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So boots are just boots then? Not necessarily. Nowadays the Doctor Martens AirWair is the most common skinhead boot but this has not always been the case.
Dr. Klaus Maertens had the idea for the Airwair Sole but it was the Griggs shoemakers in Northampton that made the boot. Other alternative boots were also made during the seventies, including Hawkins boots and Sergeant Peppers (which were pretty dire). When I started living in Leeds in the mid 80s, a shop still sold Hawkins boots. The stock they had were too small a size for a man but looked very good quality with AirWair soles like a DM boot.
In the early days, boots were worn for effect and for intimidation and it didn't matter if they were DMs or not. Steel toe caps were common and were usually worn to emphasize their toe caps, polishing them brightly or painting white being the norm. As the football violence became more prevalent the police tried in vain to avoid aggro by pulling skins in steelies. Steel toe caps counted as an offensive weapon.
At this point the Doctor Marten (8 eyelet) became popular and had the advantage that they could be bulled up to a fine finish. Brown was the standard colour in 1969-70 with laces pulled through the rear tag. The polish used was Cherry Red giving rise to the term Cherry Reds which I think is confusingly used as a colour definition for DMs. Brown boots could be given a red tinge by using the ox blood/red polish on brown boots. Using black in the creases gave an antique look and I remember my brother using Tuxan as undercoat for a Meltonian shoe cream overcoat (both in red on a brown boot).
A popular boot post-1970 was the 11 eyelet Hawkins Astronaut. These weren't Doctor Marten produced but had the AirWair sole. They differed in style but I have to admit they had a good shape. They had no heel strip, just a blind stitched seam running up the back of the shin. There was no tag at the back and most importantly had internal stitching between the sole and the boot instead of the yellow stitching. This gave the boot a flatter, wider profile over the front. UB40's Astro was an Afro boy/boot boy in the early 70s and obtained his name from the boots he wore - Astronauts. AirWair did bow to competition and brought out an 11 eyelet boot.
When the next wave of skinheads came around, the boots became more extreme. Black and brown 8 and 11 became black and red 8, 10 and 14 with the Black 18 eyelet being the most unwearable and unsurpassable of all the AirWair range. The 18 eyelet boot was very similar to Astronauts in their design - no stitching showing between sole and boot. The steel toe version was always a mottled leather and had 11 eyelets for some strange reason.
AirWair reigned supreme as a labelled boot but the Blackguard boots from Blackmans were popular and could be made to look like glass if you put the time in. Army surplus commando boots with the screw-on soles and various other army boots have been worn but the trouble with army boots is that they don't always lend themselves to being bulled up to a shine as easy as other styles. Derby brogues were sold at the Last Resort and could be found elsewhere if you looked in the right place. These looked very smart and could be bulled up really nice.
The ladies have always had the monkey boot.
As the look became more paramilitary, the emphasis was on more military style boots such as Blackguards and commando boots. Gripfast, gettagrip and grinders also became very popular and were often more available in other countries as they adopted the skinhead style.
There are still a great number of boots to choose from besides AirWair DMs. I'd like to see a little more variation of style within the AirWair range. They seem to do three styles of boot in two colours suitable for the skinhead market yet can manage to do hundreds of different colours and materials that may only sell in minimal amounts.
"Gotta make sure you shine your boots, brush your teeth, cos man on the moon look different to man on the earth"