I'm stepping into the choppy waters of controversy today, mixing up my footwear from two sources a mere half-mile apart in the village of Wollaston in Northamptonshire. Instantly recognisable by the yellow stitching is the Dr Martens, while almost the same shoe, but with neutral stitching is the NPS Solovair.
Different by name, but close cousins by facts, as until Dr Martens closed its UK factory in 2002 and laid off 1000 workers, NPS had been engaged in making Dr Martens since the 1960s. With Dr Martens choosing to have their footwear made in a bewildering selection of low-cost countries, NPS chose to stay in the factory they've been in since 1881, making and evolving many of the same styles.
At the time the chairman of Dr Martens was quoted as saying: "Dr Martens will remain a brand true to its heritage and deliver footwear of the highest quality. The offshore strategy is the first step in moving the company and the brand forward in a positive direction." As it quite quickly turned out, his predictions were not going to come true, though while Dr Martens has expanded into quite the empire of shops and unrelated products, the quality of their original footwear has gone down the toilet. So much so that they chose to refurbish the old factory in Wollaston and restart a limited, premium production, creating the "Made in England" line.
The MiE variant, at twice the price, has gained a better reputation than the low-cost variant, but it's quite clear that if you're after the legendary Dr Martens quality, it's NPS Solovair you should be looking at. Check out the "Dr. Martens fails" group on Facebook or the cut-up analysis by @rose_anvil on Youtube for further details.
Here I'm wearing one "MiE" Dr Martens and one of the OG hi-shine Solovair Gibsons. With colourful socks and a pair of charity shop PoW check trousers. Weird? I blame the flu.
What is your experience of Dr Martens old and new, or NPS Solovair? I'd love to hear. - 14 minutes ago