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  • Writer's pictureRock Tour London

Will The Real Doc Marten Please Stand Up

I had arrived London on a Tuesday afternoon, went to see Clapton at Royal Albert Hall on Wednesday evening and by Friday, had completely shaken off the jet lag. When I woke up that morning I decided I wanted a pair of Doc Marten's. Why? I have no idea considering I live at the beach and in flip flops. Even though I'd gone this long without ever owning a pair, I felt like a bit of a fraud. I mean, how could I call myself a respectable rock fan and not own a pair?


I asked a friend if I should just go to the Doc Marten store in Camden Market and that opened an entire discussion on how they'd sold to a Chinese conglomerate and the quality had subsequently taken a nose dive.


The English are very proud of British stuff and this friend, being English, told me that if I wanted genuine English made Doc Martens, I had to go to this little shop on Kentishtown Road, just near the underground station, round the corner from... He saw me starting to glaze over and sent a pin drop to my phone.


I


I headed into Camden Town. Let me say, right here, that I LOVE Camden Town. I love the vibe. I love the history. I love the grit. I LOVE Camden Town. I stopped at the churro guy; ate that. I stopped at the orange juice squeezer lady; drank that. I had a spirited discussion with an aspiring rapper that was selling his CD on the High Street and then realized..."Hey, I came here for boots."





It took a minute and a little help from some folks on the street but I managed to find this amazing little shop. It's just steps from the Camden Town Underground station entrance and boy, it's a really cool place. It's a tiny little store but I soon found out it certainly isn't small in history.


This location can actually be traced back to 1851 when it then supplied hobnail boots to the Irish workers that lived in Camden at the time. That makes it one of the oldest shoe stores in the world. Fast forward to the 1960s when Alan Roumana opened his family shoe business in the exact same store and called it Holts.


Holts was the epicenter for the skinheads and punks of the swinging 60s in London's Camden Town. You see, the owner had a real knack for relating to the youth of the day and his shop, for a little while anyway, was the only place in the world where you could buy Doc Martens.


In the late 70s the popularity of the store had grown so much, people would travel from all over to get their footware from this iconic shop. When they did, that charismatic owner would ask his patrons to write a tribute, to their bands or their crews on the shop's walls.



In 1990 Holts became The British Boot Company, as it is known today. It's still owned and operated by the same family and grandson, Nick is at the helm now.







I can say from personal experience that the place just oozes cool. Nick introduced himself to me as I entered and sized up my needs quickly. Before I knew it he had a boot on my foot and was lacing it up with my foot on his thigh. The service is top notch! Nick took the time to answer all my questions and to give me details on things I wouldn't have even known to ask. I was sold!!








As he was ringing up my purchase I noticed a picture of Joe Strummer on the wall and asked him about it. He explained that his grandad had hand made the shoes The Clash's frontman was wearing in the photo (which I then noticed hung over an exact same pair).


Then I really started looking around and more questions started too. I asked about the boots hanging from the ceiling. The explanation was that many musicians buy their boots here and (for lack of a better term) donate their old ones to hang in the shop.











"So, what musicians exactly?" I asked. The list was long and includes The Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Edge (from U2), even Green Day and Blink 182. Oh, and the members of Short Bus Window Lickers, whom I don't know at all but have huge love and respect for their name. Even the band Madness (🎶Our house, in the middle of our street🎶) had their rehearsal space and manager's office above the shop for a time.













You can still see remnants of those hand written tributes on the walls of this gem. The walls don't need to talk here. The vibe says it all.









I love my boots and actually have gone back to to buy a couple more pairs (in different colors) since that first trip into the store.











This is a don't miss place. If you want real English made boots, go there. You'll be glad you did. They have an online store as well and ship worldwide. Visit it at www.britboot.co.uk

(that's just for your convenience, there's no gain for me...I just want to share a good thing here).




Camden Town is full of places with rock and roll stories. Check out our walking tour video: The Stories from Fitzrovia to Camden Town, here: https://videolibrary.rocktourlondon.com/programs/the-stories-from-fitzrovia-to-camden-town-7d0357?categoryId=95943


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©RockTourLondon, 2022

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