Doc Martens Now Come Adorned with William Blake’s Art, Thanks to a Partnership with Tate Britain

On a recent trip to Port­land, I found myself at the city’s flag­ship Pearl Dis­trict Dr. Martens’ store and was instant­ly trans­port­ed back to much younger days when I scrimped and saved to buy my first pair of “Docs” at the local DC punk bou­tique. Big and clunky, the boots and shoes have been asso­ci­at­ed with out­sider and alter­na­tive cul­ture for decades (and, sad­ly, through no fault of their own, with neo-Nazis, as a recent Port­land con­tro­ver­sy remind­ed). The brand has since applied its “Air­Wair” sole to styles much less evoca­tive of leather-clad punks, but the originals–the eight-eye “1460” boot and three-eye “1461” shoe–will for­ev­er retain their icon­ic sta­tus, in the clas­sic col­ors of black and “oxblood” red.

“Orig­i­nal­ly a mod­est work-boot that was even sold as a gar­den­ing shoe,” as the company’s his­to­ry tells it, the near­ly inde­struc­tible footwear first achieved cult sta­tus in work­ing-class British sub­cul­tures in the ear­ly days of “glam, punk, Two Tone, and ear­ly goth.”

The flam­boy­ance of the Dr. Martens’ clien­tele gave it license to exper­i­ment with unortho­dox styles, like shiny patent leather in eye-pop­ping col­ors, an ani­mal print series and, most recent­ly, an artist series, fea­tur­ing 1460s and 1461s cov­ered in leather repro­duc­tions of paint­ings by artists like Hierony­mus Bosch, Gian­ni­co­la Di Pao­lo, and William Hog­a­rth (unfor­tu­nate­ly all sold out on their web­site).

One of the recent addi­tions to this pan­theon seems like a per­fect fit: the William Blake Docs, offer­ing your “choice of gnos­tic kicks for a night out,” as Dan­ger­ous Minds quips. A part­ner­ship with Tate Britain, the boot ver­sion is wrapped in Blake’s Satan Smit­ing Job with Sore Boils (c. 1826) and the shoe dis­plays The House of Death (c. 1795). See both paint­ings below.

Like anoth­er new addi­tion to the artist series—with art­work from J.M.W. Turn­er—the Blake Dr. Martens draw on the work of a vio­lent­ly orig­i­nal Eng­lish artist with solid­ly work­ing-class roots. Unlike his con­tem­po­rary Turn­er, Blake spent most of his days in obscu­ri­ty, cre­at­ing a DIY visu­al and poet­ic mythol­o­gy rich enough to counter the reli­gious and philo­soph­i­cal hege­mo­ny of the day, which was a total­ly punk rock thing to do in the 18th cen­tu­ry.

“I must cre­ate a sys­tem, or be enslaved by anoth­er man’s,” Blake wrote. Does the stamp­ing of his icon­o­clas­tic art­work on a cul­tur­al­ly icon­ic, com­mer­cial­ly suc­cess­ful boot (and shoe, and leather satchel, and T‑shirt) mean that he’s been absorbed into exact­ly the kind of sys­tem he spent his life oppos­ing? Isn’t that just punk’s eter­nal dilem­ma.…

See a short film from Tate Britain cel­e­brat­ing their col­lab­o­ra­tion with Dr. Martens at the shoemaker’s web­site and see much more William Blake in the Relat­ed Con­tent links below.

If you want to snag your own William Blake Dr. Martens, you can find the 3‑Eye Oxfords and 1460 Boot on Ama­zon.

via Dan­ger­ous Minds

Relat­ed Con­tent:

William Blake’s Hal­lu­ci­na­to­ry Illus­tra­tions of John Milton’s Par­adise Lost

William Blake’s Mas­ter­piece Illus­tra­tions of the Book of Job (1793–1827)

William Blake’s Last Work: Illus­tra­tions for Dante’s Divine Com­e­dy (1827)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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Comments (3)
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  • Bettie Stilletto says:

    That’s just a bad idea. Blake is beyond descrip­tion, Docs are great, togeth­er they’re Fug­ly, andreek des­per­a­tion. I’m a a deep think­ing, rebel artist, intel­lec­tu­al, uh, poet?
    If some­one paint­ed their own that would be dif­fer­ent.
    Mar­ket­ing ..
    It sucks.

  • Bettie Stilletto says:

    Eh, but what do I know?

  • Rachael says:

    I agree Bet­tie. The des­per­a­tion effect, they coul­da got that using the cov­er of Trainspot­ting on them too.

    Those are some fuckin pre­ten­tious boots. I only imag­ine suits wearin them to prove they’ve got it going on and still
    put a lit­tle gel in the hair on the week­ends.

    Maybe per­son­al­i­ty suits are next.


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