I'm preparing for class this afternoon, and wondering why I've forgotten my Dr. Martens boots at home.
I'm discussing the notion of appropriation with my class today, and using Dr. Martens boots as an example. The first experience I have with these kinds of boots were my friends wearing them in high school (the early 1990s). The people that I hung around with that wore them were of a certain ethnic group that are stereotypically well-off. In this case, I think they were, but I can't be certain. But they did wear the boots.
The other groups who wore the boots then were the local "skinheads." I was never sure if they were real skinheads or not (I remember one fellow in my class was rather quiet and seemingly kind, so this seemed to not quite mesh with the picture we might have of roving violent gangs). I do remember some of these folk at my high school wearing clothing that denounced racism, so maybe these were the nice kinds.
My sister used to mention that one of her professors in Biology wore Docs. I thought that was interesting (and I think my sister wore Docs before I did). Once I went to college (to take theology) after a few years at university, I also bought my first pair of Docs, for utilitarian reasons. We needed shoes to wear to chapel; there was a dress code in place. I thought it would be easiest to get a pair of shoes I could wear all the time, and the Docs seemed to fit the bill. So that's what I bought. I wore those for years, then amassing all sorts of pairs: a couple of 3-eyelet pairs of shoes, both black and oxblood; two pairs of boots, "greasers" (which I still have) and a pair of shiny black ones (the first pair of boots, probably upon going to grad school).
At some point, I wanted to get another pair of boots, but found out that they were no longer made in England (they have since introduced a line that continues to be produced in England). So I moved to another brand, Blundstone boots, which have proved to be more comfortable to me. But immediately after I bought mine, they also announced that they would no longer be made in Tazmania. So, mine were the last of the Australian Blundstones. I need new ones soon, and I'm trying to decide whether to go with new Blunnies (made in China, probably), or return to Docs (English-made).
In any case, these are an interesting example of appropriation. What I think is an excellent question to ask is, what do Docs (or Blunnies, for that matter), mean to me? Why do I wear them? For certain, there is much more that simple utility going on here.