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How to Wear Doc Martens

When I got my first pair of Docs, I wanted to wrap my ankles in duct tape to ward off the blisters. Since then, I've learned many tricks.

Tips for How to Wear Doc Martens

Tips for How to Wear Doc Martens

There's a Pair of Dr. Martens for Everyone

Quick! What do you think of when I say “Doc Martens”? If you only picture the inimitable heavy-duty, lace-up, hard, black leather, kick-butt boot favored by British postal workers and punks alike, you may be surprised to discover that there are a lot more styles to choose from. There’s a Doc Martens (DM) shoe for everyone, and that’s why the brand is one of my (and the world's) all-time favorites.

One of four walls loaded with colorful shoes in the DM store in Covent Garden.  There are so many styles to choose from!

One of four walls loaded with colorful shoes in the DM store in Covent Garden. There are so many styles to choose from!

My Introduction to Dr. Martens

My sister introduced me to Docs. After a foray into heavy metal in high school, she veered toward punk . . . and well, the music was nice, but the part I really enjoyed was the accessories! As she marched in these boots to classes on U.S. soil, listening to old-school punk popularized years prior, she looked amazingly cool, and I wanted to be cool, too.

The Day I Wandered Into a DM Store

Unfortunately, all I knew of DMs were the big black boots, and I just couldn’t see myself wearing them. What a happy day it was in 2002 when we vacationed across the pond with our parents and found ourselves at the DM store.

My sister bounced in and was fitted immediately for a new pair of boots. I was more shy, wandering and looking around. Such crazy colors and patterns! 14 eye? Purple velvet? Day-Glo leather? The Union Jack, on boots? Even the classic cherry reds seemed garish to my young and bewildered American eyes.

I was no stranger to unusual footwear. I wore platform heels and studded shoes. But at the DM store, all I could see were thick, unglamorous clunky soles with bright yellow stitching. Who did these people think they were, wearing such flashy footwear? Who would dare wear such eye-catchers? (Clearly, I had a lot to learn.)

People Actually Wear Them in the UK

Well, everyone wore them, and not just the retail workers. I still remember the exchange as I looked out the window at the London street, as nearly everyone walking by was sporting DMs of one type or another; boppers and bankers, as well as street youth and yuppie types. There had to be a style for me, despite my short stature and not particularly slender calves. I vacillated, hypnotized by the boot colors and the smell of new leather.

My mom said, “Are you sure you don’t want a pair, pussycat? London is the place to get them.”

My sister said, “They’re really comfortable, Rachie, you’ll love them!”

Then my dad said, “What about shoes instead of boots?”

And my eyes were opened as I saw a pair of simple black 1461 shoes (with three eyelets). I grabbed them, tried them on, and my feet were in heaven. I immediately perked up, picked up a confident attitude, and I've never looked back.

Thus began my love affair with Docs. I wore those shoes for years, until the bouncing, ridged soles had been worn smooth. Today I’m proud to say I’ve blazed my own way with nine pairs over the years. All were made in England except for my newest pair, which I acquired very recently. They have tiny, elegant pink and yellow flowers on black boots that can smash in a door! (They're pictured down below.)

A lineup of my Doc Martens. Aren't they somethin'?

A lineup of my Doc Martens. Aren't they somethin'?

Can You Rock the Docs?

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. What's the One Thing You Must Always Keep with You When Wearing Docs? (Besides Socks!)
    • Greasy fast food
    • A sorrowful mood
    • A fierce attitude
  2. What's the Best Choice of Footwear for Someone?
    • 1460s
    • 1461s
    • Whatever fits properly
  3. How Long Does It Take to Break in a Pair of DM Boots?
    • A week
    • A month
    • A year
    • Who knows? Everyone is different. It really depends how much you wear them!
  4. I Don't Wear Leather. Is There a Pair for Me?
    • Of course not. Why can't you just conform to what everyone else is doing?
    • Yes, there are vegan choices for those who choose not to wear animal products. DM wearers march to their own drum.

Answer Key

  1. A fierce attitude
  2. 1460s
  3. Who knows? Everyone is different. It really depends how much you wear them!
  4. Yes, there are vegan choices for those who choose not to wear animal products. DM wearers march to their own drum.

Interpreting Your Score

If you got between 0 and 1 correct answer: I didn't even think it was possible to score this low! Try again.

