There was a time when I staunchly refused to wear practical shoes. That meant creeping along at a snail’s pace over icy sidewalks, willing kitten heels to sprout claws, and ruining more than one pair of good leather boots with salt stains.
But the life- changing moment came after splashing home through a torrential downpour, my strappy sandals flopping uselessly around my ankles and my white pants sucking up water like a sponge. A sponge with the magical of power to turn see-through at maximum saturation. Realizing, as the damp crept above my knees, that I would soon by showing my undies to the world, I suddenly understood the rest of the world’s love affair with Wellies.
Wellies — or Wellington boots — take their name from the Duke of Wellington who, in the early 1800s, asked his cobbler to fashion a loose-fitting boots with a low-stacked heel, sturdy enough for battle yet comfy enough for padding around at home. Forty years later, Charles Goodyear vulcanized rubber and Hiram Hutchinson saw not tires, but footwear. He updated the Duke of Wellington’s invention and soon farmers were coming home from muddy fields with miraculously dry feet. By WWII, the oh-so-practical boots made the leap from military to civilian-wear, and that’s when things got interesting. Sure, olive green rubber boots are all fine and good for the cast of the BBC comedy Last of the Summer Wine, but those with an eye for whimsy (like contemporary British company Wellie Art) quickly re-imagined the super-practical boots in every possible bright hue and quirky pattern.
L.L. Bean has long been at the forefront of the preppy-funky rain boots. Bright florals and coastal patterns (lobsters and anchors are currently available on the retailer’s Web site) allow sensible shoppers to show off a zanier side .
But all that adult-sized quirk can’t compete with the ultimate Wellies — the frog collection for children’s apparel company Kidorable. There are lots of times when kids’ wear is far more fun than adults’, which, in my opinion, is a great injustice. Adults have to purchase the apparel for their pint-sized doppelgangers and its the kids who get the fun stuff. The matching rain jacket, umbrella and – you guessed it – Wellies, all in purple with a butterfly motif. Or in bumblebee yellow and black stripes. You get the picture.
Still, as much as I am now sold on the concept of waterproof gear, and much as I love the frog boots – not to mention the adult-sized Wellies in hot pink or tangerine swirls (or any number of designs that make me suddenly crave rainbow sherbet and marshmallow Peeps) – I stay away from the wilder end of the Wellies spectrum. There are a few grown women who can pull off lime green polka dots. Many of these women are in sororities and also wear tiny running shorts with contrast piping. Let them have their fun, I say.
For me, I like my Wellies simple, basic, and maybe with a bit of a wedge heel. There are many styles that hint at fashion along with foul weather practicality. For me, the girl who not so very long ago turned her nose up at sensible shoes, waterproof wedges are pretty sweet.