The Sixties saw the return of the elegant boot for men and with a difference for these had Cuban heels. Made popular by the Beatles who wore both leather and suede Chelsea (slip-on) boots with pointed toes. Much less aggressive than brothel creepers and winkle pickers Beatle Boots resembled streamlined Congress Boots from Victorian times. French seams (a central stitch running from ankle to toe on the upper) were symbolic of an invagination (i.e. female genitalia).
The Sixties saw the beginning of the Sexual Revolution gone were the phallic inspired winklepicker toes of the late 50s to be replaced by the broader toed (chisel toe) Chelsea boots. In terms of zeitgeist this may suggest a time of gender equality or more likely sexual promiscuity. The Rolling Stones became the epitome of anarchy and dressed accordingly.
As the Beatles were the neatly suited Fab Four, the Stones were five individuals and dressed to celebrate the difference. For a short time, they wore suede hi-top ankle boots called Chukka Boots. These were the shoes of choice for Mods who rode scooters. The high boot protected the ankles from heat given from the exhaust pipe.
As the sixties progressed the fashion for leather boots dwindled whilst youngest males wore hi-top trainers for preference.
By the end of the decade the sub culture of ‘skin heads’ (suede heads) saw the introduction of unisex clothing which included Dr. Marten boots. Dr Klause Maertens of Munich invented air soles in 1945 and was inspired when recovering from a skiing accident. He wanted to wear a comfortable shoe and developed Airware boots. They began to sell in 1947 but it took until 1960s when Bill Griggs persuaded the German parent company to let him manufacture workman’s protective boots with the air cushioned sole at his factory in Northampton. The once ultra-conservative Dr Martens shoes became the trademark of urban youth excited by violence in Doc Martens. Urban warriors are not the invention of the sixties but were in evidence much earlier on in history.
Boot boys were common place in the seventeenth century and used to terrorise the highways of the time. DMs became the uniform of rebellious youth and skinheads made it their own. In the seventies DMs or Bovver Boots threatened the complacency of the bourgeoisie and all the more so because it was a unisex phenomenon. The original eight lacing boot with distinctive yellow stitches has remained the most unique boot of all time. With its patented sole and trends no competitor has ever attempted to copy its world famous features.
As the appearance of Beatle Boots heralded the beginning on a new era so too did Doc Martens document an ambiguity and blurring of role distinctions in the later decades of the 20th century. Doc Martens became popular with women and Gay men – so despite its macho aggressiveness it belies the real feelings of the wearer even Pope John Paul II and the Dalai Lama ordered several pairs of Doc Martens.