“They make me feel like me” : Doc Martens and the women who wear them : a thesis submitted for the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy, Massey University, Aotearoa New Zealand

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Doc Martens have been a part of the fabric of counterculture since their classic 8-up 1460 boots first started rolling off the production line in Woolaston, Northants, in April of 1960. For decades they have been an iconic piece of subcultural clothing, moving through different scenes such a punk, skinhead, indie and metal with ease, but very little has actually been written about these shoes in an academic setting. While studying subcultures for a post-graduate degree in Dress and Textile Histories I became acutely aware of the lack of representation of women in these studies, and as I further developed my interest in this ubiquitous yet unique brand it became apparent that there was almost nothing written about women and Docs, despite the fact that women now make up well over half of their consumer base. In my own life I had become aware of how deeply connected my female friends and colleagues were to their Docs and so decided that this was something that needed further research. As such, this thesis will examine the nature of the relationship between women and their Doc Martens by taking information from in-depth interviews that I conducted with 28 female participants, ranging from teenagers to women in their 60s. Through a new materialist lens and using feminist research praxis I will explore the theory of waveless feminism as a theoretical framework through which to understand the unique community of female Doc Martens wearers, and discuss how three different elements of Docs: History, Empowerment, and Love, combine together to create a truly meaningful user-object relationship that has managed to buck the trend of consumption and disposal that is so prevalent in the post-modern era and situate Doc Martens as emotionally durable objects. This thesis addresses the gap in scholarship not only of Doc Martens as a whole, but of the unique relationship between women and their Docs. Much has been written on women and shoes, but this mostly focusses on high heels, high fashion, and fetishism – there is far less written about women and their everyday shoes. This is also true of new materialist studies, where there is much written about experimental fashion practices, but not so much on how new materialism can be applied to the everyday. As such, this thesis will contribute to the landscape of fashion studies by using the microcosm of Doc Martens to weave together feminist, new materialist and fashion theory to analyse and understand how women live in and alongside their clothing throughout their lifetime, creating meaningful and profound relationships with non-human actors.
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