Rubber Boots

Hiram Hutchinson        1852                Rubber Boots

Come hell or high water, these boots will keep your feet dry. When the first Duke of Wellington told his shoemaker George Hoby to improve the Hessian soldier’s boots, he had no idea where this would go. Decades later, an American-British businessman met Charles Goodyear of car tire fame. He bought the rubber patent from him and set out to open a company in France to improve on the Wellington boots, and the so-called ‘Wellies’ were born. Once he had patented the boots, he baptized them ‘à l’Aigle’, ‘from the eagle’, to honor his American origin. A French company using the name Aigle still exists, selling outdoor clothes and boots. Four years later, a fellow American, Harry Lee Norris, moved to Scotland, rightfully thinking that the prevalent rain there would make for a good market. The Wellies started out for a great career, appreciated by farmers who had used clogs until then, and soldiers, who worried about ‘trench foot’, caused by constantly damp feet on the battlefields of the First World War. After WWII, the company introduced boots specialised for hunting, and later changed the name to reflect this. Later, fashion was introduced to what used to be a completely utilitarian piece of footwear. The Wellie continued his success around the world, being also popular in New Zealand and South Africa. There, miners wore it and, since they were forbidden to talk to each other during work, even developed a ‘gumboot dance’ to communicate. Today, the boots are still popular, because they combine practicality and comfort. Due to their history, they also come with a dose of rugged outdoor style and the cachet of adventure.