My son was employed in the Doc Martens warehouse, Portland, Oregon USA on March 6, 2015, restocking shoe inventory. It was nearing the end of the day before a weekend. He likes and buys a lot of current fashion shoes. He saw an unusual design on a retro shoe model-- the 6-eye Steel Toe Boot-- but his initial interest quickly turned to revulsion. He and his co-workers then read the print insert in the shoe box. The boot was described as, “Reborn from the early years of Dr. Martens” in the “Worn By You” collection. As several of the employees were puzzling over it, a staff member read the enclosed fashion brochure inside the shoebox.
“Originally intended for miners and construction workers, the steel toe cap was a strong but simple safety feature.” But what follows in the brochure is obscene: it is inflammatory. The brochure goes on to note, “Almost immediately after its launch, the skinheads adopted the boot as a weapon of choice.” My son was horrified to note the bulls-eye that is scratched onto the exposed steel on the toe of the boot. As an African-American, my son's disgust is understandable. However any thinking person should be offended by this design and marketing approach.
I'm writing you now to ask you to cease making and marketing this boot design.
Over four decades of skinheads' violent, racist, criminal behavior is a festering wound on our world as it struggles to affirm the dignity and humanity of everyone. I can understand your desire to advertise your goods to an increasingly diverse, cosmopolitan world of youth; however, you should not want to be condoning and abetting ugly racial violence, illegal and offensive as it is. And your shoe insert does just that.
When I google, “skin head boots” this 6-eye Steel Toe Boot comes up. Stop making hate fashionable.
A copy of the letter went to The Skanner, a local weekly paper serving the African-American community, who ran a story on the front page of the next edition: Skanner news story on Dr. Martens skinhead ploy
The story was then picked up by local ABC affiliate KATU and their "On Your Side" reporter Bob Heye, who interviewed Licia on camera: KATU story Dr. Martens skinhead link
Dr. Martens did reply to KATU's request for a response with the following statement [in part]:
We used the first generation of Skinheads and their Dr. Martens footwear choices as a historical reference point for some of our product range within our Autumn/Winter 2014. We would like to apologize if this has caused any offense.
At the very least, this is tone deaf on the issue. While it may be true that the original British skinheads were a non-violent young working class pushback to the seemingly privileged long-haired hippies, the movement was quickly hijacked by anti-immigrant, racist, and violent neo-Nazis. That has been the face of skinheads ever since. Trying to invoke the peaceful early skinheads is like trying to rehabilitate the other peaceful symbol forever tainted by the Nazis: the swastika.