Five years ago, while preparing to attend SXSW in Austin, TX, I received an email from a good friend whose family owned a publicity company. The business had partnered with Dr. Martens for a multi-day showcase: great news for me because I trusted her taste and, as I would soon come to find, selected members of the press would be gifted free shoes. As a lowly music writer making considerably less than bank, it was an opportunity to skirt some questionable ethical lines and replace my creepers, which had began to unravel at the sole. I ended up collecting my second-choice pick: black ankle booties in a style called “Aerial.” Though they weighed a good three pounds each, I adored them.
Chelsea boots had returned to vogue (many thanks to a YSL-obsessed Harry Styles) but these were a Frankensteined interpretation of the classic shoe. I often felt like a Bratz doll, but a powerful one, clunking around on the three-inch solid platform base. My Doc Marten Aerials were curved and easy to walk in. They were intimidating and completely un-graceful. I loved them because they were free, but I adored them because they felt like me: stylish yet indelicate, punk yet twee.
I wore them for the rest of the festival and then for what felt like every other day for the next two years. At one point, the sole started to retract from the body of the shoe. (Either I walk too weird, or too much, or too hard: I have this problem often.) I super glued it to the best of my ability before handing it off to a cobbler friend. Eventually, I gave up and
In the only known photos of me in these shoes, my hair looks great, my fit is on point, it’s April 2015 and I’m drunk at an auto show. My best friend Charlotte and I pounded a few beers at a place that gave out free hot dogs with each drink purchase before using my coworker’s free tickets to the pricey event, despite not knowing how to drive and having little knowledge of automobiles. (That’s Jalopnik’s purview.) I remember shockingly little from the event, except one attempt to take a picture with the Geico gecko. Even though the quality leaves a lot to be desired, you can tell that the shoes are good.
These shoes, while massive and definitely my kick-of-choice for curb-stomping purposes, were so stylish and so cool that they made me make dumb and ultimately fun life choices. So when I finally realized my mistake of giving them away a few months into 2017, I learned that the Aerial style had been discontinued. I was devastated.
In the three or so years I have lived without these particular shoes, I’ve spent hours searching Depop, Etsy, Ebay, Poshmark, and various other online reseller marketplaces for my coveted Aerial Doc Martens. I’ve found and lost them a few times. Many times, they’re only available in the U.K., or in brown, or in a size 11. That was the case until Monday, when I saw a listing for the perfect shoe—worn only once, in black, a women’s size 8. I shelled out $100 for a pair I had once owned for free. They’ve yet to arrive, and still—I’ve never been happier.
If you loved something once and set it free, go online and buy another. It’s almost better the second time around. I can’t wait to clunk around major American cities in my favorite massive booties, announcing to the world without ever uttering a word aloud: It’s clobberin’ time.