Sunday, November 25, 2007

If you didn't have your feet in your wellies

Do you ever wear wellies? Or maybe you’ll recognise the term “Welly boots”, or “Wellington boots”? Well, if you still don’t see what we mean, then look at this…

Wellies are those green rubber boots that you probably wore when you were a child and when the weather was rainy and grey, exactly like the Great British weather, where these boots come from. They actually date back to the 19th century when Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington, asked his shoemaker to improve the model of the Hessian boot (a model essentially worn by soldiers) which was uncomfortable.

The boots have changed a lot since their creation round 1840. The first real boots, ordered by the Duke, were mid-calf high and made in calfskin leather. By 1850, the boots were made higher, reaching the top of the calf. From this time onwards, the boots were then made in rubber. However, round 1860, a new version was made, lower than the other versions, only stretching up to the ankle this time. Nowadays, the normal size of wellies is just below the knee.

Wellies have always had a great success among the British ever since they were invented. The initial success was to be seen in the aristocracy. Gentlemen wanted to imitate their hero from the Napoleonic war: the Duke of Wellington. Later, when the boots were made in rubber, the success reached the farmers who could go back home with their feet dry and mud-free. The wellies are in fact useful to walk on a wet or muddy ground and to protect ones feet from heavy showers. The popularity of the wellies stretches to Canada where the ground can be muddy due to melting snows, and to a lot of other countries.

As part of the British culture, wellies have fostered other ideas in peoples’ minds. “Welly wanging” for example, is a kind of sport where you have to throw your welly boot as far as possible. It’s absolutely serious, there is even a championship.

Another example is the Welly boot dance which originated in Africa. Mine workers put bells on their boots to break the monotony of the work. The sound made by the bells inspired a kind of spiritual dance. This remained as the welly boot dance (also called gumboots dance).

Last but not least, the Welly boot song created by Billy Connolly, a Scotsman. The lyrics show that life without wellies is impossible. Here is the chorus:

If it wasna for your wellies where would you be?
You'd be in the hospital or infirmary,
Cause you would have a dose of the flu or even pluracy,
If you didna have your feet in your wellies!

To end, modern designers have changed the traditional welly boot into a fashionable product.

So, what are you waiting for to put your wellies on and go for a walk?!

Catherine & Charles


Cécile* said...

I don't think Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington, would have been keen on the new trendy wellies of the 21st century! :-)

Charles said...

Well, you are right, he would probably turn in his grave if he knew about this new wellies. :-)