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How to Wear Doc Martens

Updated on November 27, 2013
The coolest, fiercest Docs ever, picture taken on the streets of London -- snakeskin, bought in 1996! (No, they don't make them anymore.)
The coolest, fiercest Docs ever, picture taken on the streets of London -- snakeskin, bought in 1996! (No, they don't make them anymore.) | Source

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It was my sister who first introduced me to Docs. After a foray into heavy metal in high school she veered toward punk, and well… the music was nice, but the part I really enjoyed were the accessories! As she marched forward to classes on U.S. soil listening to old-school punk popularized years prior, she was amazingly cool in those boots! And I wanted to be cool, too.

16 years later, they may have lost their luster, but they've keep their coolness factor.
16 years later, they may have lost their luster, but they've keep their coolness factor. | Source

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But all I knew of DMs were the big black boots, and I just couldn’t see myself wearing them. What a happy day it was when we vacationed across the pond with our parents, finding ourselves at the DM store, circa 2002. She bounced in and was fitted immediately for a new pair of boots. I was more shy, wandering around and looking, a lot. Such crazy colors and patterns of shoes! 14 eyelet? Purple velvet? Day-Glo leather? The Union Jack, on one’s boots? Even the classic cherry reds seemed garish to my young and bewildered Americanized eyes.

I was no stranger to unusual footwear, me of the platform heels and studded shoe boots. But all I could see were thick, unglamorous clunky soles with bright yellow stitching. Who did these people think they were, wearing such flashy footwear? Who would dare wear such eye-catchers? (Clearly, I had a lot to learn.)

A lineup of Doc Martens. Ain't they somethin'?
A lineup of Doc Martens. Ain't they somethin'? | Source

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Well, everyone wore them, and not just the retail workers. I still remember the exchange as I looked out the window at the London street, as nearly everyone walking by was sporting DMs of one type or another, boppers and bankers as well as street youth and yuppie types. There had to be a style for me, despite my short stature and not-particularly-slender calves. I vacillated, hypnotized by the boot colors and the smell of new leather.

From my mom: “Are you sure you don’t want a pair, pussycat? London is the place to get them.”

From my sister: “They’re really comfortable, Rachie, you’ll love them!”

From my dad: “What about shoes instead of boots?”

And my eyes were opened as I saw a pair of simple black 1461 shoes (with three eyelets). I grabbed them, tried them one, and my feet were in heaven. I immediately perked up and picked up a confident attitude, and I've never looked back.

Flowered Docs kissing the English countryside.
Flowered Docs kissing the English countryside. | Source

I wore those shoes for years, until the bouncing, ridged soles had been worn smooth.

Thus began my love affair with Docs. Today I’m proud to say I’ve blazed my own way with 9 pairs over the years, all made in England except for my newest pair acquired very recently: tiny, elegant pink and yellow flowers... on black boots that can smash in a door!


Wearing Doc Martens

A quick internet search will bring up lots of pictures of people of all shapes and sizes wearing DMs, lessons in great quantity about how to look cool while wearing them, and giggle-worthy pictures of many not exactly succeeding. But it's all about the attitude, I say. So wear them however you like – laced, open, with the tongue folded back, with jeans, a mini-skirt or maxi-dress, or with a kilt. Yes, I said it. A kilt!

But here are some suggestions on ways to wear DMs that will flatter your shape or be more appropriate for day-to-day activity (leave your butt-kicking activities for after hours):

  • 1461s with a suit. Why not? Just make sure they’re not your grungy ones. As a woman, I find a man with shined, cared-for Docs hiding under his tailored suit very attractive. I like a man who is confident in his choice of footwear.
  • Ladies, choose the more feminine heeled, lace-up version like the Kimora with a suit for a snappy, smart look. I may love my low Docs, but I love my high heels, too.
  • Boots with a skirt can be flattering and plenty cute if you don’t try too hard. Little kids can wear just about anything and be adorable, but as an adult, choosing the right length skirt and pairing it with a patterned shoe or Mary Jane style makes its own fashion statement. And you don’t necessarily have to color your hair with chalk or put it in pigtails, either.

