Friday, 31 August 2012

Wellington Boots/Duke of Wellington. Hunter, le Chameau, Aigle & Blucher boots. Taihape, W. Yorkshire, South Africa & the Czech Republic. Boot Fetishism

Elegant wellingtons for £15 currently dangle from the shelves in Tesco, modelled on riding boots. These are reminiscent of the original ones worn by Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, in the portrait by James Lonsdale in 1815 after the Battle of Waterloo.

What goes around comes around.

The first ever Wellington boots were made of calfskin with tassels, to the Duke’s design, who wanted more comfortable riding boots. You can tell from the way he is standing in his portrait how he liked to cut a dash. He unexpectedly started a new fashion and the boot was named after him.

Wellingtons were first made of rubber in France in 1853 by Hiram Hutchinson; an astute American. He bought the patent from Charles Goodyear in order to make rubber boots and bicycle tyres. He called his firm A l’Aigle in honour of the American eagle, the symbol of freedom in the U.S after independence from Great Britain on 4 July, 1776.

The farming community soon appreciated having dry feet and swapped their clogs.

Australians call wellingtons gumbies and the older generation call them Blucher Boots, their former army boots.  Australian poet Henry Lawson wrote a touching poem in1890: 

To a pair of Blucher Boots
Swagman in Blucher boots
Old acquaintance unforgotten,
Though you may be “ugly brutes”—
Though your leather’s cracked and rotten,
Worn-out pair of Blucher boots.

’Tis the richer man before you,
Dearer leathers grace his feet;
’Twas the better man that wore you
In the tramps through dust and heat!

Oft rebuffed by “super’s” snarling,
When I asked him for a “show”,
On that long tramp to the Darling
In the days of long ago;

Tell me, if you know it, whether,
As I sadly tramped away,
Bore I heavy on your leather,
Worn-out pair of Bluchers, say?

Though your leather’s cracked and rotten,
Though you may be ugly brutes,
I’ll preserve you unforgotten,
Worn-out pair of Blucher boots!

Wellingtons were a must-have in the trenches in WW1: Hunter Boot Ltd. supplied the army.

Green wellingtons have clearly inspired Wikipedia to a mini class (?) frenzy.

“Green Wellington boots, introduced by Hunters in 1955 gradually became a shorthand for "country life" and have been popularly thought to be typical not only of "country folk" but also of people who are really townies but wear "green wellies" because they want to be thought to be "country folk", in the same way that they own Range Rovers or other 4x4 vehicles which are never driven off road.”

Wellingtons became political animals under Khrushchev, who wanted them worn in a Campaign for Modesty rather than capitalist leather boots. Leather shoes were unobtainable as a result. 

In South Africa gold miners used to sing and dance in the mines wearing wellingtons, their regulation gear. Their songs became popular and they wear them too when performing for tourists.

Health and Safety wallahs world-wide order them to be worn in laboratories, hospitals and industry. 

Taihape, New Zealand has an annual Gumboot day.

Upperthong, Holmfirth, in West Yorkshire holds an annual Wellie-Wanging competition.

Americans like black wellingtons with red soles.

At the Olympic and Paralympic Opening Ceremonies the Czech Republic team were all kitted out in bright blue wellingtons, carrying umbrellas. This turned out to be a popular hit and teased us, because we always talk about the weather.

Wellingtons have inspired singers, towns and even the sex industry.

Wikipedia says primly “Some individuals find wearing Wellington boots to be erotic. See boot  fetishism”.

But that's another story........

P.S. The comment on Le Chameau boots has led to their inclusion here, sales have soared since the Duchess of Cambridge wore le Chameau Vierzonard boots in June when she visited Expanding Horizons holiday camp in Kent this June.