On a dreary British day, or any other day for that matter, Northamptonshire may not appeal to most Londoners who are more used to the hustle and bustle of the city. However I discovered that there is more to Northamptonshire than first meets the eye and that it is arguably the home of British shoemaking. It is simple really, follow the sounds of clicking, buzzing and whirring and you will end up at the surprising birth place of a longstanding cultural British icon, the home of Dr. Martens.
The Cobb’s Lane factory has over 100 years of shoemaking experience and to this day its family of veteran shoemakers and apprentices stick to very traditional methods when putting together the individual pieces that make up a shoe from the Dr. Martens Made In England range. The Made In England range is Dr. Martens premium line, the crème de la crème of its vast array footwear.
The very best that the brand has to offer in terms of design, manufacturing methods, collaborations and customisation. Dr. Martens will source practically any leather (ostrich to alligator) and make you a fully customisable pair of shoes to order as part of their Bespoke concept, all within this factory.
The first job of many when making a pair of Dr. Martens is that of the Clicker, a name that comes from the clicking sound that the Clickers knife makes when carrying out this intricate task. The Clicker takes the leather hide, possibly cut from a cow that was recently on your plate, and cuts out the different components that make up the upper part of the shoe. As simple as it may sound, this is a job that requires a great deal of thought as their aim is to target the best parts of the hide but also keep waste to a minimal.
Following this the cuts are passed on to the Skiver, who splits the individual parts into different thicknesses to suit there purpose within the shoe, the tongue for example is made thinner and lighter. A hot foil stamp can now be imprinted onto the inside of the tongue with the size, style number and the important words, Made In England.
A series of flat shapes are now ready to be assembled into something more recognisable as those things you put on your feet. The toe and the heel are stitched separately before being stitched together into one using the infamous ‘Puritan’ machine, eyelets are punched according to the Clickers markings and the result is moved on to where the iconic Air Cushion Sole will be attached. What happens next is difficult to explain without seeing it and involves a lot of shoemaker terms that go over my head, I believe shoemakers have a language all to themselves. To put it simply, the shoe is moulded into shape and reinforced so that the sole can be attached, any excess leather is trimmed and the eye catching yellow thread stitched into shoes that require it.
At this point a real moment of magic occurs, a blade heated to 700 degrees centigrade is placed between the sole and the upper shoe and with a flash of white heat, the two parts are climatically melted into one, it is mesmerising to watch. What was just a leather hide seemingly moments ago has been transformed before my eyes into a masterfully designed shoe which is easily recognisable around the world. Once laced, polished and boxed, they are ready to hit the stores and for you to take them for a stroll.
Luckily for me, the trip didn’t end here. Before catching the train back we took a walk up the road to The Doc Shop, the Dr Martens factory shop in which everything costs a fraction of the retail price. It is open to anyone and if you have the time it is definitely worth a visit, while you can never be sure what will be in the shop on the day, the chances are you will find something worth the exceptionally low price. I bought myself a pair of Made In England 1461′s and have worn them constantly since, they are actually the third pair of Dr. Martens that I own.
The Dr. Martens – Made in England Collection is beautiful and while expensive, as a premium line it is definitely worth the money if you have it. I do not think I can put into words how iconic this brand is and I would suggest you watch the video here from the official Dr. Martens Youtube page for some context and history. Shuya Okino of Kyoto Jazz Massive describes Dr. Martens as “a symbol of freedom,” and whether or not you agree, for such a statement to even be made you have to realise that the brand represents more than just footwear. We want to know what they mean to you, are they an important cultural symbol or are they just another footwear brand, let us know in the comments below.
Peep a few shots from the latest: