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Fashionable History: Walking in My Wellies

October 26, 2009

Rain boots. Wellies. Galoshes. Whatever you want to call them, it’s that time of year again when they start popping up all over the place. We see them in plain colors, fun patterns, even sporting designer (or “designer”) logos. They’re paired with jeans, tights, leggings. They’re used to make an outfit stand out or just thrown on to protect the feet from the growing puddles on the sidewalk. With such a myriad usage for them today, Wellies are sure to have an interesting history.
The story of rain boots begins with the Duke of Wellington in the early nineteenth century. He called upon his favorite shoemaker to reinvent the Hessian boot to a simpler version that was more practical than its heavily detailed influence. The new style quickly became a craze with English gentlemen. With the invention of rubber came the version we associate with the name today, which was first introduced to the public in 1853. Now with the added lure of waterproof footwear the popularity of Wellington boots soared. This was also the quality that attracted the attention of the Army in both World Wars. Many soldiers had been suffering with conditions brought on by poorly protected feet and this waterproof alternative saved many lives.
Rain boots were never really used for fashion until the twenties when a wave of rebellious young girls wore them to protect their newly exposed legs. They wore them loose and unbuttoned and the sound of the rubber flapping against their ankles announced their arrival minutes before they came into sight. Hence the term “flapper” was born. After this brief venture into the fashionable forefront Wellies faded back into the utilitarian environment for a number of decades.
It wasn’t until the uber-icon Princess Di was spotted wearing a pair of green Wellies that the trend burst on the scene again. However, this was fairly short-lived. The recent surge of Wellie interest began back in 2005 when designers included them in their Spring collections. Perhaps the introduction of funky-patterned rain boots were deemed too bold by civilians because they didn’t catch on for a few years to come. Now not a rainy day goes by without seeing hundreds of different varieties just walking down a block, all thanks to some Duke with a shoe fetish.

Originally written September 27, 2008

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