Celebrating the 60th Anniversary of Dr. Martens' most iconic model, END. sit down with Darren McKoy and Damien Wilson to discuss the legendary boot's subcultural status, legacy and the brand's approach to collaboration.
There are few shoes with as great a sense of cultural capital as the Dr. Martens 1460 boot. A mainstay style that originated as a work boot, the legendary 8-eyelet silhouette has found itself at the forefront of subculture through the ages.
From ‘70s punk rock to the cutting edge of fashion in the modern day, the Dr. Martens 1460 model has continued to maintain its cross-cultural impact and essential status. First launching in 1960, the Northampton-made boot encapsulated British workwear style - rugged, minimalist and innovative - creating a durable, protective and comfortable shoe for workers. Quickly straying from its original purpose, the 1460 has continually found itself adopted by a variety of different subcultures, each eager to transform the boot with their own unique juxtapositions of style and attitude.
Within the contemporary fashion world, the 1460 boot is reaching a new cultural peak. Boasting a variety of sought-after collaborations with high-end designers such as Yohji Yamamoto, Raf Simons and more recently Samuel Ross' A-COLD-WALL*, the 1460 boot continues to find fresh ways to reach new audiences, delivering a recognisable yet malleable aesthetic that continues to seamlessly align with new subcultures at any given time. Exhibiting the ability to pirouette between collaborations with high-end designers, legendary musicians and lauded artists, Dr. Martens continue to present a vision of footwear rooted in this storied boot, offering an ode to the style with the 1460 Remastered collection this year.
To mark the 60th Anniversary of the legendary and undeniably important footwear style, END. sit down with Dr. Martens’ Global Category Director, Darren McKoy, and Creative Director of Air Wair International LTD. At Dr. Martens, Damien Wilson, to discuss the rich and varied legacy of the 1460 boot.
The 1460 Boot is celebrating its 60th Anniversary this year – could you talk a little about the model’s history and heritage?
Damien: The 1460 Boot’s name came from the date the style first came off the production line – the 1st of April, 1960. It was produced in the same factory in Woolaston that our Made in England product is made in now, and all of the varieties of 1460 Boot that we continue to make have changed very little from the way the boot was made originally. It was certainly a case of getting something right the first time – there aren’t many products that are around after 60 years that you can say that about. With the 1460, the thing that I find really interesting about it is how it has gone from being a functional work boot, something comfortable and durable, into a style that has transcended that. It’s one of those models that is so recognisable now that it has truly become a design classic. One of the reasons why it has become a design classic is because it is so recognisable aesthetically, with a kind of strange look – the yellow stitching and the grooved PVC outsole, set against the minimal upper. That’s why there are so many imitators around, because it has become a design classic, and it is something that resonates with people. The biggest thing that has contributed to cultivating that authenticity, however, is the wearers themselves – we’ve had 60 years of people wearing them in their own individual style – which really sets it apart from what it was originally intended to be.
Built as a workwear style, the model quickly diverged from its original purpose – how do the 1460’s workwear roots inform the model now?
Damien: The thing that is so interesting about it is, is that because it's a utility style, born out of workwear, that history gives it its legitimacy. What has made it so unique is that both men and women can wear it. When we think about footwear traditionally, it was very much separated. Dr. Martens has always been against that, and provided something that could be the boot anyone wanted it to be, that could go with pretty much any outfit. That root in utility workwear is what has made it what it is today, but it is also what has kept it on track and not made it a “fashion” item, but made it something a bit more special.
What is it about the 1460 boot that has made it such a pivotal part of the footwear and fashion canon?
Darren: There are multiple factors in the DNA and heritage of the brand that contribute to that, but for the past year, we’ve spoken a lot about how the boot transcends generations and trends. Without sounding pretentious, the style is above trends in fashion. It’s a constant. It's a canvas that allows the consumers and wearers to express themselves in the way that they want to express themselves – there are very few iconic items like that in the world. It really is up to the wearers on how they wear and style the boot - it’s a unique piece of kit really.
The 1460 boot has never been changed since its original release back in 1960 - what is it about the boot that makes it so versatile?
Darren: It’s the simplicity of the design. It’s a core and classic style now – the first of its kind. It hasn’t changed since it was originally released 60 years ago and it doesn’t need to change. That’s the thing that makes it so timeless and versatile. It’s as simple as that.
How do you navigate celebrating a piece of footwear history?
