The Shoes With The Tattoos

Doc Martens Tattoo collection SS 2015

Closewise from left: Doc Marten women’s Adaya Sandal, men’s1460 Boot, women’s Polley Shoe, and men’s 1461 Shoe

By Shu Xie

Tattoos, like plastic surgery, can be addictive. A friend related to me recently how, these days, she’s more inclined to go to a tattoo rather than a beauty palour. What began as a small, permanently inked memento on her right upper arm to remind her of a terrific holiday (later revealed to be a romantic encounter!) in Bangkok soon became an obsession that covered two arms completely. She has no fear that the fixation could one day mean all over the body. I was only able to say, “how yakuza of you!”

And that had me thinking of the ‘Tattoo’ shoes by Doc Martens (DM). Part of the spring/summer 2015 collection, these are clearly inspired by Japanese body art. The all-over tattoo DM prints on their leather uppers is akin to traditional Jap tattooing called irezumi, with motifs such as koi fish, cherry blossoms, peacocks and clouds—all muted in colour—on what the brand calls “tan”, or what some of us call nude. According to DM, ‘Tattoo’ is a “tribute to the West Coast hardcore punk scene, which helped popularize Dr. Martens in the US in the mid-’80s”. Hardcore punk scene may sound unyielding and aggressive, but on yakuza grounds, that’s probably marketing talk. Members of Japanese organised crime syndicates, who are tattooed as part of their initiation or gang identity, take irezumi rather seriously, with many of them going for full-body tattoo, including armpits and genitalia.

Japanese body art is so steep in history, symbolism, and gangsterism that it is tempting to digress! I don’t think you would disagree, but let’s go back to the DM shoes. This isn’t the first time Doc Martens dabbles with tattoos, but the previous version were a little too Ed Hardy for my liking. This time, authenticity won out. The women’s versions—the platform Adaya Sandal and the Mary Jane-looking Polly—sport a reduced amount of leather and show more of the wearer’s epidermis. They do appear less menacing and should appeal if you’re easily intimidated by anything associated with ruthless gangsters. The men’s version—1461 shoes and 1460 boot—are rather fierce footwear and should bolster your standing as a tough guy. My admiration of these shoes has increased with each viewing even if I risk being charged with proclivity to pai kia aesthetics. Doc Martens made it more appealing when I learned that the shoes are treated with leather protector, presumably to make the tattoo indelible. It’s such an uncommon extra that resistance, as the Borg would say, is futile.

Dr Martens Tattoo collection, from SGD219, is available at Doc Martens stores