Doc Martens boots have long been a fashion staple for members of the goth, punk, and hipster subcultures. However, there are a lot of reasons to look for an alternative to these ubiquitous symbols of alternative style. From ethics to fit to the reality of daily wear, check out these ten reasons why not to buy Doc Martens boots.
1. Human Rights
Doc Martens boots are primarily made in China and Thailand, where the supervision of factory conditions is not up to Western standards. In short, Docs are likely made in sweatshops, and are certainly made in places where the Government does not protect the rights of its workers to earn a living wage or work in humane conditions. So, although Doc Martens boots are traditionally associated with standing up for the rights of marginalized or disenfranchised people, when you wear these shoes today you’re economically supporting major human rights infringements.
2. Animal Rights
Okay, so of course Doc Martens boots are made of leather, and any vegetarians hoping to buy animal-friendly shoes should go elsewhere. However, the Doc Martens company is particularly notable in terms of animal rights because they do not offer a single style of shoe in any of their product lines that is leather-free. Most sneaker and boot companies at least make a slight effort, mostly because there is a demonstrated rise in the market for leather-free shoes. However, Doc Martens boots are definitely bucking the trend towards animal-friendly shoes.
3. Fake Credibility
In the past few decades, the Doc Martens corporation has completely shifted their operations out of the U.K. However, the marketing of Doc Martens boots depends largely on pushing a very British aesthetic, and trades on the history of the British punk and mod movements. So, any Brit-cool credibility that wearing a pair of Doc Martens boots has is really pretty artificial at this point.
4. Mass-Marketing Of Subcultures
Doc Martens boots became popular among punks and mods in the 1960s because they were the shoes of the proletarian working man. However, once Doc Martens realized they had a whole new market, they started putting a lot of effort into attracting young people looking for shoes that symbolized the “alternative” mindset. A lot of people feel like this corporate branding of subcultures de-fangs or dis-empowers the political power of the subculture’s aesthetic. Make your own call, but be aware that the Doc Martens official website says that “a continuous succession of cultural renegades” have adopted the boots as a sign of “independence, uniqueness, and individuality.” Now, think about how independent, unique, and individual those renegades really are if they’ve all chosen the exact same shoes?
5. No Half-Sizes
The Dr. Martens company only makes boots in full sizes, which can mean trouble for those of us in between. You may find yourself piling on multiple socks or inner soles to get the fit you want from a pair of Doc Martens boots. For the price, it seems like you should be able to expect the shoes to fit well!
6. One Width Per Style
Doc Martens boots don’t have sizes in multiple widths, which means it is tough to find a good fit if your feet are particularly narrow or wide. The stiffness of the leather, especially when you first buy them, makes Docs difficult to adjust through tight or loose lacing, so what you see in the store is pretty much what you get in terms of fit. Different styles of Docs have different shapes, so you may be able to find a style that works for you, but chances are that if you’re far outside the mainstream foot size, you won’t be able to find a pair of Doc Martens boots that you can comfortably walk in.
If you decide you don’t care about the ethical issues, and you manage to find a pair of Doc Martens boots that fits, you’ll find yourself facing another hurdle: price. A brand new pair of Docs is expensive! I got mine as a birthday present, which seems like a good way to go about it. If you must have a pair of Docs, don’t buy them- get someone else to buy them for you.
8. Waterproofing Issues
Doc Martens boots are not water-proofed, or even water-resistant. This means that if you want to protect a pair of Docs against the elements, you’ll need to either waterproof them yourself, or get it done professionally. Waterproofing leather at home can be risky, because using too much of an over-the-counter product, or using it too often, can leave the leather stiff, inflexible, and uncomfortable. This means that if you really want to take care of a pair of Doc Martens boots, which you will given the cost of the boots, you’ll want to get them professionally waterproofed from time to time, which adds even more bulk to the already hefty price tag.
9. Very Heavy.
Part of the style of Doc Martens boots is that they are heavy, which encourages a specific kind of walk that makes the scrawniest nerd look much tougher than he or she is. However, it also limits the versatility of the shoes. If you’re going to be walking a lot over the course of the day or dancing for a while at night, you’re definitely going to feel the strain in your thighs and hips from lifting Doc Martens boots. This makes them especially wretched to wear in warm weather.
10. Perhaps Too Durable.
I’ve had a pair of Doc Martens boots for almost six years, and they’ve cosmetically held up pretty well. I know people who have regularly worn their Doc Martens for seven or eight years. These boots seriously last forever. However, in most cases, that means they outlive their use. In part because Docs are shoes that are so strongly identified with a kind of youthful aesthetic of rebellion, you probably won’t want to wear them forever. When you buy a pair of Dr. Martens boots, you’re paying for the toughness and durability, even though you won’t necessarily need it. Consider opting for a shoe that has a similar style but a lower price tag; after all, you don’t need a pair of shoes that will last longer than you want to wear them for.