Darren: The partners that we’re working with this year for the 1460 Remastered collection have either been a part of the history of the brand already, or embody the same DNA and mindset that Dr. Martens stands for. If we look at who we’ve had so far, such as Raf Simons, he really does embody the 80s rave scene when we look at what he was referencing in the design aesthetic of his boot. It really links back to him, to his connection to his own narrative and to music. If we look at Yohji, who we’ve been working with for just over ten years now, and was one of our first ever collaborators, he offers a minimalist design narrative that comes from Japan but also from the punk heritage of the brand and the original aspects of his design narrative. The whole year of celebration is really about how we can reinterpret and remaster the boot through the eyes of our contemporaries in the field. The 1460 is the platform to express what the boot means to them – which is really what makes it unique. It gives those designers the opportunity to push the stories forward.
Damien: What is interesting on this subject is the influence of youth culture and subculture on fashion. Dr. Martens has always been ingrained in expressions of unique identity, of not being afraid to stand out from the crowd. Fashion, now, is very much looking at that idea of youth culture and street culture – embracing individual modes of self-expression rather than trying to stamp out one singular narrative. That’s where we really have a strength, and we specifically choose partners who are au fait with what is going on within contemporary youth culture points of view.
Over the silhouette’s 60 years of life, it has been worn in a myriad of ways and altered by many collaborators. Have there been any specific iterations of the model that stand out to you?
Damien: We’ve done quite a lot of different things in the past – I love a lot of what we do with designers, but I also really like the collaborations with artists. My personal favourite would have to be the Hieronymus Bosch collaboration. It was his depiction of craziness in the “The Garden of Heavenly Delights” that we used on the 1460 – the fact that the boot can actually take that kind of epic artwork showcases its versatility. It works incredibly well as a blank canvas. That specific style had a deep resonance, using such a major artwork, but because the boot is so recognisable, it could really carry it. In some ways, I think Dr. Martens has been ahead of the curve on things like that, because the product is so unique and recognisable. There are many renditions of the boot that are fantastic, though, so it is quite tough to pick only one!
Darren: From this year, I’m really going to struggle to choose one as I think they’re all fantastic, but to go back to one that has been really impactful to me over the past few years, it would have to have been the Joy Division and New Order concept with artwork from Peter Saville. For us, it builds on the back of the creative standpoint the brand was founded on, using the aesthetic of art and how we integrate that into the 1460. Working with the band and Peter, it was all about innovation – how we would interpret these truly iconic album covers. It was a really great step for us, forging that authentic connection to music as well as pushing the product on through the innovation and creative execution that the team brought to life.
The whole year of celebration is really about how we can reinterpret and remaster the boot through the eyes of our contemporaries in the field.
Dr. Martens continues to remain at the forefront of fashion, delving headfirst into exciting collaborations with high-profile brands from around the world – including a number for the 60th anniversary of the 1460. How does the label approach the art of collaboration?
Damien: We like to work very closely with our collaborative partners, as do the design team – it is very much a partnership, because otherwise it just doesn’t work. It can’t be a one-sided affair. We have to have synergy with our collaborators, and once we’re there, we move to have that same synergy when actually designing the collaborations and developing the product. It has to have a lot of Dr. Martens about it, but it also has to have a lot of what the collaborative partners are bringing to it. We really want to respect what they are bringing to the table, of course.
Darren: There’s a lot of back and forth, but it always begins with a concept. We then work towards determining what is achievable in terms of materials, execution and detailing, then we look at what legacy we want to leave from the project. We aren’t just doing a project for the sake of it, every project has to have a meaning and benefits for both sides of the collaboration in terms of connectivity to consumers and storytelling. We always want to make sure that we are contributing to that legacy.
Following the 60th Anniversary celebrations, what does the future hold for the 1460 boot?
Darren: It’ll continue to evolve, and I think it’ll continue to connect to new consumers in different ways through evolving youth culture movements. The boot has stood the test of time for the last 60 years and I’m sure it’ll be here for the next 60. We won’t be messing around with it, rather we’ll continue to pay homage to what it is all about, its DNA, which relies on us making sure we partner with the right people and take the right approach to continue to keep it relevant and fresh for the next generation.
Damien: It’s a design classic and it’ll only go from strength to strength as new wearers get into it and find new ways to express themselves through the boot. The styles change but the style stays the same. That’s the exciting part, seeing how people will continue to use the style in their own way. At the same time, something that is great about being a part of a brand with longevity and such clear DNA, is that it helps inform other areas of design for the business. So as we diversify into new areas it roots the brand in what it should be and how it should look. It’s an exciting future for certain.