And now for something off the beaten path: what you see above is the type of boot widely worn by Polish skinheads and punks in the 1980s due to the unavailability of Dr Martens. They were referred to as ‘glany rumunskie’ (Romanian boots) or simply ‘rumuny’ (Romanians) since they were produced in Romania for Nicolae Ceausescu’s notorious Securitate police units. However, they were also imported by the government of the People’s Republic of Poland and handed out to bus drivers, plumbers and workers in some factories. You could not buy them in shops, but had to know somebody who had access to a work clothes warehouse and would sell you a pair illegally – or, more often than not, swap it for 1-2 bottles of vodka. Occasionally, you might find a used pair sold in a street market.
What made them an attractive choice for skinheads and punks was their height and slim, narrow profile, which approximated the look of 10-12 eye Dr Martens – as opposed to Polish army or work boots, which were clunkier. ‘Rumuny’ were only available in black and had 10 eyelets. The toe caps weren’t made of steel, but consisted of an additional layer of thick leather. Apparently, you had to go through a few weeks of torture to break these boots in, but they were supremely comfortable thereafter.
The moment the borders opened, everybody traveled to Berlin to get their pair of DMs, and from the early 1990s onward the ‘rumuny’ of old were discarded along with other vestiges of the past. However, it only took a decade or so until they became a sought after rarity. From what I gather, some were auctioned for hefty sums on Polish eBay by the mid-2000s.
Considering that many hundreds (or thousands?) of Polish skinheads, punk rockers, and workers wore ‘rumuny’ in the 1980s, it’s incredible how hard they are to come by today. Indeed, it’s difficult to find photos of them on the web – see below for a proud owner showing off his pair.