The history of subculture is a chronicle of being different. Back in the 1950s, when the first generation of teenagers fired up a youth revolution, their goal was to look and behave differently to their parents. Previously, young people had been stylistic carbon copies of their elders. But with the advent of first-generation rock 'n' roll and also Teddy Boys, a generational schism cracked open that would never again be rendered shut.On the surface, the Griggs family of Northampton in the English Midlands was seemingly a part of this reviled establishment. Making boots since 1901 in the heartland of British shoe-making, the family was successful, established, respected. Scratch the surface a little, however, and it's clear that the Griggs clan actually possessed certain characteristics that would in the future become essential identifiers of any self-respecting youth phenomenon: they were free thinkers and they were different.Why different? Because the Griggs family didn't accept what had gone before as a rigid template for the future. The past was largely a reference book of 'old' ideas to rebel against. It was this spirit of innovation that coursed through Bill Griggs' veins as he sat in his Cobbs Lane office one day in the late 1950s flicking through an issue of Shoe and Leather News magazine, only for his eyes to fall upon an advert by a German duo looking for overseas partners for their revolutionary new air-cushioned sole.Munich-based Dr Maertens and his university friend Dr Funck were also different. Inventors, mavericks, free-thinkers, ditto. In response to a foot injury on a ski-ing trip, they'd invented an air-cushioned sole and were looking for like-minded innovators. Griggs contacted Dr Maertens, a name was anglicized, a plan hatched and a legend born on April 1st, 1960.When the first pair of Dr. Martens boots rolled off the production line on that day, it was on to a British high street where youth tribes were still a rarity. Not for long: the next four decades saw the time-bomb of subculture explode across the globe as a series of tribes sprang up from their respective undergrounds, each new incarnation heralding a burning desire to be different to what had gone before.In those early years, however, there are two distinctive and pivotal moments when Dr. Martens and youth culture became melded together, inseparably as it turned out. First up was the early skinhead, a multi-cultural, ska-loving homage to the British working classes, mimicking the dress sense of the working man with an obsessive attention to detail – style was everything. Up until then, the Dr. Martens boot had been sold mostly as reliable working men's footwear; therefore it made the perfect choice for the skinhead. And so Dr. Martens was wrenched from the factory floor into youth culture and, for the brand, nothing would ever be the same again.A few short and volatile years later, Pete Townshend deliberately donned a pair of black 1460s on stage with his incendiary band The Who, as an unashamed indicator of his affiliation with working class pride. When Townshend windmilled and jumped around in his DM's, the young world watched. This was in an era of flower power and dandyish psychedelia; Townshend looked … different. Now Dr. Martens had a torch-bearer who was at the very heart of youth culture.Townshend has said that he used to go to bed on tour with two things: 'A cognac bottle and a Dr. Martens boot.' This almost peculiar personal affection for the boot is not exclusive to The Who's guitarist.
The history of subculture is a chronicle of being different. Back in the 1950s, when the first generation of teenagers fired up a youth revolution, their goal was to look and behave differently to...View More