All summer, I find myself eagerly awaiting the cool, crisp weather that signifies the beginning of boot season.
And while I love having a rotation at my disposal, it’s also important to have a pair of comfortable, weather-resistant, and stylish boots for daily use.
Now given that this is an article about Dr. Martens, you may be confused by my use of the term “stylish”.
I understand your confusion – I myself historically viewed Dr. Martens as reserved for those with a much grittier fashion sense than my own.
As a result, I had never owned a pair.
But recently, I found the boots that made me reconsider my viewpoint on the brand with the cult-like following.
Can stylish men wear Dr. Martens?
Men at the forefront of fashion can and do wear whatever the hell they want, including Dr. Martens.
But without the expected eclecticism that comes from obsessively following fashion trends, can the average man wear a pair of Dr. Martens and still be considered stylish?
Conventional wisdom says “absolutely not.”
The world of traditional menswear views Dr. Martens as best suited for punks, rockers, misfits, and those who aren’t concerned with being conventionally well-dressed.
I have to say that until recently, I never really questioned these assumptions.
Although I’d never worn them, I always thought Dr. Martens looked like really comfortable, weatherproof, and durable boots.
But I just couldn’t get over the angst-y teenager associations.
That is until I stumbled across a few images on Pinterest that really intrigued me. The guys in the photos were wearing Dr. Martens but they didn’t fit the previously noted molds at all.
“Maybe it is possible,” I thought.
After becoming temporarily obsessed with researching all things Dr. Martens, I ended up purchasing two pairs of my very own.
I choose the Hadley and Pascal.
Both of which, in my opinion, possess a few qualities that make them more appropriate to use in a grown-up look.
What makes these models so special?
The most popular model, and likely the first that comes to mind, is the Dr. Martens 1460.
These look like a youthful version of work boots, which makes sense because they were originally designed to provide all-day comfort for blue collar workers.
But they soon outgrew their intended purpose and were quickly adopted by those looking to differentiate themselves from the hippie culture of the 1960’s.
The Dr Martens 1460 never really appealed to me. Or I should say, although I actually liked them, I never felt like they would fit with the rest of my wardrobe.
So instead of opting for the classic, I chose two rather uncommon models for my first Dr. Martens purchase – the Hadley and the Pascal.
These models are less bulbous in the toe and come without the trademark yellow stitching around the welt.
These qualities, in my opinion, are major factors in helping these two particular Dr. Martens models blend in as functional, rugged gentleman apparel.
Would you look at that leather?!
Seriously, this was what initially caught my attention.
I wasn’t interested in owning a pair of Dr. Martens, but I simply couldn’t ignore that color.
It has slight variations from one panel to the next. The convex areas of the boots are bright, the concave areas are darker.
The handful of non-stock images I found of these boots made me anxious to see how they would break in.
At first, I wished I could have another pair of boots in this leather. But why?
Was I too cool to wear these cool kid boots?
I quickly realized that preconceived notions were all that were really holding me back.
I liked the way the boots looked, Dr. Martens are notorious for standing up to years and years of daily wear, and on paper, they check all the boxes of what I wanted out of a boot.
So I made my decision and clicked “ship” on the Dr. Martens Pascal (same boot, different color).
My experience wearing the Pascal
It was the aesthetics that sold me on this boot, but how do they wear?
The leather on the Pascal feels thick and durable. It has a very smooth texture, but I wouldn’t call it soft.
It isn’t excessively stiff, but like most full leather work boots, they took a couple of wears to soften up around the flex points.
And check out the soles:
The idea for the Dr. Marten Air Cushioned Sole came after the founder suffered a foot injury while skiing and couldn’t find a comfortable shoe to soothe his aching injury.
Like the original design, the soles are quite thick and made of soft rubber which provides great grip in both wet and dry conditions.
And similar to most work boots, they’re also slip-resistant on oily surfaces.
Now, I usually have a problem with boots and shoes being too narrow across the toes and too roomy in the heel and ankle area.
The Pascal isn’t much different.
Even with the laces cinched as tight as they’ll go, my heel still slips a little when walking.
The extra room around the ankle allows my foot to slide forward into the narrowing region of the boot.
But I’ve found that with clever lacing I can take up some of the slack for a greatly improved fit.
There’s also plenty of room for an insole in case I decide to go that route.
Overall, the shape is very typical of any mass-produced shoe and I can’t take any points away because I have a hard-to-fit foot.
Aside from being slightly too roomy in the ankle area and a little too narrow in the toes, these are as the tagline “airwair” suggests – like walking on air.
They’re so good at absorbing shock that I had a mild case of shin splints after the first wear due to the heavy heel strike they allowed.
I’m not used to wearing cushioned shoes, so I usually have a constant reminder to keep good biomechanics when I walk.
But these are so forgiving, I was able to walk like a moron without immediate feedback.
I’ve put over a dozen miles on these over a few wears and haven’t had a single blister and, other than the mild shin splints (which were my own fault), no other discomfort.
I find it really hard to define my style.
I gravitate towards functional, rugged items, but I have a soft spot for elegance.
Lucky for me, men’s fashion is going in the direction of upscale workwear.
Magazines are packed with images of $5,000 sherling-lined leather jackets and chunky soled dress boots.
Like many of the top designer pieces, I think the Dr. Martens Hadley does an excellent job of bridging the gap between luxury and functionality.
They’re sleek with the glossy black leather, unembellished design, and polished hardware.
