Dr. Martens: From Work Boot to Cultural Icon

December 21, 2022

Retail case study

With iconic boots that stand for rebellious self-expression, Dr. Martens continues to grow its brick-and-mortar footprint.

Dr. Martens might have been popularized by The Who’s Pete Townshend and later, grunge culture, but this English boot company — founded as the Griggs company in 1901 — first built its reputation as a maker of sturdy, durable work boots.

In 1959, the Griggs family was introduced to Dr. Klaus Maertens, a shoe manufacturer in Munich, and his friend, mechanical engineer Dr. Herbert Funk. The two men had created a unique air-cushioned sole to aid in Maertens’ recovery from a broken foot. After obtaining an exclusive license and making a few key changes, the Griggs company introduced the eight-holed 1460 Dr. Martens boot in 1960 — the beginning of a decade marked by cultural upheaval and social revolution.

Retail case study

“When we open a store in a new city, within the next six months online sales increase within that city.”

—Kenny Wilson, Dr. Martens CEO

From grunge to emo to festival culture to high-fashion, Dr. Marten’s boots have been adopted by a wide range of wearers, but the common thread that attracts them to “Docs” or “DMs” is the boot’s alternative appeal, authentic aesthetic, and symbol of empowerment.

Currently operating 158 stores globally, with 24 stores opened this year — including a new store at Brookfield Properties’ Oakbrook Center — the brand’s retail revenue was up 86% in 2022, according to its annual report.

“We are building to be a digital-first business, but our results show that people want to get back out to stores and try on a pair of shoes,” Dr. Martens’ CEO Kenny Wilson said in a 2021 statement. When we open a store in a new city, within the next six months online sales increase within that city. For example, we opened a store in Rome and it soon took over as our top performing city in Italy.”

Retail case study

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