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The Laladoc Martens
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Skinheads and Socialism: The History of Doc Martens’ Lace Codes

Since 1947, Dr. Martens have become one of the world’s boldest fashion statements. These shoes have woven their way into both popular and alternative cultures, from subculture to factories. However, few are aware of the political weight held by these boots.

Young working-class Britons in the 1960s and 1970s gave birth to punk, which has since become an established scene in the world of counter-culture. Punk is based upon a range of ideologies, fashion and other forms of self-expression that reject mainstream ideals and societal norms. Heavy boots, particularly Doc Martens, are a staple of punk fashion.

However, more extremist sentiments of the punk movement formed their own subculture: skinheads. While punks emphasized alienation from conventional society and its oppressive norms, skinheads emphasized a militant working-class ethic.

Although early skinheads were not necessarily affiliated with any particular political movement, the progression of the ’70s led many skinheads to become more politically active, leading to a rise in racially-motivated attacks. Many chose to join far-right organizations such as the National Front and the British Movement, and soon white supremacy and Neo-Nazism became the face of the skinhead movement.

Eventually, punks and skinheads decided to combine their ideologies with their fashion statements by affiliating certain political beliefs with the colors of their shoelaces. This lace code can denote the difference between a Neo-Nazi and an anti-racist, so it is important to be aware of its nuances.

white: White pride

Doc Martens with white laces are typically worn by white supremacists, such as Neo-Nazis and members of the Ku Klux Klan. Though these groups may seem one and the same in their racist goals, the defining difference is that the Ku Klux Klan refuses to associate with Hitler and his beliefs, because of their strong anti-foreign sentiment.

Blue: Cop killer

Blue laces indicate that the wearer has murdered a member of law enforcement, particularly a policeman. This open statement has landed many unknowing or uneducated wearers in serious trouble with peers or the law.

Red: neo-nazi/national front

Red lace wearers are some of the most feared among skinheads and punks. Not only does this color indicate strong nationalist beliefs, but also could infer that they are always up for a fight or that they have murdered someone.

Yellow: anti-racist

Thankfully, in response to the racist skinhead movement, the anti-racist punk movement decided to claim some lace colors for their own code. Yellow laces indicate that the wearer is against racism and discrimination.

purple: gay pride

Purple laces often indicate that the wearer is anti-skinhead, but often have a stronger dual meaning that the wearer is a member of the LGBT+ community.

Black: neutral

Black laces have no affiliation. These are considered the safest color to wear and it leaves the wearer’s political beliefs ambiguous. Many standard Doc Martens come with black laces, making it much easier to avoid slip-ups in the lace code.

Of course, not everyone who wears colorful laces is aware of the lace code. Many people simply choose to switch out their laces for something more colorful as a fashion statement. However, to avoid unnecessary labeling, it is highly recommended that Doc Martens wearers follow this code.

Em is a British-American student studying Public Relations at Penn State University Park. She is a football fan, of both Manchester City and Buffalo Bills.
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