Complex Footwear X Dr. Martens


I am a black girl wearing Dr. Martens! The fact that this statement isn't scandalous any more still kinda amazes me. Due to my dads love adventures, I am the youngest sister to a couple of older half siblings. I count them as full, however in order for you to follow the context of my shoe nostalgia I have to mention that. One of my half sisters is mixed raced. Her name is Sange and she is half Ghanian - half white German. She grew up kinda like me in a pretty white neighbourhood, in humble to poor circumstances with little to no exposure to “African/Black culture”. Only difference was that her mom was white and mine was black therefore I had the pleasure of experiencing Ghana at home - at least. Up until today Sange is very alternative, outspoken and a total feminist. Politically active, integration officer of the law firm she works for - you name it. She was the first in the family to go to university. I followed as second. Also, the first to be brave and have a big Chop. I followed as second. She was the first to travel back to Ghana and meet our father - getting closure to a vital chapter of her life. I followed as second. Though I didn't see Sange often, I always admired her accomplishments and go-getter mentality, even if I couldn't articulate it as a teenager. A lot of my ambition stems from seeing or hearing about Sange's accomplishments as a female, raised by a single mom and a careless dad. Just like me! Sange was the very first black person I saw wearing Dr. Martens. Somewhat in the 90s. They were burgundy red and were the absolute PUNK GEAR. There was no blend of style and culture in Germany at that time. So folks would say Sange was confused or is having an identity crisis. But maybe she just couldn't relate to “black or African” style then. I know I couldn't, it felt foreign to me. Dr. Martens were a clear style statement for Punks or skinheads and absolutely disgusting to the black community. They either stood for anarchy or racism. Africans don't like none of the two. Chuckle. I however grew up suburban, listening to Punk music and feeling as white as a snowflake. So I totally loved it. My mom on the other hand wasn't having it. Buffalo Shoes were fine, but GOD forbid not these “rebel” shoes of “bad kids” that have no “home training”. I had to wait. Around the age of 19 I finally got my own pair, with my own money. FREEDOM! That's how wearing them felt and still feels like. FREEDOM!

Meanwhile, I have grown, travelled and blended all cultures that raised or influenced me. I have fallen in love in hip hop, soul, rnb and jazz as well. Still, deep inside I know that I started as a little suburban punk girl. My Dr. Martens always remind me of how much culture has changed. And how much I have grown and embraced the complexity of my upbringing and influences. How many individual journeys and collective marches had to happen. And that's exactly what mine look like. Used up and old. Like they have been through something. Scratches and scars, sort and wrinkles all tell the story of my journey on these leather shoes. Nowadays kids wear Dr. Martens polished and kinda keep them neat. They are a trendy fashion item that bloggers call “must have”. Seeing a group of black teens at the train station in Germany, wearing Bomba Jackets and Dr. Martens amuses me and makes me happy at the same time. My mom still shakes her head at it, while I laugh and keep reminding her that time has changed. Folks just wear what they want and don't allow society to dictate what that supposedly says about them. And that is a good thing.