The history of Rain boots
Discover the origins and evolution of the iconic Rain boot and its legacy throughout history.
A timeless combination of fashion and function, Rain Boots or "Wellies" have earned their place as a quintessential part of wardrobes across the world. Their reputation as reliable rain boots and waterproof footwear is second to none, and the design has stood the test of time.
The origins of Rain boots
The history of Rain boots dates back to a first iteration in the 18th century called Hessian boots, which were worn as military riding boots. These were a light, knee-length boot with a curved top made of polished leather and decorated with ornamental tassels, offering utilitarian comfort whilst displaying distinctive dress among army officers in cavalry regimens.
Why are they called Wellington boots?
The Wellington boot came to fame when Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, instructed his shoemaker to alter the leather Hessian boot to a shorter, mid-calf boot suitable for riding in warm climates and smart enough for social evenings. British gentlemen were quick to jump on the patriotic trend, and the boots have been called ‘Wellingtons’ or ‘Wellies’ ever since.
The invention of waterproof rubber Rain boots
Rain Boots have a British namesake, but it is American scientist Charles Goodyear's invention of vulcanised rubber that evolved earlier leather iterations into the waterproof rubber designs that we know today. In 1852, British-American industrialist Hiram Hutchinson and founder of "A l'Aigle" bought the patent to manufacture the new impermeable rubber footwear in France, which became an instant hit with farmers and sparked its functional reputation.
Hunter’s significance in Wellington boot history
Upon the advent of World War I, the War Office commissioned Hunter Boots, then known as The North British Rubber Company, to produce over a million pairs for the British Army. This reliable waterproof construction became a crucial component of army uniforms, suitable in wet conditions and marshy terrain. Hunter Boots Ltd was again entrusted with the production of waterproof boots, masks, and other waterproof components of the uniform for the British forces in World War II, protecting them from the elements from head to toe. .
This earned Hunter a Royal Warrant by Appointment to the late His Royal Highness, Duke of Edinburgh in 1977 and in 1986 to the late Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. An accolade of the highest order. You can learn more about the history of Hunter Boots here.
Modern Rain boots
By the 1950s, improvements to the design gave Wellies an unequalled stature in protective wear. Hunter Boots introduced the "Original Green Rain Boot" in 1956, which became synonymous with countryside chic. Since then, our Rain boots have grown beyond products with purpose to become global icons of style – worn by the likes of Kate Moss and Lady Diana Spencer. Today, we build on this heritage while staying relevant by developing new styles and innovating our materials. What's next for Wellies? Follow our journey to find out.