow stitching so they were seen as different footwear.  I counter that the police have to present a very respectable front to society – the opposite to the people they are battling – and so polish their boots religiously; no doubt, polishing over the yellow stitching.  It is not that they are trying to hide their shoes ‘branding’, they are showing their professional front to society.

Doc’s now sell boots pre-modified, using images once prolific in particular subcultures of society, raiding their ‘heritage’, stating they stand for non conformity, selling their cultural past, not their company ethos from the past (conformity).  These inanimate objects are telling stories about the owner – and the past history of DM – they capture a personality, visually show someone’s identity and can represent the mood of the owner…unless they bought a second pair on ebay they thought was cool; then they’re just buying someone else’s life.


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