Dr. Martens FROM AN INJURY TO THE BIRTH OF AN ICON
FROM AN INJURY TO THE BIRTH OF AN ICON
Dr. Maertens was an inventor. From a young age, his head was a hotbed of ideas and possibilities. The iconic air-cushioned sole found under our footwear is his most famous invention, but this is just one of a long list of projects he worked on and tried to launch. His workshop in southern Germany was crammed with unusual creations, including a tandem motorcycle that was essentially the fusion of two Vespas.
Around the age of 25, while skiing in the Bavarian Alps, Maertens seriously fractured his foot. He already had one leg shorter than the other due to a bad teenage motorcycle accident, and he had to do an intense stretch every morning to get himself out of bed and walk freely. And it is while he is stuck in bed that Maertens realizes that all the shoes available on the market offer no relief to his aching wound. He had worked at a shoemaker one summer when he was a teenager and knew how to make a shoe. It was then that an idea suddenly flashed into his head - to create a cushioned sole.
Maertens thus shows the idea to his university friend, a chemical engineer born in Luxembourg called Dr. Funck and together they work on the first air-cushioned sole. The ingenious inventor instantly realizes that the sole relieves joint pain by giving a new sensation, as if one were literally walking on air. But nobody in Germany seems to be impressed by the idea. At least not right away. Undeterred and utterly convinced by the splendid invention, Maertens and Funck nonetheless set up a production line for air-cushioned soles in a small workshop on the edge of a lake, surrounded by stacks of Funck's books and university papers.
For a while, the new business barely puts food on the tables of the two families, but slowly the customers begin to arrive and word of mouth spreads. Their revolutionary footwear, durable and extremely comfortable, is starting to get noticed. And as orders continue to increase, they move their workshop into a former barracks.
In 1952, only a few years after Maertens had been rescued in the Alps, the two doctors opened a factory in Munich to begin producing their new shoes on an industrial scale. Seven years later, they get a call from Bill Griggs, a shoemaker from Northampton. The air-cushioned sole becomes the foundation of the 1460 boot. It's time for Dr. Martens to take the stage.