Flowers are appearing all around us, the sky is gray with a hint of blue here and there, and birds are chirping all around. Spring has officially arrived on our beautifully scenic campus and students can finally enjoy time outdoors. The cold concrete feel of winter in Carbondale is starting to fade, and we can see a ray of hope through it all. We’re starting to shed the ever-heavy layering we must have to survive our indecisive climate and bring out more colorful simple pieces. The rainfall we receive at this time of year always influences our daily outfits. Raincoats and windbreakers become our best friends and keep us dry on the rainiest days of April.
Quite often here lately, I’ve grabbed my trusty rain boots. I bought them at a resale store. They are brown and rather dull, but nevertheless serve the purpose for which they were purchased. In these, I can stomp and wade through any puddle when no one is looking. Childlike wonder and play are always what come to mind when I frolic in my galoshes. They make me feel stupid and gay (gay being used as both happy and in love with Cher). I trust rain boots more than others.
As a child, my mother always told me this rather shocking story of how a thunderbolt fell on her yard, and her rubber boots saved her life. She even has the rubber boots as a souvenir. I love my mother, but I don’t believe this story at all. I find it amusing though. That’s why I think of rubber boots when I think of a boot on top of my head. They are what attracts me with my eye. Recently, as I look around campus in search of another soul who shares childlike joy through wellies, I notice a trend that has become a fixture in most parts of the world.
The rise of the infamous Dr. Martens is a long-standing trend, making a global mega resurgence as 1990s grunge and goth fashions return to the closet. I don’t just want to touch on the grunge fashion trend and the influence that punk and rock had on fashion which is usually the only thing credited for today’s trends. I also want to thank the Gothic community and their contribution.
Since the 1990s, the “combat boot” style has been around forever. Not always in demand, but always there for the communities that appreciate them. The clunky boot has been equated with what is now known as the “alternative style”, which can and is enjoyed by many now. I find something about it a little off-putting, though. Growing up, the kind of people who wore Dr. Martens for fashion were the kind of people who were made fun of or called weird.
I remember people wearing boots and they were immediately judged on their looks and called artsy or even hipster. Of course, none of these traits are bad, but they are seen as out of the ordinary. It was so weird, because boots of this nature are just a more refined and advanced version of what our ancestors wore. Except that most of the time it was less about fashion and more about the use of the boot itself.
In the past, this style of boot was a utility boot. Tight in the foot and quite rigid, they are obviously not designed for comfort and lounging around the house. They are meant for work. They go by many names, and I have heard them called so many of them by family, friends and my instructors: hiking boots, stompin’ boots, shovelin’ boots and shit kickers. If you know a country expression for boots, I’ve probably heard it whispered in my life.
Boots are a necessity for everyday life before anything else. I’ve gained a new appreciation for boots over the past five years or so because I no longer think of them as just an accessory. Most blue collar jobs require boots as part of the uniform. For safety, most of these boots have a steel liner. My stepfather is a union carpenter and wears these boots to work every day. It’s tall and wide, and already has a ride with some southern heft too. It’s in his nature to stomp around a bit, but when the boots are on you can hear him walking a mile away.
However, boots still demand the attention of a piece. A person wearing boots will always make me look up and raise my eyebrows not with judgment, but with attention. I feel that instilled in me, not only because boots are widely perceived as masculine and my societal instincts make me look up, but also because they’re incredibly fashionable and I need to see the rest of the outfit.
Most of my friends and confidants wear them. Of course, I am friends with mostly direct women and gay men and of course I observe their tastes and fashion styles. I like to assimilate myself to well-dressed individuals. I don’t mind the style you have, as long as you wear it well. I will also experiment and accompany some, but I will abstain the most.
Amazingly, I’ve never owned a pair of Docs. I’ve always enjoyed the style, but it never made its way into my wardrobe. Shocking, I know. I had never really wanted a pair, until now.
Strolling through the ghost town we call a mall here in Carbondale, I saw these: Sitting nicely on a shelf in the Journeys shoe store were a pair of Mary Jane-style Dr. Martens. I gasped. My inner Catholic schoolboy jumped for joy. I’m a sucker for anything resembling the fashion I wanted as a kid. I remember looking around in my childhood classroom and being jealous of the little black shoes and frilly socks my classmates wore. Seeing this adult version of my childhood dream shoe filled me with all kinds of emotions and happiness. After coming down from the excitement, I had to think financially.
The only downside to Dr. Martens is that they are a bit pricey. This is always the difficult part of well-made comfortable and sturdy shoes. $130 was hard for me to justify, and I can’t put it on Carrie Bradshaw (that’s what I called my credit card). I made the decision to walk out of the store empty handed filled with sadness.
I will buy them eventually, and join the parade of my friends who appreciate them. I will one day soon join the proud people of so many walks of life who parade to the rhythm of their Docs.
Managing Editor Aaron Elliott can be reached at [email protected] and on instagram at aaron.elliott_. To stay up to date with all your Southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.