If you got 2 correct answers: Maybe, but you should probably start out with something lightweight until you can muster up the right attitude.

If you got 3 correct answers: Yes, yes! You're almost ready!

If you got 4 correct answers: Right on and rock on! Go ahead and choose whatever pair suits you.

How to Wear Doc Martens

A quick internet search will bring up lots of pictures of people of all shapes and sizes wearing Docs. There are lessons all over the internet about how to look cool while wearing them, and giggle-worthy images of many not quite succeeding. But, I say it's all about the attitude. So wear them however you like—laced up, open with the tongue folded back, with jeans, a miniskirt or maxi dress, or with a kilt. Yes, I said it. A kilt!

But here are some suggestions on ways to wear Docs that will flatter your shape and be more appropriate for day-to-day activity (leave your butt-kicking pursuits for after hours).

My flowered Docs kissing the English countryside.

My flowered Docs kissing the English countryside.

How to Wear Them With Casual Outfits

  • T-Shirt and Jeans: Of course, jeans and a band t-shirt topped off with DMs are an excellent statement, showing off your taste in footwear and music alike.
  • Old-School Punk: Go old-school hardcore with a CBGB or Sex Pistols t-shirt, and skinny jeans or black pants. This look works for men, women, and anyone in between. You simply can't fail with this outfit!
  • Sexy Heeled Boots: Women, consider the Marcie boot (a 10-eyelet 3-inch wedge-heeled boot) with a dress, jeans, or even tailored pants. In addition to looking great, they provide you with a little more height, which is rarely a bad thing.
  • Statement Colors: Don't be shy. You are wearing a brand recognized the world over. So if you're feeling those bright yellow patent ones, don't hesitate to pull them on. Be proud of your style!

How to Dress Up Docs

  • With a Men's Suit: 1461s with a suit? Why not? Just make sure they’re not your grungy ones. As a woman, I find a man with shined, cared-for Docs hiding under his tailored suit very attractive. I like a man who is confident in his choice of footwear.
  • With a Ladies' Suit: Choose the more feminine heeled, lace-up version like the Kimora with a suit for a snappy, smart look. I may love my flat Docs, but I love my high heels, too.
  • With a Skirt or Dress: Boots with a skirt can be flattering and plenty cute if you don’t try too hard. Little kids can wear just about anything and be adorable, but as an adult, choosing the right length skirt and pairing it with a floral patterned shoe or Mary Jane style Docs makes its own fashion statement. And you don’t necessarily have to color your hair with chalk or put it in pigtails, either.

Quick Fashion Tips

  • Wear 1461s or low boots if you are short or have thicker calves. It will help keep your legs from appearing even shorter.
  • Wear your pants outside your boots, inside of tucked in or military style, and your legs will look a little longer thanks to the thick sole.
  • Wear a more lightweight sandal once summertime hits, or try a lighter option boot material like canvas instead of leather.

Although it can take time to break in your DMs, don't give up! A well-worn shoe will be your friend forever.

The mark of truth—MADE IN ENGLAND.

The mark of truth—MADE IN ENGLAND.

The History of Dr. Martens


Abby on August 11, 2018:

I just bought a pair of 1460 doc martens and the bottom is squeaky what can i do to fix it?

Rachel Vega (author) from Massachusetts on March 19, 2014:

Hi Ema,

Yeah, that's probably part of it... also, what kind of material are the shoes? Smooth or soft leather, or fabric? Over time some materials wear much softer and the tongues could go a bit "flappy"... I hope they're not uncomfortable!

Ema on March 17, 2014:

Hi, does anyone else have an issue with the tongue laying wonky? I have 2 pairs and both tongues seem to be slipping sideways. I don't lace them all the way up could this be the problem?

Paul Fisher from United Kingdom on February 11, 2014:

Not a problem CleverCat! It's good to celebrate the icons!

Rachel Vega (author) from Massachusetts on February 09, 2014:

Hey, Paul! Thanks for the compliment! :) From one shoe-lover to another, yes, definitely unearth them and feel comfy and proud!!!

Paul Fisher from United Kingdom on February 05, 2014:

Great Article! I've had many memorable times stomping to the sounds of the Punk era in a pair of Dr Martens 1460s. I may need to dig them out again to combat the rubbish UK weather!

