The Wellington is a type of boot that developed from the Hessian boot in the Nineteenth century. Wellington boots usually made from rubber and a result are waterproof, making them suitable for wet and muddy conditions. The style of boot takes its name from the Duke of Wellington who wore and popularised the Wellington. It is referred to by several other names: welly, wellie, gumboot, and rubber boot.
The Wellington was born in 1817 as a result of men’s fashion moving towards trousers from knee breaches. The Hessian was the popular boot that was worn with knee breaches, however it was unsuitable for the increasingly popular trouser due to its curvy turned-down top and heavy metallic braid. The first Duke of Wellington, instructed his shoemaker modify the Hessian boot to suit trousers. The shoemaker created a boot with a soft calfskin leather with the trim removed and was designed so that it fit closer around the leg. The heels were low cut, stacked around an inch, and stopped at mid-calf. It was hard wearing for battle yet comfortable for the evening.
Although it is certainly true that the Duke of Wellington was among the first to wear Wellington boots, it is more likely that the idea that he invented the boot was a clever marketing tool invented by the boot makers who were keen to cash in on the hero of the Battle of Waterloo (1815).
The boots with their heroic association quickly caught on with the upper classes and were the main fashion for men in the 1840’s. It was in the 1850’s that the familiar rubber Wellington was invented. Charles Goodyear had invented the vulcanization process for natural rubber. Various companies bought the rights to produce footwear based on this process, and the rubber ‘Welly’ was born.