I can't remember when I first saw a pair of Docs, but I know by about 1987 I had to have a pair. Back then you had to mailorder them from England, much like Manic Panic hair dye, until John Fluevog shoes in downtown Seattle started carrying them. I bought my first pair for around $120, which was insanely expensive in the late '80s. But they were way cooler than combat boots for aspiring punk rockers. The big fear at that time was that skinheads would steal your boots. They were known for chasing down punk kids, beating on them, slicing their laces with a blade and stealing their boots. If a skin asked you what size your boots were, you'd get out of there quick! We'd even lace them different to make them hard to steal by tyeing a knot on one end and lacing it all the way through from the bottom to the top. It looked pretty rad too.
And lace colors were a total big deal. I remember an Anti Racist Action huge mohawked dude at the Lake Union Pub giving my friend total shit for having red laces, calling him white power and fascist. He totally wanted to brawl with us. It was funny too, because it was my friend Tony who had red laces... because he was Native American! He had long hair and brown skin and looked very native, hell he was usually getting into fights with Nazi skins himself.
It wasn't long before you could buy cheaper Docs around town at places like Retro Viva and The Cramp on Broadway... and even later Nordstrom's. My favorite pair of Docs were 20-hole bright blue ones I bought at The Cramp, they were totally ridiculous, but I loved them. My friend Karl bought a pair of pink steel-toed Docs at The Cramp as well and for the next few years was often referred to as Pink Doc Karl. Ha ha ha! Nowadays Dr. Martens are everywhere, no one cares about your laces, and they are priced like any other boots. But back in the '80s they were a huge deal and you suffered through the first month of heal pain because it was that cool to have on a pair of Docs.
Here is what the lace colors were said to mean back in the day:
- White = White power/white pride, but also traditionalist/non-racist since it was so common
- Red = Neo-Nazi/National Front, but alternatively used to identify Left Wing or Socialist (AKA a redskin)
- Blue = Killed a cop. Also worn by SHARPs/anti-racist
- Yellow = Worn by SHARPs/anti-racist
- Green = Neutral/non-racist
- Black = Traditionalist skin, punk kid, neutral, or wearing the laces the boots were sold with
- Black + White = Two Tone/into ska or racial unity
- Plaid = Non-racist/neutral