This is the second in a series of posts I’m writing about objects I have that I love. I set up a light tent in the basement to use for a winter photography project and I’m going to try and post one of these a week and see where it goes.
These are a pair of Doc Martens 1561 (4 eye) oxfords I got at Nordstrom’s with my ex-girlfriend over 25 years ago. The store was going through a Docs phase in the mid 90s, back when they were still making all their shoes in England. The day we were there, I tried on all of the pairs of this shoe available in my size and these fit the best. My girlfriend and the salesman pointed out some kind of flaw in the leather on one of them, but that flawed pair was the pair that I chose.
In 2002, Doc Martens killed 1,000 skilled jobs in the UK and moved production to China. I tried a modern Chinese-made pair of 1461 oxfords two years ago through Zappo’s, and noticed the difference in quality immediately. The leather on my pair is thick, firm but not stiff, dyed perfectly, and sewed by hand. The leather on the Chinese shoes was thinner and stiffer, and felt inferior in quality (if it was leather at all). The soles were hard compared to the 20+ year old soles on my shoes–which had always been firm but pliable. And the fit felt like they were sewed by a robot around a block of wood; they didn’t fit my feet at all. As I recall, they were charging $120 for these. Obviously I sent them back.
My slightly irregular shoes always fit like a glove and I’ve never regretted choosing them. I had to replace the laces about ten years ago after they wore out, but it was pretty easy to find new ones with Amazon’s help. The soles are worn and the stitching on the back of the left shoe is unraveling, but with some careful repairs I’ll have them for another 20 years.