3 Historical Facts About the Iconic Wellington Boot
When it comes to keeping your feet warm and dry, there is no better choice than Wellington boots. They are ideal for winter weather and have been around for more than 200 years.
Wellies (as they are commonly referred to) were created by the first Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley, in 1817; and are the preferred leather boots in many parts of the globe today. In the early days, however, they were expensive and a style adorned by the British aristocracy.
Born in 1769, the Duke was a British soldier and prominent political figurehead. He was part of the victory battle in Waterloo against Napoleon Bonaparte in 1815 and was considered by many to be a military hero. He also served as the British Prime Minister from 1828-1830 and briefly in 1834.
Wellesley was a very wealthy man. In addition to serving in the British military, he was an ambassador to France and the Governor of Mysore and Seringapatam in the British colony of India. He became a Duke in 1814. As was the case with most upper-class members of British society at that time, Wellesley had his own shoemaker, Hoby of St. James Street in London.
The most popular boots for men at the time were Hessian boots. They had been around since the 18th century and were regularly worn by German soldiers as riding boots. The style was later adopted in England during the Regency era when they were made using polished leather and decorative tassels.
In the beginning, Hessian boots were knee-high with a semi-pointed toe and low heel, which was ideal for cavalry men. As they made their way into civilian hands, the Duke wanted a more practical and durable kind of footwear. He approached his shoemaker and asked him to design a new boot using the Hessian as inspiration.
Hoby designed a boot made with calfskin leather but without the trim, a key feature of the original Hessian boot. The new boot had a better fit around the leg, a lower heel, and did not go up past the calf.
Officially introduced in 1817, Wellington boots were suitable for riding and as evening footwear. They were given the name Wellington boots in honor of the Duke.
Below are three interesting historical facts about the iconic Wellington boots you should know.
1 – The Wellington Boom
After its release, Wellington boots became an instant hit among British gentlemen. This was in part due to its practicality and appealing design. The fact that Wellesley was also a popular war hero only further cemented its popularity. Most men wanted to emulate the war hero’s style.
Soon after Charles Goodyear started using the vulcanization process of natural rubber for the manufacturing of tires in 1852, American industrialist Hiram Hutchinson secured the patent and moved to France to establish his company.
During this time, most people working the fields in France wore wooden clogs that offered minimal protection from the weather. When Hutchinson started manufacturing rubber Wellington boots, they became a major hit because they were affordable and practical. The boots were also prominent fashion attire of Britain gentlemen until the 1860s when ankle boots became popular.
2 – Wartime production
When WWI started in 1914, the British government urgently needed footwear for its ground troops who were struggling in muddy and flooded trenches. The War Office ordered the British Rubber Company to produce waterproof boots suitable for trench conditions. They opted for the rubber Wellington boots and made 1.8 million pairs to meet the British Army’s needs.
After the war, Wellington boots became popular among civilians, including men, women, and children. They evolved from the snug-fitting pairs of the early 19th century into the nicely shaped, roomier boots with a rounded toe and thicker sole that we know today.
3 – Post-World War II
After WWII, Wellington boots became a central pillar of British culture and were worn by people of all walks of life. They were affordable and became the preferred choice for the masses when it came to boots, as caring for Wellington boots was also a simple manner and they were built to last.
Because Wellington boots were waterproof, they served as protective footgear in various industries. The steel-toe version also met modern health and safety standards and protected wearers from crush injuries and puncture wounds.
The Hunter Boot Company continues to manufacture Wellington boots in a number of different designs. It is headquartered in Edinburgh, Scotland, and has satellite offices in New York, London, and Dusseldorf. It showcased green Wellington boots in 1955 that have since become synonymous with country living.
In 1980, Lady Diana Spencer was photographed wearing a pair of green Wellingtons at Balmoral Castle while courting Prince Charles. The price of the boots skyrocketed. Ladies across Britain wanted to copy her casual, but stylish, look.
The popularity of Wellington boots has grown immensely since they were introduced in the 19th century. Today, they can be found in stores all over the world from Australia to the United States. They are an essential part of many work, social and country lifestyles, and there are no signs of this changing any time soon.