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Dr. Martens boots have been valued by rebellious youth through the decades. From Wednesday, the maker of the famous air-cushioned boots with the distinctive yellow stitching will be valued at about US$5-billion when it sells shares publicly.

Born in the aftermath of the Second World War in the shattered remains of Germany and through a journey that saw it become an emblem of youth culture, the Dr. Martens footwear company is set to list on the London Stock Exchange for the first time next week.

Shares in the company that pioneered the air-cushioned sole will go on public sale on Wednesday in a flotation that values the shoe brand at around US$5-billion. Around 35 per cent of the business will be available for investors to buy and sell.

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“The successful transformation of Dr. Martens is a great story, and what is even more exciting is the huge potential ahead,” chief executive Kenny Wilson said.

The company aims to use the anticipated proceeds from the sale to expand the brand, which is currently owned by private equity firm Permira.

Dr. Martens boots are sold in more than 60 countries, and customers buy around 11 million pairs every year. The brand still sees room for expansion.

The Dr. Martens boots and shoes have their roots in postwar Munich in 1945 when Dr. Klaus Maertens, a 25-year-old soldier, was convalescing from a broken foot. Rather than the traditional hard leather sole, he came up with an air-cushioned alternative that he showed to an old university friend and mechanical engineer, Dr. Herbert Funk.

By adapting disused military supplies, the pair began producing their novel shoes two years later and within a decade they had a booming business, although the big buyers at first were mainly older women.

In 1960, British firm Griggs bought an exclusive license to the shoes and made adjustments that still exist, including the distinctive yellow stitching. The first eight-holed 1460 Dr. Martens boot coincided with a radical transformation of youth culture.

From the Swinging Sixties, through the worlds of glam and punk rock in the 1970s and Britpop in the 1990s, the boots were adopted by different groups around the world. They were also popular with factory workers for their comfort.

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Dr. Martens started losing its popularity around the turn of the century and the company was facing bankruptcy before the fashion world warmed to the brand once again.

From Wednesday, fans can do more than just don the famous boot.

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