Vegan shoes!

Doc Martens are more than a classic, they’re an icon. But did you know they’re also ethical and sustainable?

Docs, or DMs as they’re often known, are steeped in a rich history. They were originally designed by Klaus Märtens, a German army doctor, in 1945 after he injured his ankle skiing in the Bavarian Alps. He found that his army issued boots were too uncomfortable, so designed boots with an air-cushioned sole from his bed and, when the war ended, was able to get hold of some leather and make his first prototype pair. The boots have gone through some changes since then, after their popularity grew in Germany the English Griggs company bought the patent rights in the late 50s and added some design tweaks – including an altered heel and the infamous yellow stitching – the classic 1460 Doctor Martens boot was born on April 1, 1960.

Although originally a workers boot, over the years Doc Martens have been synonymous with a variety of movements and subcultures: skinheads, punks, grunge and festival-goers to name a few. Nowadays there are so many styles and variations that there’s something out there for everyone, and Doc Martens continue to be the pioneer of personal identity through footwear. But beyond this history, there are practical reasons why these shoes are a worthy investment. Let me tell you the top four reasons now:

-They last forever
It’s no secret that these were first and foremost a work boot, they were designed as a replacement for army boots after all. In fact, it was their early adoption by factory workers and postmen that led to them being adopted by subcultures, they were the ultimate anti elitist and working class choice. Pete Townsend of The Who, the first celebrity to wear Doc Martens, chose them to demonstrate his working class pride and rebellious flare. But I digress. Ultimately, the fact that they’re a work boot means they are crazy durable. It’s no secret that we live in a throwaway culture; products are designed to wear away quickly so that we throw them away and buy more. Not Doc Martens. I’ve had my pair for 4.5 years and the only thing I’ve noticed is that they’re slightly creased, but this is only as the boots have moulded to my feet. There’s basically no wear and tear, I expect I’ll have them for at least another 10 years, no exaggeration. Longevity is the enemy of landfill, and these shoes have that zero waste power in droves.

– They have locally sourced options
Whilst originally German, when Griggs took over Doc Martens started being produced in Northamptonshire. Production was temporarily outsourced to China and Thailand for a few years when sales slumped in the early noughties, a lot of people lost their jobs and it wasn’t great overall, but some business savvy people at the top successfully restructured the company, and some production returned to Northampton in 2010. (Side note: they won an award for this restructure). Whilst many of their products are still manufactured in Asia, if you’re trying to cut down on shipping impact you can buy the boots frmo their vintage collection, which are made in the UK.

– They’re transparent about their ethical policies
Where their shoes are made abroad or they deal with suppliers abroad, Doc Martens are very open about what they aim for with their ethical policies. You can read their full policy document here, but to save you time I’ve compiled the main points here:

Forced labour is prohibited. This means no prison, indentured or bonded labour. AKA, no human trafficking.
Child labour is prohibited (child defined as under 15 unless the laws of the local country requires it to be a higher number). If child labour is discovered, the children must immediately be transferred to education.
Employees MUST be paid the living wage. Specifically they must be paid ‘at or above national minimum wage levels or industry benchmark levels (whichever are higher). Wages must always be sufficient to meet basic needs and to provide some discretionary income for the employee’. Also wages cannot be deducted as a disciplinary measure, overtime must be paid and training/apprenticeship wages and pre-employment fees/deposits or anything else that lower an employees pay are not allowed.
Employees may not work over 48 hours per week on a regular basis
Abuse and discrimination in the workplace is not allowed
Hygienic standards must be upheld

Additionally, on their website Doc Martens states:

‘we don’t believe in audits that just tick boxes and demand immediate compliance. Our research shows that this approach can force bad practices underground, leading to false documentation and coached workers. We prefer not just that factories pass audits but that conditions for the workers actually improve. We encourage, therefore, an honest dialogue with our suppliers. We understand that sometimes it is just not possible for them to comply with all aspects of our code of conduct straight away. But we do expect any critical issues to be remedied immediately and other issues are resolved as part of a long-term improvement plan. We do not work with suppliers who do not demonstrate commitment to our approach.’

This means that they don’t just abandon suppliers who don’t meet all their codes and let them continue practising as they are. Instead, they attempt to work with their suppliers on long term improvement plans to make working conditions better. I personally think this is a good idea; as well as ensuring their workers are treated well they also equip those in management positions to find feasible ways to run their factories ethically, knowledge which can then be passed on to others.

– They have a VEGAN range

You heard me right, vegan shoes! Ok so maybe you’re all geniuses and knew vegan shoes was a thing but I didn’t so maybe some of you out there are like me. Of course logically the idea of vegan shoes is totally plausible, I just didn’t know that companies were actually producing them. You can buy the classic 8-eye boot and 3-eye shoe made with vegan materials (cambridge brush or felix rub off as they’re named), the shoes are exactly the same in every detail except being cruelty free and animal friendly. Whilst the vegan range is not as extensive as the non vegan, it’s definitely a solid start. And when combined with the company’s ethics and longevity, it’s pretty good for a high street brand.

There are so many other things I could say about Doc Martens, but I’ll be here all day. Hopefully I’ve proved to you how good an investment they are however, an investment I would definitely encourage you to make if you’re looking for boots/shoes.

Until next time, stay magic y’all

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