The Complete Doc Martens Lace Code Guide | Inquirer

The Complete Doc Martens Lace Code Guide

09:54 AM December 09, 2022

Back in the day, kids would match their shoelaces to their hair colors or outfits (and some still do) without any deeper meaning. Fast-forward to the late ’70s and early ’80s, when a radical movement began, and they were called Punks. They started a tradition known as the Doc Martens lace code.

Punks were a diverse subculture known for various forms of expression, ideologies, art, music, and fashion. The rejection of social norms and the promotion of individual freedom characterized them. Their popular means of expression were through style, and they were famous for lace codes.

What is Lace Code?

Doc Martens Lace Code: Fully Explained

Photo Credit: Kilian Seiler

In the era of punk culture, you could tell much about a person by simply looking at their shoes and the color of their shoelaces. Colored shoelaces could mean that you’re gay or anti-racist.


Lace code could be defined as a means of communication for those within the punk society, a medium where they could express their views on race, sexual orientation, and even gang activity or affiliation. Once popular back in the 70s, some still recognize it today.

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According to an essay by Mary McMican, the Lace code was a subculture that emerged in London. In that time, punks wore steel-toed Doc Martens for work purposes but were also useful in a brawl.

Lace Code Meanings

Doc Martens are a brand known for its lace colors, which are prideful and can represent the wearer’s ideologies. Various lace colors symbolized certain factions or beliefs and were used by the wearer to pass a message.

Sometimes, an individual color may have many meanings, but this depends on the region. Moreover, many different subgroups emerged in the punk scene, and assigning a universal meaning to color was almost impossible. This article will discuss the more popular lace codes and the ideas they aimed to represent.

You may also like: The Ultimate Guide to Styling Your Doc Martens

White: White Pride

White laces typically signify white supremacy, worn by people who identify as such or are members of the KKK (Ku Klux Klan). Neo-Nazis are also known to rock white shoelaces on their Doc Martens.

These two may seem identical in that they are both proper racist groups. Still, they are distinct because members of the KKK refuse to associate with Hitler and his beliefs because he was a foreigner, and they hate foreigners.


Today in the United States, many people associate white with anti-racism and anti-hate speech. White is perceived as a symbol of peace or simple tidiness.

Blue: Cop Killer

Blue laces indicate that the person has killed a cop, identifying “Sharps” or “Sharpies” who were usually gang members known particularly for their violence. This color code has landed many innocent, ignorant wearers in trouble with law enforcement or people who are aware.

Later, blue-laced Docs were commonly seen in protests of police harassment and brutality. To them, the blue color signified consensus with other persecuted groups and is believed to symbolize peace and justice.

Red: Neo-Nazi/National Front

Red: Neo-Nazi/National Front

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The red-colored lace of the Doc Marten is a symbol of Neo-Nazi and National Front groups. It represents their belief in Hitler and his ideologies. It could also indicate that the wearer has strong nationalist beliefs.

Usually, these are one of the more feared groups because their red laces could also indicate violence and a history of a willingness to spill blood. After all, it is the color red. You may want to avoid such punks; they have a history of attacking people who are non-white.

Yellow: Anti-Racist

In response to racist movements, some punks and skinheads decided to claim the color yellow to show that they were against all forms of racism and discrimination. Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice, or SHARP members as they are known, wear these yellow-colored laces to differ from other racist skinheads.

In today’s world, there are voices in the new generation trying to be heard and wanting to make a stand with people of all races and colors. Some punks are part of this movement and use social media, activism, and fashion as tools. 

Purple: Gay Pride

Purple laces convey a strong meaning that the wearer might be gay or a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Back then, it was quite dangerous to be gay, as it still is today in many areas. Today’s society is only beginning to embrace gay rights, but it wasn’t so many years ago.

The colored lace codes gave people the freedom to express their sexual orientation among their friends and colleagues without the fear of judgment or harm from anyone outside their community.

Black: Neutral

Black laces are known as neutral laces and come as default on Doc Martens boots. They are reasonably the safest color to wear as they depict that you have no affiliations, leaving the wearer’s beliefs and ideologies unknown or ambiguous.

You can trace the black-colored lace’s history back to when it was worn by men who wanted nothing to do with the ongoing political unrest. They were simple, traditional men who wanted to be left alone.

So, if you wanted to stay neutral on all matters, this would be the color to wear, or if you were uneducated on lace code and wouldn’t want to be involved in any unpleasant situations.

You may also like: From the Runway to Your Closet: The Latest Trends in Heeled Boots

Green: Neutral

Another lace color that represents neutrality is the color green. It means you do not stand for anything and symbolize nonalignment. This Doc Martens lace code color was commonly used by younger punks who wanted to depict neutrality but with a splash of color.


Photo Credit: Noah Buscher

Only some people putting on colorful laces or Doc Marten boots are familiar with the lace code. Many people change laces as a fashion statement or try to keep up with a particular trend. If you plan to rock Doc Martens for a concert, you must be aware.

What began as a trend and later became a full-scale movement has fizzled significantly because of today’s generation. Undoubtedly though, it is still recognized by a faithful few. There has been a general decline in political interest among the youth, affecting lace codes’ popularity.

You may think the Doc Martens lace code may make a comeback in the future, but it isn’t looking that way. Social media platforms are aloof, with young people wearing Docs with red, white, and blue laces without any idea what they mean or simply not caring. It may be the end of the era of lace codes.

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