It’s hard to believe, but Doc Martens have been around for over seventy years, and many of their original styles are still big sellers and popular around the world. While their boots are the core of the business, Doc Martens have an extensive range of footwear and accessories. If you look at their official range, they have separate sections for men and women, but are Doc Martens unisex?
All styles of Doc Martens are considered unisex, but within specific model ranges, there are a few that are effectively aimed at women. Similarly, although not as clearly defined, there are one or two variants that may not be aimed at the unisex market but are more specifically designed for men.
Take a look at the Doc Martens range here, and see how they categorise their styles.
I’ve been wearing Docs for over 15 years and personally think they are unisex. My 1460s definitely appeal to both men and women and look great on everyone (check out the current price of 1460s here). My Mary Janes however seem to be a little more traditionally feminine in design.
From its early days in post-war Germany, the brand now known as Doc Martens has had an appeal that transcends gender. Its motto, “Proud Then. Proud Now. Proud Always,” emphasizes the commitment of the company to involve and be involved with the LGBTQ movement. As we’ll see, while gender is not totally ignored, it is not a major factor in the design of Doc Martens products.
*This page may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you. Learn More.
Are Doc Martens Unisex?
Before looking in more detail at how broadly the unisex label applies to Doc Martens, a brief look at the origins of the company will give a hint of why the modern product has a unique position in the market.
The Early Years Of Doc Martens
Klaus Maertens was a young soldier and medical doctor in the German army during World War 2. He had a badly injured foot that was extremely painful when he had to wear standard leather footwear.
To solve the problem, Maertens designed a boot with a padded sole which made an enormous difference. After the war ended, he used scavenged leather and scrap rubber to start making these improved boots.
Maertens teamed up with a university friend, Herbert Funck, who expressed interest after seeing the prototype boot. In 1947, the first product appeared. By 1952 the company had grown to the point where they were able to open a plant in Munich.
You may also like: Are Doc Martens Worth It? A 10 Year Doc Martens Review
The boot, with its cushioned sole, was particularly popular with housewives and older women. It was estimated that 80% of sales were to women over the age of 40, and so the unisex appeal of Doc Martens was born.
In 1960, the well-respected boot manufacturer in the U.K., the R. Briggs Group Ltd., bought the rights to use Maertens’ air-cushioned sole, redesigned the heel, and launched the famous 1460 boot on the 1st of April 1960 – hence the name. Finished in smooth ox-blood leather, this 8-hole boot was popular with workers, postmen, and policemen, but things were about to change.
The emergence of the skinheads in England in the ‘60s was the first sign that Doc Martens was going to be the choice of a number of subcultures and a symbol of alternative thinking, rebellion, and youthful aggression.
In the 1970s and 80s, with punk rock, the grunge movement in the USA, and youth, in general, wanting to make an anti-establishment statement, Doc Martens could be seen on every stage, with bands like Nirvana, Alice In Chains, and Pearl Jam giving them an iconic appeal to both sexes.
After a major slump in sales in the early 2000s, production was moved to cost-saving factories in China and Thailand in a bid to stave off bankruptcy.
This move proved to be the saving grace for Doc Martens, and today only 1% of all production still takes place in the U.K. However, the award-winning turnaround resulted in 10 million pairs of Doc Martens being produced in 2018. In 2021, the company was listed on the London Stock Exchange.
How Men’s and Women’s Doc Martens Unisex Styles Differ
Unisex means that men and women wear the same shoes, right? Well, yes and no. The fact that women’s feet are generally broader in front than men’s but narrower over the bridge and heel means that the construction of the shoe will differ slightly even though the style remains the same.
As an example, a man’s size seven would be a women’s size eight. For many of the styles, that one size difference will compensate for the women’s narrower feet. But it’s also been found that the women’s version of the 1460 is made from a softer leather than the men’s and may be slightly narrower around the top of the boot.
For help with Doc Martens sizing I have a full guide here: Do Doc Martens Run Big? – A Sizing Review With Photos
If you’re ordering online, it would be safer to order from the women’s range if you’re a woman and for men to order from the men’s range. By doing so, you will get the subtle variations that make the boot or shoe most comfortable. Sometimes that’s not possible, and then taking the one size difference into account would be the best alternative.
There are a few style variations which, thinking conventionally, may be more feminine than masculine, such as the 1460 Floral Mash Up or the pink 1461 lace-ups, but the decision rests with the wearer, and Doc Marten as a company is very proud of the fact that they listen to all wearers when designing and producing their range.
Doc Martens And The LGBTQ Community
Doc Martens, as a global company at the forefront of fashion, has been embraced by the LGBTQIA+ community, and its products are a symbol of the fluidity of gender as an identifier of who people are. The fact that its boots, shoes, sandals, and accessories are not gender specific is a matter of pride to the company, and they have pledged Doc Martens to support and collaborate with the community by donating to organizations that protect the victims of gender violence.
There is no item of apparel in the Doc Martens range that cannot be worn by everyone, irrespective of their gender. The fact that they are designed to be more comfortable for one gender rather than another doesn’t mean that the term unisex can’t be applied, and so the company proudly describes its entire range as precisely what it has always been – unisex.
For more Doc Martens content, check out:
Lorna is a footwear geek and the founder of Wearably Weird. She created a YouTube channel in 2021 for fellow footwear fanatics, dedicated to detail-rich footwear reviews and info. She has a fashion media qualification (awarded in 2011).