To be privately held for more than 50 years in the fashion industry is about as punk rock as it gets. But Dr. Martens, the quintessential boot of music icons and the genre of punk is in talks to move on from the Griggs family in a potential $485 million deal with Permira, owners of New Look and Hugo Boss.
The Griggs family who founded Dr. Martens some 50+ years ago will still have rights to the brand, but Permira will be able to license the name. Currently, Dr. Martens have only 30 stores and 90 partner franchises around the world. Permira will most likely boost this number and extend the brand’s online presence.
Dr. Martens got its start when UK shoemaker Bill Griggs saw an advertisement by Dr. Klaus Martens and Dr. Herbert Funck, both from Germany, who were looking to expand their boot distribution to the UK. The doctors had created an air-cushioned sole boot made from abandoned rubber from Luftwaffe airfields. The boots officially were launched in 1960.
Musicians especially in the UK punk scene loved these boots and Dr. Martens were worn by a number of Britpop and punkers in the 60’s and 70’s, transitioning these boots beyond their original intent of a workman’s staple. Similar to how Converse crossed over from basketball sneaker to iconic music-festival wear, Dr. Martens illustrate the power of music in making a footwear brand iconic across genders, ethnicities, and economic status.
Interestingly, Dr. Martens as we’ve tracked over the last 13 years at Label Networks, have come in and out of vogue, but are again on the rise among a new youth culture, capturing a large portion also of the sneaker marketplace.
Dr. Martens in the past year has expanded into creating accessories and clothing with model Agyness Deyn designing various collections.
If the Permira deal goes through as expected, Dr. Martens will be in for yet another transition and increased distribution. Hopefully it can still keep its cred intact.