Vintage View: Are wellington boots actually Irish?

Vintage View: Are wellington boots actually Irish?

Are wellington boots actually Irish, asks Kya deLongchamps.

Wellington boots are not just highly useful kit, but, in the right circles, they lead the charge in well-understood (and completely ridiculous) social signalling.

Branded boots still hold their place in class division with the best stamped by appointment from HRH (the head boot wearer for tweedy, gumboot followers).

I’m weak. I’m insecure — I admit it. I don’t appear as a helper at an equestrian event without my branded neoprene-lined, buckled booting sucked onto my bandy legs.

Bald snobbery aside, clever girls know that monumental leather/Gore-Tex or rubber boots narrowing to lycra-gentled slack deliver the look of frail and dainty thighs.

Androgynous dress style has teased and tempted for centuries, and cavalry garb has a special place in fashion history embraced by all sexual persuasions.

From the age of 2, we were all shod primarily in rubber boots not shoes. Plopping a squirming child into the generous void of a Dunlop — so much easier.

Walking through Heatons, I was riveted by a display of dozens of toddlers’ daisy-spattered see-through wellies. What a wonder these tiny, violently-coloured footwear would have been in medieval times.

Imagine tramping through sucking mud with little more than leather or cloth bindings clamped to wood supports — if you were lucky.

Very, very lucky. Even in the 17th century, coopers and counts would have rioted on the cobbles for a pair of waterproofs.

Oddly, the catwalk division of wellies remains a gentrified piece of officer’s kit. Wellington boots came out of regimental uniforms of the Napoleonic era.

A calf-skin boot to the knee with the newly fashionable tight breeches (steady, girls) was comfortable to walk and ride in — the polish holding off the damp.

Lower on the calf, with a short heel and freed of the annoying tassel of the18th-century Hessian boot, the wellington is credited to the comfort sense of then Viscount Wellington, later Duke (1769-1852) and his boot-maker George Hoby of St James in London.

Hoby was boot-maker to the aristocracy and most importantly the Prince of Wales, George III.

Thrilling with modesty and prone to running irritating customers off with his spiked wit, Hoby is said to have remarked: “If Lord Wellington had had any other boot-maker than myself, he never would have had his great and constant successes, for my boots and prayers bring his lordship out of all his difficulties” (Captain Gronro, Reminiscences and Recollections, 1860).

As for Viscount Wellington, he might have been a British military icon, but Arthur Wellesley esquire was born in Dublin.

Vintage View: Are wellington boots actually Irish?

I would therefore step out and say — Wellington boots are clearly Irish, we can claim them (Daniel O’Connell famously questioned the Duke’s Irishness, saying “because a man is born in a stable it does not make him a horse”).

The English champion the wellington nonetheless. They even stage a country boot sport — welly wanging, which is a throwing game where you toss the boot as far as possible up a set course.

Prussian Field Marshal General Blücher, the ally of Wellington, also ventured into foot-ware fashion with his signature short Blücher boot which can be seen in political cartoons of the day.

It didn’t catch on, but it would later be seen in various sorts of short jodhpur boots in the late 19th century when wellingtons fell out of fashion for a time.

Spendthrift, dandy and gambler Beau Brumell (1778–1840), was the arbiter of high society style in the early 1800s, and as he took to wearing Wellington’s style of boots — they became a must-have for gentlemen who could afford their expense.

Brumell recommended polishing fine boots, including wellingtons, with champagne, and wore them for every occasion.

Today’s boots are still made for rustic drills and have even grabbed their own room— the boot room (leading to the country kitchen anchored on an inevitable cream six-oven Aga).

True wellies are still best expressed in rubber — it gives at the ankle, allowing a certain degree of flex.

Vintage View: Are wellington boots actually Irish?

Be warned, however — dragging a heavy unyielding cheap boot over the sods and clods neatly undoes the foot’s plantar fascia ligament — look for additional biomechanics to the product.

Farmers don’t just jump into whatever’s on the back step — and your local co-op is a great place to pick up a no-fuss pair of boots and a jack.

Latex-based vulcanised rubber has the right credentials for everything from farming to festivals as a natural material.

The Duchess of Cambridge gave the market share of French brand, Le Chameau, a kick with her high-profile tramps in buckled and gusseted green beauties.

The soles of their best boots (€150 plus) mirror the tyre trends of the latest Michelin tyres — the Ultraflex.

Go figure.

English make, Hunter, founded to serve the trenches of the First World War, with their neoprene, bamboo, or leather linings, is currently the market leader in high society and equestrian status wellies.

The Hunter Balmoral? Sweetie, it’s all there in the name.

Hunters retain a relatively heavy rubber pelt while being more neatly tailored to the calf and including some bend to the sole and exquisitely soft rubber that can fold into a rucksack for the Electric Picnic — from €107.

Dunlop, synonymous with the rubber boot, offer moderate to cheap wellies with chapping, flapping leg profiles from just €16.50 in PVC — practical, useful, durable, and, when they split, easily replaced.

Their pricier Purofort Plus is a 35% lighter than rubber, designed to warm up fast, insulate, and supports the hips, backs, knees, and ankles in a handsome four-wheel-drive boot with anti-slip technology for the yard. From €66, nationwide.

Vintage View: Are wellington boots actually Irish?

In Irish boots, Dubarry’s Galway boot had developed considerable loyalty for walking, riding, and posing around the school gate with the yummy-mummies indicating country pursuits.

It returns the wellington to its waterproofed leather inception, aided by a wicking inner lining — Beau would have adored them or possible picked up a pair of sexy Clares (€395).

Galways are priced from €350 without boot-socks for an established icon of the tea tent and winner’s enclosure in “slim-fit” and “extra-fit” on dubarry.ie.

For an economic alternate with that period/equestrian neigh, try Toggi Canyons, Dublin River or laced Dublin Pinnacle boots in a milled leather, from €120-€150.

Another French brand, Aigle, who brought the first rubber boots to the population in 1852, under English ex-pat Hiram Hutchinson in league with Charles Goodyear, still make fine boots in their Chatellerault plant.

Their light, rubber Seaside boots are perfect for plodding the sands on a Sunday morning.

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