  • Of course, jeans and a band t-shirt topped off with DMs are a wonderful standard, showing off your taste in footwear and music alike.
  • Go old-school hard core with a CBGB or Sex Pistols t-shirt and skinny jeans or black pants. This look works for men, women, and anyone in between. You simply can't fail with this outfit!
  • Women, consider the Marcie boot (a 10-eyelet 3-inch wedge-heeled boot) with a dress, jeans, or even tailored pants. In addition to looking great, They will provide you with a little more height, which is rarely a bad thing.
  • Don't be shy -- you are wearing something recognized the world over, so if you're feeling those bright yellow patent ones, don't hesitate to pull them on. Be proud of your style!

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Check out those marks on the cherry reds! That's a best-loved boot right there.Creased and scratched leather shows the full life these boots have had... and they are still perfectly serviceable.Grooves worn into the tongues of 1460s from thick laces.Only a small portion of the sole is worn away on these, but my first pair had lost all its ridges.The Marcie boot may look more ladylike than the 1460s, but they are no shrinking violets either.
Check out those marks on the cherry reds! That's a best-loved boot right there.
Check out those marks on the cherry reds! That's a best-loved boot right there. | Source
Creased and scratched leather shows the full life these boots have had... and they are still perfectly serviceable.
Creased and scratched leather shows the full life these boots have had... and they are still perfectly serviceable. | Source
Grooves worn into the tongues of 1460s from thick laces.
Grooves worn into the tongues of 1460s from thick laces. | Source
Only a small portion of the sole is worn away on these, but my first pair had lost all its ridges.
Only a small portion of the sole is worn away on these, but my first pair had lost all its ridges. | Source
The Marcie boot may look more ladylike than the 1460s, but they are no shrinking violets either.
The Marcie boot may look more ladylike than the 1460s, but they are no shrinking violets either. | Source
The mark of truth -- MADE IN ENGLAND.
The mark of truth -- MADE IN ENGLAND. | Source

Improve Your DM-Wearing Experience with These Tips

  • Although it can take time to break in your DMs, don't give up! A well-worn shoe will be your friend forever.
  • Here's a unisex tip: If you are short or have thicker calves, think about 1461s or low boots so your legs don’t appear chopped.
  • Wear your pants outside your boots inside of tucked in or military style and your legs will seem a little longer thanks to the thick sole.
  • Once summertime hits, wear a more lightweight sandal or try a different boot material like canvas instead of leather.

The History of Dr. Martens

Dr. Martens store, 17-19 Neal Street, Covent Garden, London WC2H 9PU. What a wonderful place it is!
Dr. Martens store, 17-19 Neal Street, Covent Garden, London WC2H 9PU. What a wonderful place it is! | Source
One of four walls loaded with colorful shoes in the DM store in Covent Garden
One of four walls loaded with colorful shoes in the DM store in Covent Garden | Source

Comments

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    • profile image

      Lorraine 19 months ago

      Age 65 gust bourgh my 3rd paie of doc martens love them

    • theclevercat profile image
      Author

      Rachel Vega 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Ema,

      Yeah, that's probably part of it... also, what kind of material are the shoes? Smooth or soft leather, or fabric? Over time some materials wear much softer and the tongues could go a bit "flappy"... I hope they're not uncomfortable!

    • profile image

      Ema 3 years ago

      Hi, does anyone else have an issue with the tongue laying wonky? I have 2 pairs and both tongues seem to be slipping sideways. I don't lace them all the way up could this be the problem?

    • Paul Fisher profile image

      Paul Fisher 3 years ago from United Kingdom

      Not a problem CleverCat! It's good to celebrate the icons!

    • theclevercat profile image
      Author

      Rachel Vega 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hey, Paul! Thanks for the compliment! :) From one shoe-lover to another, yes, definitely unearth them and feel comfy and proud!!!

    • Paul Fisher profile image

      Paul Fisher 3 years ago from United Kingdom

      Great Article! I've had many memorable times stomping to the sounds of the Punk era in a pair of Dr Martens 1460s. I may need to dig them out again to combat the rubbish UK weather!

