the history of wellington boots

The History Of Wellington Boots

It’s no secret, here at the Wide Welly HQ, we’re lovers of wellington boots. From their practicality and comfort, to being a must-have fashion accessory, we’re never far from a pair. But did you know that wellington boots have a long history?

That’s right. Just because they’re a staple footwear for us now, doesn’t mean they always have been. In fact, they started out with a completely different name altogether.


British Army Officers originally wore tall boots that were called Hessians. Named after German soldiers who fought with the British in the 1790s, these boots were made from soft calfskin which had tassels and a small heel.

They were usually rubbed with wax which made them softer and more resistant to water.

So how did they become wellies then?

duke of wellington history

In the early 1800’s a British soldier and war hero named Arthur Wellesley asked his shoemaker to make some changes to the Hessian boot. They removed the tassel and used a softer calfskin leather. The reason for removing the tassel was because they were difficult to wear with trousers which were in fashion at the time.

Arthur, also known as the Duke of Wellington, had transformed Hessians from being part of a military uniform, to being a stylish item. And so, wellington boots were created. And because, due to his war hero status, the Duke of Wellington was held in high esteem, other gentlemen wanted to match his style too.

The boots developed

After becoming the main fashion footwear for men, they withheld their stance through the 1840’s, but were replaced with a shorter welly. The Duke of Wellington died in 1853, and with this, ankle boots took over the trend from wellies.

And that’s when rubber came in…

In 1852, American industrialist Hiram Hutchinson met Charles Goodyear. Goodyear, the inventor of vulcanisation (the process with rubber), sold the rights to use the process to Hutchinson. From this, the rubber form of wellington boots began to be made.

Boot developments

With their waterproof and comfort, wellington boots started to be used in industry. With the addition of steel toe caps, they were seen as a consideration for health and safety.

And what about the ladies?

history of wellington boots

As wellies began as men’s footwear, when did ladies start wearing them? At the end of the second world war – men, women and children all wore wellies in wet weather. And their popularity continues today.

Celebrities who love wellington boots

In fact, they’re so popular, they’re usually a fundamental part of festival outfits. The likes of Kate Moss, Drew Barrymore and Liv Tyler are all fans of a stylish welly. And let’s not forget the Royals – The Queen and Kate Middleton are both regularly seen in a pair of wellington boots.

Wellies – a potted history

wellington boots history

So there you have it. A breakdown of how the humble wellington boot has made it as a staple in Great British wardrobes (or garages!)

Whilst you’re here, feel free to have a look at our handmade range of wide calf wellies.

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