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As we celebrate Dr. Martens birthday, we’re taking a look at some of the iconic people featured within our book ‘A History of Rebellious Self Expression’. Pete Townshend of The Who was the first high profile artist to wear Dr. Martens, when he picked up his first pair in that shop in the north of England, way back in 1967. That dates Townshend earlier than even the first generation of Skinheads in terms of adopting the workwear boot for other uses. So to some extent his decision to buy those boots before the aforementioned concert in 1967 is the brand’s Year Zero in terms of its direct involvement with music. He’s since said the boots, ‘released me from psychedelia and all the nonsense that went with it’.  
Townshend himself neatly personifies the ‘fuck you’ spirit of so many Dr. Martens wearers. Set against a decade of flowery, effeminate styles, Townshend’s choice of Dr. Martens was a beacon of austere style. Due to The Who‘s volatile live shows and his characteristic guitar jumps and kicks, the boots were captured in scores of pictures, one of the finest examples of which is the photograph by Pennie Smith below. Townshend even wrote about the boots in his song ‘Uniform’. 

Pete Townhend from The Who wearing the Black 1490 Boot.
Pete Townshend from The Who wearing the Black 1490 Boot.
The Who‘s links with Dr. Martens go past Townshend’s own pivotal preferences. Their superb 1969 Rock opera double album Tommy was described by some critics as ‘the most important and innovative Rock album since Sgt. Pepper’. In 1975, Ken Russell turned the opus into a film, and during the performance of the classic song, ‘Pinball Wizard’, Elton John narrates the story of the deaf, dumb and blind kid standing atop an enormous pair of brown Dr. Martens (designed by Shirley Russell). The boots were made of fibreglass and stood 54 inches tall – Elton’s size four feet were fitted into another pair of shoes which were strapped on top of the towering twelve-holers. In 1988, at a charity auction of Rock ’n’ Roll memorabilia, the then-Chairman of AirWair, Stephen Griggs, bought the boots for £12,100 (the event was sparked by Elton wanting to clear out some rooms to redecorate – it raised over £4 million). The over-sized DM’s now stand proud in a glass showcase at Northampton’s Shoe Museum. 
Read more in our book ‘Dr. Martens: A History of Rebellious Self Expression’, available in-store now.