by John Russel Jones

Designer Rick Owens’ rose to prominence in the 1990s, a decade that coincided with grunge and a renaissance of Dr. Martens footwear.  That decade’s spirit drives the brand’s latest collaboration with the designer, focused on its iconic style 1460 and 1918 18-eyelet boots. The Brutalist-grunge designer’s dark underground aesthetic and architectural, gender-neutral silhouettes are an ideal complement to Dr. Martens structured, utilitarian boots.
Both boots in the collection are built on the two-inch Quad Retro sole and are fitted with an oversized, heightened tongue, heavy side zips, and adorned with dramatic wrap-around laces.

The 1460 Quad RO Black Leather 8-eye boot has been rebuilt in soft, heavyweight black Lunar leather with contrasting, jumbo-thickness pearl laces and extra wide eyelets with a dull silver finish. The black AirWair heel loop is signed with a tonal pearl script, and the welt is punched with our instantly recognizable yellow stitching. The boot will retail for $370.

The 1918 RO Platinum Hair-On Lux boot features an entire upper constructed using striking platinum Hair-On leather. The boot is fitted with pearl laces, eyelets, and hook trims in a dull silver finish. The unorthodox statement boot is tagged with a black and pearl heel loop, secured with our yellow welt stitching, and finished with a dual-branded sock liner, and retails for $750.

“When I was a teen and becoming physically aware, I saw how a tightly laced ankle leading to a broad, solidly planted foot had a simple, modest, industrial masculinity, almost like a corset between a muscled calf and a sturdy foot that acted as a stoic ballast. DM’s exemplified this best. I saw them on all the guys flying through the air at the shows I went to then… fear… black flag… the screamers… alien sex fiend… dr. martens became a symbol of a raw and sweaty vitality that I thought I might be able to pull off… and for a minute, I think I did…,” says Owens.

“Coming full circle to partner with Dr. Martens 40 years later leads me to lacing them with pearl-colored cotton laces in a geometric pattern that I use often as a symbol of our eternal collective search for rational order; signs of hope and an affectionate blessing on the perpetual recklessness of youth.”

The boots will be sold at drmartens.com and rickowens.eu, at flagship stores, and select retail partners.

The designer worked with performance artist Ron Athey on the image campaign that accompanies the collaboration’s release.

“I have known Ron Athey since the 1980s when our paths would cross in the filthiest clubs I could find in L.A.,,” says Owens. “Ron was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen, and I am afraid I was quite smitten. He became a go-go boy at Club Fuck, which attracted the hardcore piercing techno subculture that was starting to emerge then, and eventually, his dancing developed into actions that became the performance artwork for which he is known today.

“These works were created during the aids crisis when artists were dealing with that moment of despair with physical demonstrations of rage. the most controversial of his works was his printing press performance, during which he cut symbols into his friend’s back, pressed paper towels to them, and clipped the blood prints to a pulley system that hoisted them overhead in the performance space. Although minimally supported by the national endowment for the arts, this performance became part of the political discourse and controversy regarding which artworks were suitable for public funding.

“His work speaks to the eternal primitive in all of us and to our shared human experiences — fear, shame, sexuality, mortality, and faith — in a timeless tradition of blood rituals, from the drama of human sacrifice on Mayan altars to a Messiah on a cross to childbirth to blood tests to our current war.

“I asked Ron to represent this Dr. Martens collab as an example of how elegantly real transgression — and our individual searches for transcendence — can be.”