Rachel Vega (author) from Massachusetts on December 07, 2013:

You said it, Nene. Rock on. :-)

Nene on December 07, 2013:

Hi Ruth and Ian,

You are never to old to wear something that makes you feel good. Grow old disgracefully

Ian Cooper on October 10, 2013:

Ruth, I have an AARP card and I own three pairs of Doc Martens.

Many old school punks are now well over 50, and I'm sure many of them still wear Doc Martens boots.

Doc martens on October 01, 2013:

Good shoes, I got a pair for my birthday

Rachel Vega (author) from Massachusetts on September 01, 2013:

Hey Ruth, congrats on your first pair! You are definitely not too old to wear DMs! Just wear them as you did your other footwear. Did you get boots or shoes? Shoes are less complicated to pair up with outfits in my opinion, but the only thing I would really caution against is about wearing your pants too short... you run the risk of looking like you're trying too hard.

Thanks so much for the comment and I hope you get many years of enjoyment out of those Docs! Enjoy! :-)

Ruth on September 01, 2013:

I just bought a pair of DM boots. When I tried them on, my feet were in heaven so I purchased them. The only issue I have with them is, I'm old enough to qualify for an AARP card. Any comments as to whether or not I'm too old to wear these w/o looking like an old person trying to hard to look young?

Rachel Vega (author) from Massachusetts on July 18, 2012:

Hiya, Suzie! I'm so glad you liked the hub -- velvet ones... oh, so pretty! Maybe next pair for me. :^) Thanks for the votes and follow!

Suzanne Ridgeway from Dublin, Ireland on July 18, 2012:

Hi Clevercat, what a wonderful stroll down memory lane! My own very unusual docs are still in my closet some 15 years or so later from first worn! Multicoloured Velvet ones, I just cannot bare to throw out or pass on. Thanks so much for the trip, voted up and Interesting! Congrats on the Apprenticeship Program!

Rachel Vega (author) from Massachusetts on July 03, 2012:

Hiya, Boot-y! Boots range from about £110-£130. Not cheap, but you will have them forever.

Boot-ylicious! on July 03, 2012:

I love love love the blue boots in the store photo! How much do the boots cost these days?

Rachel Vega (author) from Massachusetts on July 02, 2012:

Vinaya, they do have loafers now! They have a whole line with thinner soles and very handsome, refined finishing. Maybe consider the Smith loafer, or Harry. They also have chukkas now if you like those.

Vinaya Ghimire from Nepal on July 01, 2012:

As a teenager I loved Doc Martens. But these days I prefer to wear loafers.

Rachel Vega (author) from Massachusetts on July 01, 2012:

Thanks, teaches! (The feet in the first photo actually belong to my sister.) :^) The best thing about that pair is that the first time my young niece saw them on my feet (they were hand-me-ups from my sis at that point, woo hoo!) she told me they were cool. I tried to explain they were her mommy's first, but she would have nothing of that. Ha ha!

Dianna Mendez on July 01, 2012:

Classy and fit! I think you may have started a new trend for the era. They do look chic and smart on your feet. Love the reds, but my favorite is the first pair. Cool!

Rachel Vega (author) from Massachusetts on July 01, 2012:

Hi, Bunny! I'm glad this one is bringing back the memories. :^) Whatever happened to my suede burgundies? Things that make you go, hmm. I might add a few photos of the DM store in Covent Garden too, flashify the photos a little more.

Brainy Bunny from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania on July 01, 2012:

Gosh, I well remember my obsession with DMs. The photo of them lined up on your balcony like tired soldiers is making me misty. I do still have the bright red Ronald McDonald ones that I love to look at, even though I no longer wear them. (I would, but they're just too darn hot for Florida!)

Rachel Vega (author) from Massachusetts on July 01, 2012:

Thanks, Tillson! Yes, breaking them in can be a challenge. But I've never experienced buyer's remorse after buying DMs despite the fairly high price tag. Good luck, and thanks for the votes!

Mary Craig from New York on July 01, 2012:

I do not live under a rock though I must admit after reading your hub an viewing the video I'm beginning to think I do...I've never heard of Doc Martens before. Obviously I've seen them (according to the video) just never knew it!

Thank you for the introduction Clevercat, now I'll have to check them out as they sound not only versatile but well built and after a period of pain (breaking them in) they could last a lifetime!

Voted up, useful and interesting.