The Wellington boot, also known as a wellie, a topboot, a gumboot, or a rubber boot, is a type of boot based upon Hessian boots. It was worn and popularised by Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington and fashionable among the British aristocracy in the early 19th century.
Wellington boots are waterproof and are most often made from Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) a halogenated polymer. They are usually worn when walking on wet or muddy ground, or to protect the wearer from heavy showers. They are generally just below knee-high.
The boots quickly caught on with patriotic British gentlemen eager to emulate their war hero. Considered fashionable and foppish in the best circles and worn by dandies, such as Beau Brummell, they remained the main fashion for men through the 1840s. In the 1850s they were more commonly made in the calf high version and in the 1860s they were both superseded by the ankle boot, except for riding.
These boots were at first made of leather. However in 1852, Hiram Hutchinson met Charles Goodyear who had just invented the vulcanization process for natural rubber. While Goodyear decided to manufacture tyres, Hutchinson bought the patent to manufacture footwear and moved to France to establish "A l'Aigle" in 1853 ("To the Eagle", to honour his home country. The company today is simply called "AIGLE", "Eagle"). In a country where 95% of the population were working on fields with wooden clogs as it had been for generations, the introduction of the Wellington type rubber boot became a success: farmers will be able to come back home with clean dry feet.
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.
While green Wellingtons are popular in Britain, yellow-soled black rubber boots are often seen in the US, in addition to Canadian styles. Wellingtons specifically made for cold weather, lined with warm insulating material, are especially popular during Canadian winters. In Britain "Wellington Boots" are often abbreviated simply to "Wellies".
Lately designers have made rubber boots another item of fashionable footwear.
In the U.S. white mid-calf rubber boots are worn by workers on shrimp boats.
Popular alternatives to Wellington boots in the US are "gumboots" manufactured and sold by L.L.Bean. These are based on the original "Maine Hunting Shoe" and combine a rubber shoe with stitched leather leggings of various heights.
Colloquially known as shitkicker boots and shitkickers in agricultural and farm settings, due to being worn in mud and animal pens.
In 1974, Scottish comedian Billy Connolly adopted a comical ode to the boot called "The Welly Boot Song" as his theme tune and it became one of his best-known songs. In 1976, satirist John Clarke's alter ego Fred Dagg reworked Connolly's song as "If it weren't for your Gumboots", and created a hit. Wellies have also been used by the band, Gaelic Storm in their fifth full album "Bring Yer Wellies," and in the song "Kelly's Wellies" on the same album.