Dr. Martens have just announced these limited edition versions of their iconic 8-hole Boot and 3-hole Shoe with red contrast stitching and laces.
This is a pretty bizarre move for the British brand as in skinhead culture red laces are commonly recognised as a signifier of far-right association and neo-nazi membership. Dr Martens are an intrinsic part of the culture, and its strong part of the brand’s own heriatge and icon status, so they will be fully aware of this symbolism.
Skinhead as a youth movement started in the UK in the 60s as a rougher, more masculine take on the mods, with a heavy influence from Jamaican rude boys. Primarily focused around clothes, reggae music, drinking and violence it quickly grew to become the sub-culture of choice for young working class men in Britain. Originally Skinhead had no political overtones at all, these young white guys idolised their black rude boy idols and it saw many black and white kids in the UK bond for the first time, but at some point in the 70s this changed with the culture fragmenting into many different sub-cultures with different belief systems (original skins, far-right, gay, communists, punk…).
Fastidious about clothes and how they were worn – Levi’s 501s and Sta-Prests, Ben Sherman shirts, Fred Perry polos, Crombie overcoats, Baracuta Harringtons, Alpha MA1s, Dr Martens, Church’s brogues – the look and brands came to define the culture. With all different types of skins effectively wearing the same uniform the easiest way to define your allegiance was through the colour of your laces. Its its a culture that has slipped from the mainstream, but one that has endured and gone global, and whilst its one with many positive traits (e.g. it created the foundations for street culture as we know it today), it also sadly has many negative connotations too.
Perhaps this is Dr Martens trying to reclaim their brand from the negative aspects of skinhead, or perhaps its just an oversight. We have seem some ill conceived attempts by brands recently to flirt with Nazi imagery and I would most certainly hope its not an attempt at that.
Available soon through select Dr. Martens stockists. Retail for the boots is set at ¥22,890 (Approx. $249 USD), while the shoes retail for ¥19,740 (Approx. $215 USD).