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Put some welly into it.

Whether you braved the mud and rain at this year's Glastonbury, or you have sons or daughters who went to the Leeds, Download or Wakestock festivals, there was one common item that most attendees would have packed as essential. Not a case of alcohol, a wad of cash or an illicit substance, but a pair of Wellington boots. The humble welly has seen a revival in popularity over the last decade, morphing from practical footwear to a fashion necessity.

The Wellington boot, of course, has an essential role in modern society by protecting the wearer from hazardous chemicals, inclement weather conditions and terrain as well as steel-capped wellies for industrial work, but what were its origins, and how has it evolved to become the wardrobe staple it is today? BP&R takes a look at what's involved in the making of the Wellington boot, and how it has evolved over the years to stand the test of time.

The Wellington boot first made its appearance in 1817, when men's fashion was undergoing era-defining changes. Gentlemen were swapping knee-breaches in favour of trousers, and needed suitable footwear to accommodate the change. The Hessian boot, worn with breeches, had a heavy metallic braid that was unsuitable for the new trend of wearing trousers. In order to find a solution, Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington, instructed his shoemaker to make modifications to adapt the boot. The new design was made of soft leather and was close-fitting to the leg, making it ideal for both the battlefield and leisurewear. The new boot was dubbed the 'Wellington' after its namesake and remains the colloquial term to this day.

In the mid 19th century shoemakers began to create Wellington boots from rubber or latex instead, after a Frenchman named Hiram Hutchinson bought a patent to manufacture footwear after learning the vulcanization process for natural rubber. The waterproof rubber boots were an instant success in Hutchinson's native France, as they replaced the cumbersome wooden clogs worn by farmers.


History has then advocated the formation of the Wellington boot, with mass production seen with the advent of World War I when there was a demand for suitable footwear sustainable in the trenches, through to World War II where the boots were worn by British forces enduring flooding in Holland. In contemporary times, the Wellington boot is worn not only for its practicality, but its versatility, hygienic properties, low-cost, industry protection and weather resistance.

The Wellington boot attributes its most appealing factors, such as the impenetrability and the low manufacturing cost to being commonly made out of rubber or polyvinyl chloride (PVC). The process of making a Wellington boot out of raw rubber starts with a block of rubber being placed into a roller and pieces are extruded, flattened and re-fed until large, flat sheets are formed. The next stage sees dyes being added to formulate the colour of the boot, for a green colour, red and blue are mixed. The rubber is then cut to size and fed through smaller rollers that flatten and produce a consistent thickness. The lining of the Wellington boot is then added, and in a separate process, the rubber soles of the boots are cast using injection or compression moulding techniques. The soles and the lined pieces of rubber are then sewn together, before a craftsman fits the pieces together uses a Wellington boot shaper. Finally, the boots are vulcanised in a large industrial oven before being distributed for sale.


The Wellington boot is hugely popular in the UK, with notable British manufacturers fast becoming iconic brands, such as Scottish-based Hunter who are renowned for supplying wellies to the Royal Households. The demand for innovative, bespoke and next generation wellies is resulting in the formation of some forward-thinking products. From designer Wellingtons by Jimmy Choo and Burberry, to companies offering the chance to 'design your own', Wellingtons are proving to be both desirable and fully customisable. Time Magazine featured mobile phone supplier Orange's 'Power Wellies' as one of its fifty best inventions of 2010. The thermoelectric eco-wellingtons, which were created in collaboration with renewable energy company GotWind, use a unique 'power generating sole' that converts heat from the wearer's feet into power to charge a mobile phone. It is claimed that 12 hours of stomping, dancing or walking is enough to generate one hour of charging time for the portable device. Dave Pain, Managing Director at GotWind said: "Wellies are now the staple festival footwear, the Orange Power Wellies not only keep you dry but they also provide a crucial eco electricity source."

Amidst all the negativity surrounding UK retail sales as a result of the domino effect from the recession and a drought in consumer spending, the Wellington boot is reviving sales figures due to the unusually wet and cold British summer. Sales of Wellington boots have reportedly seen an early surge in sales, with British retailer Marks and Spencer saying sales of wellies has almost doubled on this time last year. According to reports, online retailer Welly Warehouse has had to employ more staff to meet the extra demand for wet weather footwear.

The price of rubber is an obvious factor in the sustainability and longevity of manufacturers making products such as the Wellington boot. The latest market trends show a decrease in the price of raw natural rubber, which can only be positive news for the industry, which has struggled over the past 12 months due to lower economic growth. Recent reports state that due to an increase in the demand for natural rubber, areas are being sought that are suitable for new plantation. According to recent publications, Assam in the northeast of India is being heralded as having potential for large areas dedicated to rubber plantation over the next 4-5 years.

So after Met Office reports confirm that this year's summer has been the coldest for 18 years, with the UK's average temperature from June 1--August 15 being the lowest in 13 years at 13.9[degrees]C, Britain's soggy festival goers have had to don their Wellingtons to make the most of the washed-out weather. However, with the sales of Wellingtons on the up, this can only be positive news for UK retailers, manufacturers and importers who'll be keeping their fingers crossed for more wet weather to come.

Welly I never: The Wellington facts

* Well into the 20th Century, rubber was more valuable than silver.

* The Scotch Malt Whisky Society describes its cask number 41.29 as "the colour of golden syrup with the scent of the inside of a welly boot".

* Green wellies are the most popular in Britain, whereas in Scandinavia and the USA black remains the preferential colour.

* The Duke of Wellington was one of only two Prime Ministers to have given his name to an item of clothing
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Title Annotation:rubber
Author:Taylor, Leanne
Publication:British Plastics & Rubber
Geographic Code:8NEWZ
Date:Sep 1, 2011
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