On April 1, 1960 the first pair of Dr. Martens was produced by the Griggs factory in the village of Wollaston in central England. Eight eyelets, ox blood red with distinctive yellow stitching, the design was dubbed "1460" after the date of its creation. More than one hundred million pairs of Dr. Martens have been sold since that first pair was unveiled 50 years ago, although there are now some two hundred and fifty different models, from golden to fuscia, floral to custom patterned. To help celebrate reaching landmark Dr. Martens invited a few of us bloggers (including the lovely Disney Roller Girl, Dapper Kid, The Clothes Whisperer) up to their Wollaston factory to help cover the event. Over the next few days I will look at the brand's anniversary campaign and share my favourite models for AW10 but for the benefit of brightening up your Monday evening, I want to offer you a little shoe and factory porn...
Happy Birthday to you... Dr. Martens is fifty on 1st April.
In a sign of the times, the majority of Dr. Martens models have been made in Asia since 2002. However, around fifty pairs leave the factory in Wollaston every day, including the vintage 1460 model, made by ten or so workers on old machines. The Vintage collection is handcrafted in the by cobblers using the original construction techniques that were developed in the 1960's. Today, I was fortunate enough to watch the craftsmen at the Wollaston factory work, following each well honed and practiced process from start to finish. Brian, a lovely and knowledgeable chap who has been working at the factory for thirty seven years talked us through each stage. He professed that his favourite Dr. Martens model is the classic oxblood 1460 and confessed that he used to use black polish to stain the leather. I just wish that I had recorded everything he said so that I could create an awesome mix for you but I'm afraid that I'm not that organised or skilled...you will just have to make do with my factory shots...
The first stage, moulding. The injection moulding of the sole sees the rubber pellets heated up to 170 degrees celsius as they fill the two part cavity. They are left for twenty four hours cool.
Brian talked us through the different aspects of the hide and the fact that the skill of the craftsmen ensures that the best of the leather is used for the uppers (as a rule, the further back you go on the animal, the better the quality of skin) and that there is minimal wastage. I was surprised at how much of this was done by hand.
We were then introduced to Carol who helped transform the hide in to a more recognisable show form...
It was great to watch the craftsmen at work, most of which have been working at the factory for many years. I just had to take a sneaky shot of Carol's copy of Good Housekeeping.
Three row stitching. This machine was pretty frightening and worked shockingly fast. They then moved on to the eyelet punching machine.
Throughout the show making process the leather loses moisture so here the uppers are placed in a steam machine to soften the leather.
The shoe is readied for the welted sole...Every single pair of Dr. Martens has exactly 49 stitches around the sole, regardless of shoe size
This piece of kit took my breath away as the sole was fixed to the shoe. The iconic Air Soles are literally melted on to the welt.
The finished shoe. A recognisable icon, the vintage Cappers.
I was amazed at how quickly the hide was transformed in to the iconic model we see above. The product, made on the original '59' last, features narrower horizontal tread bars, criss-crossed coring bars, a darker sole, a storm welt bound together on the lateral side, small indentations left on the welt by the original stitching machine, no top collar binding and runs into the eye stay above the top eyelet. This is where it all began and it is great to be reminded of that.