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WHERE WELLIES ORIGINATED


The Welly made it's first appearance in 1817. At this time men's fashion was going through significant changes as gentlemen swapped their knee breeches in favour of trousers. This, however, led to a problem finding comfortable footwear. The previously popular Hessian boot, worn with breeches was styled with a curvy turned-down top and heavy metallic braid - totally unsuitable for wearing under trousers.

To this end, Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington instructed his shoemaker, Hoby of St. James Street London, to modify this 18th century boot.  They designed a new boot in soft calfskin leather, removed the trim and made the cut closer around the leg. It was hard wearing for battle, yet comfortable for wearing in the evening. The Iron Duke didn't know what he'd started - the boot was dubbed the ‘wellington' and the name has stuck ever since.

Wellington boots quickly caught on with patriotic British gentlemen eager to emulate their war hero. Considered fashionable and foppish in the best circles, they remained the main fashion for men through the 1840's. In the 1850's they were more commonly made in the calf high version and in the 1860's they were both superseded by the ankle boot, except for when riding.

So far these boots were made of leather, however in America, where there was more experimentation in shoemaking, producers were beginning to manufacture with rubber. One such entrepreneur, Mr. Henry Lee Norris, moved to Scotland in search of a suitable site to produce rubber footwear  - here sees the beginning of Hunter's story.

Production of the Wellington boot was dramatically boosted with the advent of World War I due to the demand for a sturdy boot suitable for the conditions in flooded trenches. Making the wellington boot a functional necessity.

Again the Wellington boot played an important contribution during World War II. At the outbreak of war in September 1939, although trench warfare was not a feature of the war, the wellington still played an important role. Those forces assigned the task of clearing Holland of the enemy had to work in terrible flooded conditions.

By the end of the war the wellington had become popular among men, women and children for wear in wet weather. The boot had developed to become far roomier with a thick sole and rounded toe. Also, with the rationing of that time, labourers began to use them for daily work.

Wellington boots are waterproof and are most often made from rubber or a synthetic equivalent. They are usually worn when walking on very wet or muddy ground, or to protect the wearer from industrial chemicals and they are traditionally knee-height.

In Britain, there is a light-hearted sport, known as 'wellie wanging', which involves the throwing of Wellington boots as far as possible.
Wellington boots, though invented in Britain, are very popular all over the world.  In cold climates they were especially useful in springtime, when melting snows leave wet and muddy ground for a couple of months. Children can often be seen wearing them to school and office staff wear them to work to save their shoes.