Dr. Martens has long-occupied a unique space in Britain’s cultural and sartorial history. Long before they became the off-duty footwear of choice for It-girls like Agyness Deyn and Alice Dellal, Dr. Martens were worn by members of the working class (mail carriers, policemen), musicians (Siouxsie Sioux, Henry Rollins) and the self-consciously anti-establishment (mods, punks, goths and skinheads). To commemorate its 50th anniversary this year, the company will issue limited edition runs of its “1460″ and “1461″ footwear as well as release a year-long series of 10 “cult” song covers online.
Though Dr. Martens never really went away, the brand is experiencing a notable resurgence of late, propelled in part by the grunge revival. Three seasons into fashion’s dalliance with ’90s nostalgia, young denizens of London’s Shoreditch and East End (ditto New York’s Williamsburg and Lower East Side) have again embraced the iconic boots, pairing them with oversized sweaters, slip dresses and leather jackets—much as their peers did two decades ago. To say those early looks were somehow more sartorially organic would probably be true, but also a little disingenuous. Whether or not the wearer has a bonafide interest in fashion, Dr. Martens are statement shoes that connote toughness and grit, both real or perceived.
Given his—and the shoes’—overwhelming popularity in the early ’90s, Kurt Cobain is arguably the musician most readily identified with the brand. Dr. Martens opted away from the grunge era for its anniversary, however. The company commissioned original videos from the Noisettes, the Duke Spirit and DāM-FunK, who covered a classic track from the Buzzcocks, Sham 69 and Human League, respectively. In addition to the aforementioned clips, dropping April 1st on drmartens.com, fans can anticipate future tracks from the likes of the Raveonettes, Buraka Som Sistema and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.
Though the Dr. Martens image remains closely allied with musicians, the brand has recently gotten cozy with designers as well. Following successful high-fashion collabs with Yohji Yamamoto, Raf Simons and Jean Paul Gaultier, Dr. Martens will unveil two new styles, which were created in its original Wollaston, England, factory. To celebrate the brand’s bday, the limited-edition 1460 boot (initially produced April 1, 1960) and 1461 shoe will be made available online and at select U.S. retailers in black and red pebbled leather, featuring gold heel loops and eyelets. And judging by the Dr. Martens-heavy autumn/winter ’10 runways, expect to see plenty of them come September—if not sooner.