April 21 2010
When it comes to teenagers, you pick your battles, so I decided to give in tactically to my daughter’s repeated requests for a pair of Doc Martens. (I wasn’t keen on the look, or the associations.) We bought her first pair in the Neal Street shop in London’s Covent Garden where, behaving like an embarrassing mum, I ranted at the slow service. Then my daughter discovered the British Boot Company in Camden.
By now I had admitted that the boots did look good on her, so we stopped off at this half-shop, tucked away behind Camden Town Tube station, in the thick of punk-and-pierced land. It’s small and dark, a bit like a car mechanic’s workshop, crammed with heavy boots and shoes that have attracted a client list as far-reaching as the Clash, Robbie Williams, the Royal Opera and the Metropolitan Police.
First I was intrigued. Then, unexpectedly, I was won over by the exceptional staff – charming, knowledgeable and helpful – and by their passion for fine craftsmanship and the original cult boot. A family business for generations, the shop has been on this spot since 1851, selling the first batch of Doc Martens in the UK in 1958. Their unique stock includes original samples and vintage English-made DMs, as well as “creepers” and “grinders”.
With expert guidance, my daughter bought authentic, cherry-red English-made Solovair Dr Martens (£110), sending her cool-factor soaring. And even I succumbed to a pair of superb limited-edition English-made Dr Marten brown brogues (first picture), which are I think the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever worn.