Bootilicious: Famous footwear brand Dr Martens looks to stamp its presence on the Belfast high street
Published 25/04/2014 | 12:00
They've been in and out of fashion for around four decades – although some diehard fans have never abandoned theirs.
But now big boot brand Dr Martens is looking for premises in Belfast, responding to a resurgence in popularity of the hard-wearing footwear.
Also known as DMs, the thick-soled boots and shoes – typically made in oxblood or black leather – have been embraced by punks and skinheads in the 1970s and 1980s, grunge music-loving teenagers in the 1990s, and are now shodding a new generation.
The business has looked closely at the former French Connection shop in Cornmarket, and even placed a planning application for Dr Marten signage at the unit earlier this month.
However, the owner of the building said no deal could yet be confirmed.
Doctor Martens chief executive David Suddens said it had been considering an opening in Belfast but could not comment further.
Stylist Sara O'Neill said the DM was enjoying a fashion renaissance, which could justify the opening of a standalone DM store.
Ms O'Neill – who still owns a pair of oxblood steel-toecapped DM boots – said: "DMs have been worn by sub-cultures such as skinheads and punks – and I would have had a pair myself years ago. I wore mine in the 1990s as a grunger, with little floral or slip dresses.
"But when I started styling people I was thinking I couldn't really go into Lisburn Road shops wearing them – but I did love them. They are obviously very fashionable now with teenagers who are doing the whole 1990s revival – again, wearing them with little floral dresses, which can give a look a much harder edge.
"Because they are so chunky, they can make legs look a lot slimmer."
The new wave of DMs was no surprise to the seasoned fashionista.
She added: "Fashion is so cyclical that everything makes a comeback."
Earlier this year private equity group Permira Funds completed the £300m acquisition of R Griggs Group – the family company which owned Dr Martens.
Michael Corr, creative director at built environment centre PLACE, welcomed the prospect of a new opening at Cornmarket.
"We are currently refurbishing a vacant space in Lower Garfield Street as our new office to try to regenerate this forgotten space of Belfast," he said.
"And we would encourage others to do the same and invest in the city centre."
Meanwhile, high-end fashion retailer Joules is set to open its first Northern Ireland outlet in June. It will be in Belfast's Arthur Street.
Doctor Martens (right) are enjoying a new wave of popularity with teenagers. An older generation in Belfast can fondly recall buying theirs in the Doc Shop in Pottinger's Entry – but the independent trader closed down at the beginning of last year.