World War II Wellies Remember the torrential rains that wreaked havoc and caused massive flooding last year? Milwaukee has seen more than its fair share of inclement weather. In a Facebook post a week ago, a friend posted a query: should she buy a pair of cool and brightly patterned rain boots or not? Reactions […]

World War II Wellies

Remember the torrential rains that wreaked havoc and caused massive flooding last year? Milwaukee has seen more than its fair share of inclement weather. In a Facebook post a week ago, a friend posted a query: should she buy a pair of cool and brightly patterned rain boots or not? Reactions were mixed at best, but one thing was clear. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, rubber boots are a part of the fashion landscape. 

The humble and sometimes ungainly rubber rain boot has a long history in both service and fashion. The Wellington boot has also been known as wellies, Wellingtons, Billy boots, muck boots, barn boots and gummies. They were worn and popularized in the early 1800s by Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington, hence the moniker. At that time they were made of specially treated leather that became water resistant and provided protection for the calf and leg up to the knee. 

While they may be questionable as a fashion choice, the discovery of vulcanizing rubber in the early part of the 20th century helped them play an important role in World War I, when soldiers needed footwear that would be suitable for the conditions of Europe’s flooded trenches. In the Second World War, once again the production of this classic inclement weather boot was vital to keeping the troops of the allied nations

Valentino

literally on their feet while trudging through the damp countryside’s of devastated Europe. Soldiers brought them home after the war, and the “Wellie” became popular among women and children for wet weather wear. 

For the last few years there has been a resurgence of the rain boot as a fashion statement of sorts. Celebrities like Kate Moss and the omnipresent Olsen twins have been seen sporting variations of these “gummies” while out shopping and just strolling through London or New York doing whatever it is they do. Gone are the days of the ugly black rubber boot with buckles that I had to strap on whenever I had to go out into the barn or pasture on a rainy fall day, and here is the moment of the wildly patterned fashion accessory. 

While the jury may be out on the style status of these colorful waterproof boots, you can’t deny that they’re everywhere. While in NYC for fashion week last February, in the midst of one of the worst bouts of inclement weather in recent memory, I spied them again and again on the streets of Manhattan as gals – and some brave fashion forward guys –navigated their way through the grimy slush. There are, however, rules for wearing them so you don’t look like a 12 year old.

Rule 1
Skinny jeans or thick tights and casual dress or skirt are appropriate partners for these vulcanized wonders.

Betsey Johnson’s “Baxter” Boot

Rule 2
If you live where the weather is inclement frequently during the year, own property in the country, or both, it would seem reasonable to find a boot that suits your lifestyle, needs, and also makes you happy to put them on.

Rule 3
These are casual footwear. DO NOT wear them with anything that resembles a formal dress, suit, or slacks. It just doesn’t work. The exception here would be if they were of the brown or black variety, and you had to trudge from public transportation to your place of employment or social engagement.

Rule 4
Choose a pattern or style that you really like, since you won’t be wearing them a lot, but you do want them to last for quite a few seasons. This is where the practical part comes in. 

Rule 5
Welcome the rainy days of fall or spring with a smart choice to keep your feet protected from the elements.

T.J. Maxx

Rule 6
DO NOT coordinate them to your umbrella or anything else. “Matchy-matchy” is always passé.

Rule 7
Relive childhood memories and splash wholeheartedly in any puddle you happen to see.

With so many options on the market these days at price points from $10 to hundreds of dollars, I thought I’d run down a few of the looks that can make a rainy day a little brighter. 

Betsey Johnson Women’s “Baxter” boot in a fantastic tattoo print. Our Betsey also did a skull pattern as well as another tattoo inspired style. The ones shown are from zappos.com.

Even legendary Valentino did these restrained, and may I say classy, take on the utilitarian boot. Check out all the high-end designer styles at nordstrom.com.

Chooka

The peacock psychedelic style is another cool option as well as many other styles from T.J. Maxx and Marshalls

My personal favorites are from chookaboot.com a company from the Northwest that allows you to customize your boots by offering washable liners in a myriad colors. My favorites are the plaid and black ones.

If you’re out shopping here in town, or online, give another look at this perennial style, and you’ll see that just like an umbrella, you should always be prepared no matter what. Why not make it fun as well. Whenever I see someone in this type of boot, it does bring a smile to my face. Who says rainy days always have to get you down?

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