A brief history of the Wellington boots

FashionTrendsOctober 11, 2023

In the video above, we tell you the history of the Wellington boots. Where the name comes from, when and how it became fashionable. 
The Wellington boots, or just Welly, have been an enduring fashion icon for quite a while. It became a must-have shoe for the countryside, on walks and hunts. The late Queen Elizabeth II eternalised this look in Balmoral, and Alexa Chung modernised the style at the Glastonbury and Coachella music festivals. But as of late, we are seeing this classic invading all fashion venues.
Who would have thought this boot was created in 1790 by the Duke of Wellington for the British soldiers?

The First Wellington Boot

The Wellington boot was originally a type of leather boot adapted from Hessian boots, a style of military riding boot. The Duke of Wellington instructed his shoemaker, Hoby of St. James’s Street in London, to modify the 18th-century Hessian boot. The resulting new boot was fabricated in soft calfskin leather, had the trim removed and was cut to fit more closely around the leg. The heels were low cut, and the boot stopped at mid-calf. It was suitably hard-wearing for riding yet smart enough for informal evening wear. The boot was dubbed the Wellington, and the name has stuck in English. Wellington’s utilitarian new boots quickly caught on with patriotic British gentlemen eager to emulate their war hero. 

Always Doomed to Become Fashionable

Considered fashionable in the best circles and worn by dandies, such as Beau Brummell, the Wellington boots remained the main fashion for men through the 1840s. Then, in the 1850s, they were more commonly made in the calf-high version. In 1852, Hiram Hutchinson, an American industrialist of British origin, met Charles Goodyear, who had just invented the sulfur vulcanisation process for natural rubber. Hutchinson bought the patent to manufacture footwear and moved to France to establish À l’Aigle (“to the Eagle”). Today the company is called Aigle.  But back then, France had 95% of the population working in fields with wooden clogs. So the introduction of the wholly waterproof, Wellington-type rubber boot became an instant success among farmers who would be able to come back home with clean, dry feet.

Production in World War

Wellington boot production was dramatically boosted with the advent of World War I, as the footwear was best suitable for the conditions in Europe’s flooded and muddy trenches. The North British Rubber Company (now Hunter Boot Ltd) was asked by the War Office to construct a boot suitable for such conditions. The mills ran day and night to produce immense quantities of these trench boots. As a result, 1,185,036 pairs were made to meet the British Army’s demands.
In World War II, Hunter Boot was requested again to supply vast quantities of Wellington and thigh boots. By the war’s end in 1945, the Wellington had become popular among men, women and children for wet weather wear. 

Wellies in Autumn/Winter 23-24

Wellington boots have also taken on other names from the war to today. For example, Wellies and rubber boots or rain boots. They never went out of fashion, which makes these boots a heritage item in your wardrobe. The chicest of this season are the Chanel wellie boots with the C logo interlaced right on the front of the boot. Other luxury brands that bet on the rubber boots for this Autumn/Winter are Marni, Versace, Chloé, and Jimmy Choo, to name a few. 

Image courtesy @Hunter