They were still made in England when I started buying Dr. Martens back in 1994, and for me, at the time, they were wildly expensive — around $125 for the basic boot, an expense I justified as tools of my trade.
I was a bartender, on my feet all the time, and I had been burning through a couple pair of boots a year before I bought my first Docs: the classic 8-eye 1460, in tobacco brown. I wore them every day, both behind the bar and in front of it, had them polished at airports — where they always drew compliments from the shoeshine men — paired them with shorts and tuxedoes and, once, a kilt. Unless I was barefoot, I had them on my feet. I even wore them bowling.
I still have them. They’re my lawnmower shoes now.
I bought another pair five years later — two, actually, because they were on sale and because I wanted to impress the woman who suggested it, though buying two pairs of boots at one time seemed to me, still seems to me, incredibly indulgent.
Both the woman and the boots are still with me. I recently pulled the black ones out of the closet — deeply scuffed and scarred, worn thin as their British-made soles allow, embedded with the stains of a million cocktails — and handed them off to my oldest child, who accepted them with a sort of reverence. They’re genuine Doc Martens, alright, certainly vintage, but I suspect they’ve got a few more miles in their heels. Boots like these always do.