• Image about steel-toes-kurt-cobain-americanway

They’re weathered. Shiny. Vintage. Some have steel toes; others, zippers. There are about 250 varieties, including limited-edition cherry reds and even a 14-eye boot with lilac, black and peacock patchwork.

From their humble beginnings as the worker’s boot, Dr. (“Doc”) Martens have come a long way, morphing into a favorite fashion accessory for punks, mods, rockers, goths — and now hipsters — and supporting the soles of everyone from Kurt Cobain to the Dalai Lama. It’s been 50 years since the first pair of 1460s (the iconic eight-eye boot with yellow welt stitching and an AirWair sole) hit the market. Here are some of the Doc’s biggest moments:

  • Image about steel-toes-kurt-cobain-americanway
Drs. Herbert Funck and Klaus Maertens
1945–47: Germany’s Dr. Klaus Maertens injures his ankle while skiing. For comfort, he designs a pair of boots sporting air-cushioned soles. Later, with Dr. Herbert Funck, he improves the sole with rubber.

1960: British shoe manufacturer R. Griggs Group Ltd. acquires sole rights. After revamping the uppers and Anglicizing the name, they release Dr. Martens’ now famous 1460 model on April 1.

1975: Elton John appears in The Who’s rock-musical film Tommy sporting a gigantic pair of Dr. Martens–inspired boots, which are now on display at England’s Northampton Museum & Art Gallery.

1996: The Vatican orders 100 pairs of Dr. Martens, including one for the pontiff himself.

2010: The 100 millionth pair is sold. Boutiques open in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood and in New York City, joining existing stores in Portland and Seattle.