Dr. Martens’ 1460-style boot is an iconic piece of fashion. More commonly known as Doc Martens or Docs, these leather boots are equally suited to getting down to work or going up to a rooftop bar, but one aspect of their construction has dogged fans since their release: Are Doc Martens boots waterproof?
Through meticulous research, we can say for certain that Dr. Martens boots and shoes are definitely kind of waterproof.
This probably wasn’t the answer you were hoping for, so to dig deeper we need to discuss what makes something waterproof, whether Docs meet those standards, and how to ensure your Docs can stand up to water.
Waterproof vs. Water Resistance
When looking for shoes, boots, or other articles of clothing that can stand up to wet weather, you’ll see a few different terms tossed around, like waterproof, water resistant, or water repellent. Each term implies a different level of protection, and it’s important to know what those are:
Waterproof – No water or moisture should ever penetrate something that’s waterproof. Maybe a drip or a drop here and there, but if you’re wearing a waterproof boot, you should stay mostly dry even if you’re getting hosed down. Most shoes that are waterproof have a breathable membrane built into the architecture that prevents water from reaching your foot even if it manages to soak through the outside material.
Water-repellent – Items that are water repellent can stand up to a less thorough soaking. Should you be outside during light rain or snow, your water-repellent clothing (if it meets its label claims) stays relatively dry.
Water-resistant – Maybe it’s sprinkling or you’re splashed by a puddle, but water-resistant apparel should keep you, for the most part, dry. Water resistant items, like normal rain boots, will still cave after long exposure to water, but they’ll be fine in lighter conditions.
Staying Dry in Your Docs
Now that we’ve outlined the three different water-guarding metrics, let’s talk Doc Martens. Most Doc Martens will have a high degree of water resistance. So if you’re walking through puddles or you’re caught in a drizzle, your Doc Martens should be fine under these lighter conditions.
However, if you’re looking to wade through rivers in your 1460s, you’re going to end up with wet feet and damaged leather.
There are a few other factors to consider when questioning your Doc Martens’ ability to withstand the elements. For instance, the water resistance of a particular shoe also depends on its material, and whether it’s been treated with anything that will help it repel water.
Identify and Understand Your Leather
Leather is a generally durable and tough material, and while most leather can withstand a bit of moisture, longer exposure to water can damage it. From a physical perspective, when leather gets wet, the water draws out the natural oils (and whatever oils were applied in the tanning process).
After, it becomes harder, brittle, and can crack in various places.
The standard, iconic 1460-style Dr. Martens are made with smooth leather that is less shiny than the patent leather you might see on dress shoes and stylish categories. It’s also less waterproof but offers a decent amount of water resistance. Again, don’t go wading through any major rivers in them, but if you’re stepping through puddles in your smooth leather then your shoes should withstand the elements.
As fashion trends have evolved, so too have Doc Martens. Today, you’ll probably notice a variety of different styles of Docs crafted from different materials, but all of them have the same Doc Martens dependability.
These materials include but are not limited to:
Tumbled Leather – Tumbled leather is specially treated to create a gorgeous aesthetic, usually by introducing pebbles into the drum (that the leather is being treated in) along with the dyes and oils. Not only does this soften the leather, it also fortifies its water resistance. Dr Martens boots like the Gilbreth Safety Toe and the classic style Suffolk Chelsea boot are made with tumbled leather.