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Punk was all about rebellion. Rebellion against mainstream culture, against prejudice, against the establishment. First-generation punks were faced with opposition pretty much everywhere they turned — by the media, in fashion, from record labels, and even on the streets where it was not uncommon to be attacked or spat at. But punk didn't care. This rebellious edge made it fiery and compelling.

Viv Albertine of The Slits is a classic example of someone who refused to let her creativity and individuality be blunted by doubters and critics. She was a fascinating mix — an art school graduate yet also one of the inner circle on the core early punk scene in the UK, and a friend to bands such as the Sex Pistols and The Clash. She joined the Slits as guitarist in 1976 and soon after was part of a legendary UK tour alongside The Clash and Buzzcocks.

Albertine is considered the first person to wear a skirt with Dr. Martens boots, which she first did as far back as 1975, way before anyone else. Punk revelled in mixing up feminine styles with hard-edged looks and Viv's idea of wearing a petite skirt with big Docs boots played on this collision. In her memoir, Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys. Viv explained that she was disrupting traditional women's styles by mixing feminine items with masculine clothes, deliberately clashing the two opposing styles to create something new.

Wearing Docs boots with a skirt is long since well-established but back in the chaotic punk days of the 70s, this was a shocking new look. At one point Viv even wore her new Dr. Martens with a ballerina's tutu. 'No other girls wear DM's with dresses. I get a lot of funny looks,' she wrote in her book. Albertine didn't flinch: she was well-versed in fashion history and empowered by her own unique style.

It wasn't until the early 80s that Dr. Martens started noticing small men's sizes were selling in large volumes. The demand for women's Docs footwear was growing, off the back of Viv Albertine and other renegade female style icons. The mainstream media and newspapers were quick to sneer at the 'unusual' and 'clumpy' look. Some shops were initially reserved about selling a working man's shoe and boot in their women's section — and some flatly refused. But the small sizes' sales kept growing, and the 'boots and skirt' look quickly became iconic.

This can all be traced back to Viv Albertine's rebellious spirit and disruptive ideas. 'Nothing will stop me looking the way I want,' she wrote in her memoir. 'It's a commitment.'


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