How Dr. Martens Became Gen Z’s Favorite Shoe Brand

The easiest way to spot the brand’s dominance among the generation is by looking at its most prominent members, people like Olivia Rodrigo, Hailee Steinfeld, Addison Rae, and Emma Chamberlain, who told Who What Wear in 2020 of her affinity for Dr. Martens, especially the brand’s platform offerings: “I tend to only wear platforms so I’m really into platform Docs,” she said. “I have the short ankle ones, I have the high ones, I have ones that have a zipper in the front that are high-top.” Given her 16.2 million Instagram followers, combined with Rodrigo, Steinfeld, and Rae’s combined 87.7 million, it’s no wonder the brand has seen such success with young people, who, according to a 2022 study conducted by L.E.K. Consulting, consider Dr. Martens to be the second hottest brand for casual women’s footwear, only losing out to Crocs and beating both Birkenstock and Ugg. 

Darren McKoy, the creative director of Dr. Martens, believes that it is in the brand’s DNA to appeal to young people, especially those who are interested in side-stepping the status quo and creating a future for themselves that is unique. “[Our ethos] is all about empowerment, which is all about creativity, which is all about expressing yourself and being you,” he tells me from Dr. Martens’s store in Camden, a neighborhood in London known for housing counterculture movements. “This stays true from the last 60 years to today,” he says. As creative director, McKoy focuses much of his attention on the brand’s image and storied history, which he believes are paramount to its ongoing success. “We don’t design to get into trends or fashion or things that are happening,” he says. “What we do to stay relevant is outside of the realm of products.”

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