A Brief History of the Wellington
We all have a pair of Wellington boots for either working or leisure activities. In this, we tell the story of where they originated from and a little of their history.
The First Wellington Boots
The very first style of Wellington boot called “Hessian” boots, made from a polished calfskin. They were knee length with a curved top. Very similar to today’s riding boots but with a V-shaped detail cut into the front and decorated with a tassel. The German mercenaries wore the Hessian boots in the American War of Independence (1775–83). The boots were designed to be worn with traditional woollen breeches. When fighting in hotter countries, soldiers wore lighter, longer linen trousers meaning the tassel got in the way. This trouser and boot combination found themselves in everyday wear thanks to Beau Brummell, the fashion icon of the day.
In the early 1800’s Arthur Wellesley, then Viscount Wellington asked his shoemaker, Mr George Hoby of St James’s Street, London, to make a boot which was easier to wear with the new linen trousers. Mr Hoby set about this task, he made the new boots from soft calfskin, removed the tassel from the boots and cut them lower and made them a closer fit around the leg to make them more comfortable for riding. Because of his fame and status as a fashion icon himself, the boots became known as Wellingtons, although very different from what we know today.
Early Rubber Wellington Boots
The early Wellington boots were made from leather, however, this would change when in 1852 Hiram Hutchinson met Charles Goodyear, the man who went on to manufacture tyres and also the Goodyear welt, had just invented the sulfur vulcanisation process for natural rubber. Mr Hutchinson bought the patent to manufacture this process for footwear. Later, he moved to France and established À l’Aigle (“to the Eagle”) in 1853. The company better known today as Aigle. At the time 95% of the country was working in the fields in clogs, so this new rubber footwear, waterproof, Wellington boot became massively popular with the farmers who would now have dry feet.
The start of world war 1 and a need for suitable footwear in the muddy fields and trenches of Europe produced the need for a higher output of the Wellington. The war office asked the North British Rubber Company, which we know today as Hunter Boot Ltd, to produce a boot for these conditions. The mills had to run all day and night, with 1,185,036 pairs of boots made to meet the British Army’s demands. When world war 2 started, Hunter was asked to produce the vast quantities of Wellingtons and thigh boots again. These boots were needed for work in the flooded conditions of the Netherlands as well as other countries. By the end of the war, Wellingtons had become popular with men, women and children for wet weather activities as well as labourers who used them for work.
The Modern Wellington
The rubber Wellington today is a far cry from the leather boots of yesteryear. With lower manufacturing costs and an easier process to make them. There are now many different styles, designs and colours to choose from. With neoprene linings and fur linings to choose from and also boots with full-length zips and elastic gussets. The Wellington is a must-have addition to any hallway, shed, garage or work site.
Take a look at our Wellington Boot Guide for more ideas.