Letter: Suffering is just what Dr Marten ordered

Tim Footman
Sunday 20 March 1994 00:02

YOUR 'Tried and Tested' feature on workboots ('Boots made for working', Review, 6 March) purported to offer an objective comparison of various examples, combining stylistic and practical considerations as its criteria. It came as something of a surprise that the legendary Dr Marten's 1460 was nudged aside by a gruesome item calling itself the Caterpillar. But the real shock was that the main problem the panel found with the dearly beloved Doc was that they take a long time to wear in.

Do these people not understand? This is the whole point] The Doc is a design classic, but, at the same time, it is a cult icon. It is the footwear that Kevin and Tracy never considered, even when they were being seduced into Levi 501s, the only piece of clothing to rival the Doc's status. It is the footwear of tribes, of skinheads, of crusties, of mid-Eighties clubbers. It is the secret sign that casts post-modern irony upon one's regimented City suit, that symbolises the switchblade beneath Julian Clary's daffy finery. And, as with all tribes, the initiation ceremony binds us.

A new pair of Docs is not just a new pair of shoes: it is a pact. After the initial choices, we have the week or two of pain, of gritted teeth, of no dancing. When purchasing, forget polish or spare laces; go for a big box of Elastoplast. Compare notes with your Doccy chums. Does talc help? Thick woolly socks, perhaps? Maybe pummelling them by hand for half an hour every evening?

But, after suffering the paces through hellfire, a bond has been forged. Not just with your fellow fans/martyrs, but with the boots themselves. They are yours. They are now comfortable. They work. They walk. You wear them to the pub, to work, to your naff brother's wedding just to make a point. And, you will wear them, love them, long after the Caterpillar has demonstrated a lifespan not much more impressive that its larval namesake.

Tim Footman

London SW4

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