But they’re tall enough to keep the snow out, are just shy of being 100% waterproof, and have one of the most gnarly soles available.
My experience wearing the Hadley
As far as comfort is concerned, almost nothing I’ve ever owned comes close the the Hadley in that department.
Like all Dr. Martens, the sole is made of thick, gummy rubber with air filled pockets that provide outstanding shock absorption.
The leather uppers feel more like a pair of leather socks than a pair of boots.
Seriously, the uppers are about as soft and flexible as a lambskin jacket!
They require zero break-in and don’t interfere with ankle movement, even when completely cinched up.
The shape of these seem to provide a better fit for my foot than the Pascal. When they’re laced tight, my ankle is locked in place and the toe area is more comfortable.
I would assume they’re made using the same last (foot mold) so maybe it’s the superior ankle control that prevents my foot from sliding forward and being pinched by the tapering of the toe.
Either way, these are the most comfortable boots I’ve ever owned!
How do my Dr. Martens stack up?
I currently have four other pairs of boots that I absolutely love, but they’re each a little too specialized to take the crown as king of versatile, daily wear.
Here’s how my current boot game compares to my new Docs.
Red Wing 877
My Red Wing 877s are tough as nails, miraculously comfortable despite the hard leather insole, and feature absurdly thick and durable leather uppers.
But style wise, they are unmistakably work boots and there is no blending in with the business crowd on downtown streets.
Unless you’re going for a very deliberate rugged/refined look, there isn’t much sense trying to pair these with otherwise elegant or dressy attire.
They also have a rather flat sole, making them less than stellar snow boots.
L.L Bean Boots
My L.L. Bean Boots are completely waterproof and guaranteed for life (not that I anticipate using the warranty) and with a thick pair of socks, they make a decent set of snow boots.
But like the Red Wings, they are extremely casual in nature so the ability to dress them up is pretty limited.
Also, due to the waterproof rubber portion, my feet tend to sweat more in these than in other boots, making all day wear less appealing.
Clarks Desert Boots
My Clarks Desert Boots are extremely comfortable, refined enough to be slightly dressed up, and have held up extremely well over the past 4 years or so.
But they are the last boot or shoe I would choose for cold, wet, or snowy weather.
The crepe soles, although very cushy, offer almost zero insulation or traction.
Even if it’s just cold and dry, I can feel the bottoms of my feet freezing within a couple minutes while waiting at a bus stop and a sprinkle of rain essentially turns any smooth stone or metal surface into sheet ice.
But hey, they are desert boots so I can’t exactly fault them for not performing in adverse weather conditions.
They’re still one of my all-time favorite wardrobe staples.
Allen Edmonds Daltons
Now, for my gorgeous Allen Edmons Daltons.
These boots are very comfortable (after I stretched the toe area) and look as good with a suit as they do with a pair of jeans.
But even if they did provide traction, insulation, or waterproofing (they don’t have any of these qualities), there is no way in hell I would wear a pair of $425 boots in the salty, slushy mess that accompanies every Midwestern winter.
For those of you who aren’t accustom to living with rock salt in the winter, a single stroll around the block can completely destroy a pair of fine leather shoes.
The road and sidewalk salt quickly and irreparably dries, cracks, and blisters leather.
So what I’m left with is a pair of boots that I have to store for the majority of the cold months.
Bottom line: while they excel in the style department and are great when the weather is dry, they fall short when it comes to battling the elements.
But are Dr. Martens stylish?
Like any other outside-the-box clothing choice, fitting a pair of Dr. Martens into a respectable wardrobe is going to take a little thought.
But there’s no denying that there’s a certain beauty that comes with functionality, and Dr. Martens excel in the functionality department.
However, just throwing on a pair of distressed jeans and a t-shirt one size too large will make it look like you’re on your way to paint the neighbors fence.
But there are things you can do to help elevate these functional boots.
- Wear slim fit clothing, particularly tapered pants for an elegant silhouette
- Opt for darker colors to heighten the level of sophistication
- Choose minimally designed items to keep the overall look sleek
- Select luxurious fabrics to tame the rugged nature of the boots
Following these guidelines will have you looking like a sophisticated yet ready-for-anything modern man.
So to answer my own question – yes, I think they can absolutely be a stylish addition to a man’s wardrobe as long as the rest of his attire is well considered.
Are these the perfect all-purpose boots?
Okay. They are a little chunky, the leather definitely isn’t on par with a pair of $700 boots, and the fit is a tad generic.
But that’s just me nitpicking.
The soles on these Dr. Martens provide great traction in wet weather and on any surface.
The air pockets inside of the thick sole provide excellent cushion and insulation.
They’re roomy enough for thick socks, so I anticipate they’ll make decent snow boots.
For all intents and purposes, they’re waterproof. I mean, they’ll leak if you stand in several inches of water for long periods of time, but I haven’t had any issues even in heavy rain.
For the guys out there working in a business casual environment, these can definitely be a passable wardrobe addition. They even blend with some dressier clothing items.
And best of all, at around $150, I won’t cry if they get destroyed!
No need to baby these babies. I can actually wear them as boots were intended to be worn – through the muck, mire, slush, and slop!
In my opinion, there isn’t another boot that ticks all of these boxes.
So if you’ve ever thought about owning a pair of Dr. Martens, but weren’t sure about the punk rock image, grab a pair of Dr. Martens Hadley or Pascal boots (same boot, different color) and get ready to fall in love.
All the best,