    • theclevercat profile image
      Author

      Rachel Vega 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      You said it, Nene. Rock on. :-)

    • profile image

      Nene 3 years ago

      Hi Ruth and Ian,

      You are never to old to wear something that makes you feel good. Grow old disgracefully

    • profile image

      Ian Cooper 4 years ago

      Ruth, I have an AARP card and I own three pairs of Doc Martens.

      Many old school punks are now well over 50, and I'm sure many of them still wear Doc Martens boots.

    • profile image

      Doc martens 4 years ago

      Good shoes, I got a pair for my birthday

    • theclevercat profile image
      Author

      Rachel Vega 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hey Ruth, congrats on your first pair! You are definitely not too old to wear DMs! Just wear them as you did your other footwear. Did you get boots or shoes? Shoes are less complicated to pair up with outfits in my opinion, but the only thing I would really caution against is about wearing your pants too short... you run the risk of looking like you're trying too hard.

      Thanks so much for the comment and I hope you get many years of enjoyment out of those Docs! Enjoy! :-)

    • profile image

      Ruth 4 years ago

      I just bought a pair of DM boots. When I tried them on, my feet were in heaven so I purchased them. The only issue I have with them is, I'm old enough to qualify for an AARP card. Any comments as to whether or not I'm too old to wear these w/o looking like an old person trying to hard to look young?

    • theclevercat profile image
      Author

      Rachel Vega 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hiya, Suzie! I'm so glad you liked the hub -- velvet ones... oh, so pretty! Maybe next pair for me. :^) Thanks for the votes and follow!

    • Suzie HQ profile image

      Suzanne Ridgeway 5 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi Clevercat, what a wonderful stroll down memory lane! My own very unusual docs are still in my closet some 15 years or so later from first worn! Multicoloured Velvet ones, I just cannot bare to throw out or pass on. Thanks so much for the trip, voted up and Interesting! Congrats on the Apprenticeship Program!

    • theclevercat profile image
      Author

      Rachel Vega 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hiya, Boot-y! Boots range from about £110-£130. Not cheap, but you will have them forever.

    • profile image

      Boot-ylicious! 5 years ago

      I love love love the blue boots in the store photo! How much do the boots cost these days?

    • theclevercat profile image
      Author

      Rachel Vega 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Vinaya, they do have loafers now! They have a whole line with thinner soles and very handsome, refined finishing. Maybe consider the Smith loafer, or Harry. They also have chukkas now if you like those.

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 5 years ago from Nepal

      As a teenager I loved Doc Martens. But these days I prefer to wear loafers.

    • theclevercat profile image
      Author

      Rachel Vega 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks, teaches! (The feet in the first photo actually belong to my sister.) :^) The best thing about that pair is that the first time my young niece saw them on my feet (they were hand-me-ups from my sis at that point, woo hoo!) she told me they were cool. I tried to explain they were her mommy's first, but she would have nothing of that. Ha ha!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Classy and fit! I think you may have started a new trend for the era. They do look chic and smart on your feet. Love the reds, but my favorite is the first pair. Cool!

    • theclevercat profile image
      Author

      Rachel Vega 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi, Bunny! I'm glad this one is bringing back the memories. :^) Whatever happened to my suede burgundies? Things that make you go, hmm. I might add a few photos of the DM store in Covent Garden too, flashify the photos a little more.

    • Brainy Bunny profile image

      Brainy Bunny 5 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      Gosh, I well remember my obsession with DMs. The photo of them lined up on your balcony like tired soldiers is making me misty. I do still have the bright red Ronald McDonald ones that I love to look at, even though I no longer wear them. (I would, but they're just too darn hot for Florida!)

    • theclevercat profile image
      Author

      Rachel Vega 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks, Tillson! Yes, breaking them in can be a challenge. But I've never experienced buyer's remorse after buying DMs despite the fairly high price tag. Good luck, and thanks for the votes!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      I do not live under a rock though I must admit after reading your hub an viewing the video I'm beginning to think I do...I've never heard of Doc Martens before. Obviously I've seen them (according to the video) just never knew it!

      Thank you for the introduction Clevercat, now I'll have to check them out as they sound not only versatile but well built and after a period of pain (breaking them in) they could last a lifetime!

      Voted up, useful and interesting.