An Ode to Dr. Martens, the Combat Boots That Stole My Heart at 13

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My first pair of Doc Martens was not Doc Martens at all. They were low-top faux Dr. Martens from Fayva (a Payless equivalent in the Party City shopping center in my Long Island hometown) with a pleathery finish and sole stitching a twinge too orange to be authentic. Real Docs were too expensive, around $100 even then, which was more than my parents wanted to invest in my still-growing feet. Still, circa fifth grade in the mid-’90s, the knockoffs enabled my best friend, Chrissy, and I to copy her older sister, Heather, a sophisticated ninth-grader who wore her Doc oxfords with faded jeans and flannels unbuttoned to reveal a bodysuit underneath. Our not-Docs sent a signal-flare to society: babyish Keds and dainty ballet flats were dead to us. We were angsty tweens now and had the lug sole footwear to prove it.

By seventh grade, while roaming the mall with packs of girlfriends on Saturday afternoons, I came to covet the genuine article: earthy brown, lace-up combat boot-style Dr. Martens in the window at Journeys, purveyor of all things cool in 1995. I pined for a lot of things then (actual breasts; a beeper; a folded loose-leaf note from Justin K., a guy with a mushroom haircut in my Language Arts class). The brown Docs, with their phat-with-a-p-h soles and telltale yellow AirWair tag at the ankle, were comparatively attainable. I fancied them unique compared with the classic black pairs already peeking out from beneath some lucky kids’ Jncos.