Wellypedia: The History of the Wellington Boot

Wellington boots have become a staple in footwear, particularly in the UK, where we’re prone to wet muddy conditions practically all year round. The iconic rubber boots as we know them today have a history that dates back a lot further than most people think.

We will explore the history and origins of the Wellington boot, and how they came to be in every Brit’s wardrobe.

In the late 17th century, British Army officers wore boots called ‘Hessians’ which were tall soft boots made from calfskin, they were about knee high with a curved top, similar to today’s riding boots but with a V-shaped detail cut into the front and often decorated with a tassel.

Other than being comfortable, the hessian boots were the perfect boot for troops due to their durability on the battlefield. The boot’s leather was often lined with wax which helped enhance their water-resistant nature.

The Birth Of Wellington Boots

Arthur Wellesley, later the 1st Duke of Wellington, asked his shoemaker Mr George Hoby of St Jame’s Street, London, to modify the Hessian boot so it was more comfortable to wear with his long linen trousers which were in fashion at the time thanks to soldiers returning from fighting in warmer climates. Mr Hoby removed the tassel from the boots, made them a closer fit around the leg and cut the boots lower to make them more comfortable for riding.

Even before his famed victory over Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, Wellesley was well on his way to becoming a fashion icon. The new Wellington boot, named after the Duke of Wellington quickly rose in popularity among British gentlemen. The new boots popularity rivalled the Duke’s reputation as a war hero, you can see this in paintings where Wellesley is portrayed wearing what we now refer to as the “welly”.

Transition to the modern-day

In 1856 the Edinburgh-based North British Rubber Company started to manufacture Britain’s first rubber or ‘gum boots’, although they didn’t become widespread until the First World War when they became standard winter kit for soldiers to prevent ‘trench foot’ caused by exposure to damp. These extremely practical items of footwear quickly became an essential bit of kit for farmers, gardeners, and fishermen, now over a century later, dog walkers, festival goers and even fashion catwalks all over the world are benefiting from this wartime legacy.

Today wellington boots come in pretty much any style or colour you can imagine. While traditional rubber wellies remain popular, you can’t beat a pair of wellies that are designed and crafted for you and your lifestyle, we have achieved this by using different high-quality materials like neoprene which help keep your feet insulated and warm, as well as adding another layer of comfort. The addition of features like the kick tabs on the new Greenfield model makes taking your wellies off that bit easier, and our seamless rubber construction used on our Muds® brand, creates a boot with no seams and therefore no weak points, adding to their durability. The evolution continues and our Wellington boots remain a versatile and indispensable footwear choice for thousands of customers all over the UK.

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