Wellington boots: britain’s reliable friend

Wellington Boots: Britain’s Reliable Friend

Wellies are a staple of British life and provide protection from the elements in our famously rainy climate. And like all Great British institutions they can trace their heritage back for centuries.  The stalwart companion in time of war, in time of famine and in time of plenty, they are now a part of the very fabric of our lives worn by everyone from Paddington Bear to the Royal Family and everyone in between. And as such deserve our admiration and respect.

Wellies are the original functional and practical footwear and have developed a long way from the calf skin leather design, introduced by the first Earl of Wellington to whom they owe their name.  The humble wellie has since seen service in both World Wars. In ‘The Great War’ as the trench boot it was much prized in the dreadful conditions experienced in the trenches that so characterised this war.  And again in the Second World War wellies were doing their bit, so to speak from ladies wellies for  women in the Land Army to the mens wellies for soldiers in the front line wellington boots were an essential piece of kit.

In the world of entertainment the welly has in no small way been there done that and bought the T shirt. They have featured in songs such as Billy Connolly’s ‘The Welly Boot Song’. And who could forget Gaelic Storm’s seminal classic ‘Bring Yer Wellies’ from their no doubt artistically troubling and difficult 5th Album, a centrepiece to any serious music collection. Take a moment, I ask you, to think of the debt the world of comedy owes to the welly boot:  Loveable Irish comedian Jimmy Cricket with his hilarious trade mark L and R wellies owes no small debt of gratitude to this utilitarian piece of footwear.  Would Monty Python’s legendary Gumbies been as funny wearing, say, slippers? Well yes they probably would but there can be no doubt wellies helped. Freddie Starr too made comedic use of the welly, pre hamster, with his groundbreaking ‘Comedy Nazi’character. Drama too owes its own debt to the Wellington, can you imagine a 1970’s low budget Sci Fi series without silver sprayed wellies playing an important supporting role?  Radio 4’s The Archers as you might expect is closely associated with the countryside status symbol of the green welly and the Archers Addicts fan club even has the green welly as its club badge. Other rural village entertainment has also been forever altered by wellington boots their popularity at village fates up and down the country with welly throwing or welly wanging competitions standing as testament. Where apparently steel toecap wellies are frowned upon as an unfair aid to performance!

So it is fair to say that the humble welly boot has truly come of age and has at last been recoginsed as a great British icon alongside the umbrella, the Bowler hat, the wooly cardie and a reticence towards public shows of emotion. But don’t put them on some sort of pedestal or give them pride of place, no, that would not be right, continue to throw them in the back of the cupboard or in the shed like always. They know their place in the footwear pecking order. Instead as you pull your wellies on, after bashing them together to clear out the spiders from inside and dried mud from the outside, just think about where we would be without this largely unassuming piece of footwear. We’d be colder and wetter for a start but also somehow less British. Yes other nations have their wellies or gumboots or whatever but no other nation embraces the ‘carry on regardless’ stoicism of the welly like we do. Whatever the job or wherever the situation the wellington boot is here to stay.  Wear your wellies with pride and proclaim with a loud firm voice I love my wellies.

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