"For Life" Guarantee ActivatedWell, it's been almost three years since I bought my first pair of Dr. Martens "For Life" shoes and in January 2014 it was finally time to send them on back to the good folks at Dr. Martens USA for either a fixup or replacement. The treads were totally shot, the air cushion was not much of a cushion any longer, and the leather was starting to develop some cracks. Living in Vermont in the middle of winter, you can't walk around in shoes with no treads, so it was time.
The return process for a pair of For Life Docs is relatively straightforward. This page on their site has all the details. I emailed them to ask about making a claim, and they responded about a day later with full instructions on where to send them, etc. I UPS'd them to their location in Oregon (for USA customers) and was told I would hear from them in a few weeks to get my credit card info for the $35 administration fee they charge each time you make a claim. About four weeks went by and I finally heard from them, which was longer than expected. I gave them my credit card number over the phone and within a couple days they dispatched me a brand new pair. I had them about a week later. No questions were asked at all about returning them or the condition of the old shoes. Total time was about seven weeks.
In late February, I received the brand new pair of For Life Docs and now I get to start the breaking in process all over again. A couple of thoughts about the For Life program: First, it took much longer than I would have liked. In less than the amount of time it took for me to send them a garbage pair of Docs and them to send me out a brand new pair, I also sent back a pair of 20+ year old Allen Edmonds brogues and had them completely recrafted - the soles, heels, welting, and cork layer were replaced and the upper refinished - and received them back before the new pair of Docs. Second, I've decided I am just not a fan of the type of leather that is used on the For Life line. They call this "Hardlife" leather which I guess is meant to be more sturdy, but it gives the shoes a matte appearance which I don't particularly care for, and they leather does not take a shine very well. Not a deal breaker, and I will wear the new 1461s until they die, but I'm not sure I would get another pair of For Life shoes now that the higher cost of the first pair plus the return fee has already paid for itself with one free pair. Next time, I will probably purchase a pair of Made in England Docs and hope they last a little longer than the Asian-made versions.
Have you had any experience with returning your Docs for the For Life guarantee? Feel free to comment below ... Thanks for reading.
Original post from April 8, 2011
The other day as I contemplated a slight tear in the upper and a small crack in the sole of my beloved, worn, comfortable, 1461 Dr. Martens shoes, I thought, "Well, that time again. Gotta get a new pair." Seems to happen every four or five years. I wear these shoes nearly every day of my life, and have always had at least one pair, if not more, of Dr. Martens shoes and boots since I was 14 years old.
My very first pair or Dr. Martens were the classic 1460 eight hole boots. Given the model number 1460 because they are based on the first style of boot Dr. Martens ever produced - the first pair rolled off the production line of their factory in Wollaston, England on April 1, 1960 (1.4.60 in European date style). I remember being a very shy and intimidated 14 year old as I went into the punk store in town called Two Tone which was staffed by 20-somethings with foot-high spiked mohawks who smelled like patchouli. This was in the late 80s - before every jock in school was wearing Docs when Nirvana hit (and as a good friend of mine would say, "ruined [his] life"); before you could walk into any mall, head for the nearest Hot Topic shop and buy a pair in any color of the rainbow. Scared of the older punks who ran the shop, I tried them on quickly (they were probably a size too big - I don't think I grasped the fact that the UK had different sizes back then), paid for them, got them home and wore them to school the next day.
Let's just say that at first, these boots weren't made for walking.
I remember literally hobbling home from school the first week, in dire pain. Doc Martens give you an initiation in pain, which in the end, makes you love the boots or shoes all the more. You work for those boots; you earn them. And they become part of you.
After many years of wear, I finally parted with those beloved boots I bought when I was 14 about 20 years later at age 34. The soles were worn flat and were bald, the air had long since seeped out of the Air Wear soles, both soles had gaping cracks that let in water - it was their time to go. In the meantime, I'd gone through a few pairs of different 1461s - some black, some oxblood, one steel toe pair. And the other day I found myself online looking to replace my trusty 1461s yet again, not looking forward to the pain I would need to endure for weeks to break them in.
I checked out the Dr. Martens USA site, and came across a few new interesting options. In the early 2000s, Dr. Martens apparently moved production of most of their shoes from their factory in Wollaston, England to Southeast Asia, and most every pair of Docs nowadays is made in either China or Thailand. If you're willing to pay a premium (nearly double) you can still buy a pair of "Made in England" Docs (their "Originals" line). I wondered if dropping the extra cash for some "Made in England" cache and perhaps higher quality craftsmanship might be worth it, and perhaps they would last longer. But that price is a difficult pill to swallow, especially if I can't be sure they'd last any longer, and honestly the last few pairs of Asian-made Docs I've owned were made just as well as their English counterparts.
Then I happened across another line of shoes and boots on their site - the "For Life" collection. For about an extra $30, you can purchase a pair of (Asian-made) Docs (either the 1460 boot or 1461 shoe, in various colors) that are guaranteed for life. All normal wear and tear is covered by this guarantee. That means that when, in four or five years the sole of my shoes develops a crack, or a grommet pops off, or the leather cracks, I can mail them back to Dr. Martens and they will either repair or replace the shoes - nearly for free (they do charge a nominal administration fee, and I will have to pay for postage). Still, much cheaper than shelling out $100 for a new pair every five years. The higher price gets you not only the lifetime guarantee, but they also come with a tub of Dr. Martens Wonder Balsam and an extra pair of laces. They're made out of "Hardlife" leather (which looks the same as regular Docs, but is meant to last longer), and there is additional weight and thickness added to the core of the sole.
And when will I ever stop wearing Docs? They are a classic that will never go out of style. Beloved through the years by policemen, garbage men, factory workers, mods, skinheads, punks, rude boys and girls, goths, and grungers, they have been a classic for over 50 years and will remain so for another 50.