Military history literature typically focuses on the general history of armed conflict, including tactics, weapons, victories and defeats and major players. What’s not often mentioned, though, is the transformative role changing military uniform styles played in not only attracting young men to join the ranks and impress the ladies, but the impact they had on the world of fashion.Before the fashion trends of camouflage, utility jackets, and combat boots, there was the Wellington boot. Let’s march down the road of how Wellington boots came to be and how, to this day, are a staple of fashion and functionality.
Before we dive into the question of “what are Wellington boots,” it’s important to first look at the history of their evolution, dating all the way back to 18th century Europe.
There were few more deserving of comfortable footwear than soldiers during the French and Napoleonic Wars dating from 1792-1815. Much of Europe was involved in the conflicts in some capacity. Soldiers stationed in hot climates needed lighter, breathable linen clothing, a luxury the current woolen britches didn’t allow. The current riding boots, known as “Hessians” became difficult to wear with the new, tight linen trousers designed to help keep soldiers from overheating while also looking good, because believe it or not, the military needed to make joining the cause as attractive as possible for young men enlist.
A british nobleman by the name of Arthur Wellesley (later known as the First Duke of Wellington) asked his shoe maker to construct a pair of comfortable riding boots that would accommodate the new pant style. The Hessian boots were cut shorter and the tassels were removed, resulting in a better fit.
Meanwhile, Wellesley gained popularity from his success in battles in the early 19th century as a military hero for defeating Napoleon Bonaparte at the Battle of Waterloo. Before this victory, Wellsley was already being hailed as a fashion icon. His popularity grew throughout the war and Europe took notice of his unique boots and thus a major fashion trend, the Wellington boot, was born.
The popularity of Wellington boots took a nosedive following the Duke of Wellington’s death in 1852 and the ankle boot took precedence, with Wellingtons typically only worn by senior military officers. Wellingtons would again gain popularity during World War I as part of a solution to fighting trench foot and remain effortlessly cool into the 21st century, utilized as an everyday essential outdoor boot.
Following World War I, Wellington boots were introduced to civilian life as practical footwear used on farms and gardens. Today, the use of Wellington boots (also known as “Wellies”) has transcended through time to be a versatile footwear for outdoor use, while also playing an important role in the safety of industrial workers.
You can find Wellington boots reinforced with features like steel toes, or made of all rubber for use in industries dealing with chemicals or muddy conditions. With durable non-slip soles, rubber wellies are the ideal boot for fishing boat crews, too.Ranch Road Boots has no shortage of love for incorporating military culture into our boots, priding ourselves on how to wear the military trend that’s lasted through the decades. Of course, it’s more fun to have a boot be as fashionable as it is functional, demonstrated in our Women’s Wellington Desert Boot. For timeless style, durability and all day comfort, check out the Men’s Wellington Desert Boot. If a full grain calf-leather boot is more of your thing, our Men’s Gunner Cognac Leather Boot is a worthy contender, with the versatility to confidently take you from work to play.
Throughout history, military trends have seeped their way into civilian life and wooed us with their freedom of expression. Time and time again, Wellies make their appearance at music festivals like Coachella, Bonnaroo, the Glastonbury festival, and on the runway in spring and autumn fashion shows. When they’re not out livin’ it up, Wellington boots are getting down and dirty in chemical laboratories, heavy industrial settings, and on fishing boats.
There is no shortage of ways to style this versatile boot and you can walk your walk with the confidence of knowing that your Wellies will keep up with your exciting life. It’s no wonder that Wellington boots have remained a fashion staple for everyday wear across the world for literal centuries. At Ranch Road Boots, we believe in timeless products of life-lasting quality, so it’s no surprise that we pride ourselves on a boot with a proven track record of sharing the same qualities.
If you don’t own a pair of Wellies, what are you waiting for? If you have a pair that you love, let us know how you rock them in the comments below!
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