In spite of changing fashions and tastes there are certain styles which never seem to completely go out of fashion. The Wellington boot has a long history and is an instantly identifiable form of footwear which spread across the world due to its great practicality. The Wellington has recently experienced a boost in popularity as fashion houses have turned their attention to the utilitarian style and injected an element of colour and design.
The boot was named for the first Duke of Wellington who had the style of the typical 18th century hessian boot modified as he believed that better footwear would help in battle and could be more comfortable. He instructed his boot makers to produce a version which was fashioned from leather rather than hessian and cut to fit closely around the leg. The boot was cut to mid-calf length, had a small heel and was stylish enough to be worn formally.
Following Wellington’s Lead
Wellington was a war hero and so British noblemen were keen to adopt his style and the boot soon became fashionable amongst the well to do. The future of the style was assured when Charles Goodyear invented the vulcanisation process for rubber. Footwear manufacturer Hiram Hutchinson bought the patent to make boots and introduced the waterproof rubber wellington to cater to farm workers in France. The style was an instant hit with agricultural workers and the popularity of the boot spread when Wellingtons proved perfect to help soldiers in the World War I trenches. Over one million pairs were produced by the North British Rubber Company (Now Hunter Boot Ltd) at the request of the War Office.
Wellingtons were again manufactured in huge number during World War II and by the end of the war had become popular amongst civilians for wet weather wear. The boot was now roomier and featured a more rounded toe and with rationing in place became the perfect footwear solution for labourers who could not get their hands on leather footwear for work.
A New Trend
These days everyone knows what a Wellington boot is and would recognise the footwear instantly. For many years the boots were most favoured by the country set or worn principally by children but the style has now experienced a renaissance as a fashionable accessory. Leading brands, designers and manufacturers are producing more colourful and striking Wellingtons featuring a greater design input. A new generation are happy to wear the practical footwear without feeling that they have sacrificed style in order to keep dry and it looks like people of all ages are rediscovering the merits of the Wellington boot.
With the extreme weather Britain has experienced recently and predictions that the future could bring more flooding and extreme events it is likely that more people will feel that Wellington boots should be part of their wardrobe. There are now many designs to choose from and everyone from inexpensive high street brands to high end designer ranges are featuring the style. The Wellington is certainly here to stay!
Sally Stacey is a keem writer with an interest in footwear fashions and trends