Got your Wellies?? Hope so!!! With the snow out there today I’ve got mine. Who’d have thought that The Duke of Wellington (second row right, above) would have started a fashion revolution. While they are definitely practical, They’re now a super fashion statement. Just look at that Vogue cover on the next row. At the bottom is the design I thought my wife would like. I’ll let you know.
With this crazy snow dump going on around us, I like most of you, was out in the driveway with my trusty shovel. Part of growing up and living in Cleveland is the annual snow ritual – sometimes with the snowblower, and sometimes just by hand. I’m not sure if you are aware, but there is an interesting history about the rubber snow boot. Perfect in design, excellent in repelling water, and “sometimes” fashionable, rubber boots simply rock. From the little yellow and pink ones my girls used on rainy and snowy days, to the more industrial (just keep my feet dry) designs, we can thank a Duke and some engineers at the BF Goodrich (Ohio -yea!) company (today marks the patent anniversary). Here’s some history, and some cool production videos on “wellington” style boots. Enjoy, and thanks to Wikipedia, Scientific American and YouTube for the info.
Manufacturing Video (I like the melt boot index!)
- Wellington boots in contemporary usage are waterproof and are most often made from rubber or polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a halogenated polymer. They are usually worn when walking on wet or muddy ground, or to protect the wearer from heavy showers and puddles. They are generally just below knee-high although shorter boots are available.
- The “Wellington” is a common and necessary safety or hygiene shoe in diverse industrial settings: for heavy industry with an integrated reinforced toe; protection from mud and grime in mines, from chemical spills in chemical plants and from water, dirt, and mud in horticultural and agricultural work; and serving the high standard of hygiene required in food processing plants, operating theatres, and dust-free clean rooms for electronics manufacture.
- Sailing wear includes short and tall sailing wellingtons with non-marking, slip-resistant soles to avoid damage to a boat’s deck. These boots require thermal socks to be worn underneath as the rubber does not provide enough warmth.
- The Duke of Wellington instructed his shoemaker, Hoby of St. James’s Street, London, to modify the 18th-century Hessian boot. The resulting new boot was fabricated in soft calfskin leather, had the trim removed and was cut to fit more closely around the leg. The heels were low cut, stacked around an inch, and the boot stopped at mid-calf. It was suitably hard-wearing for riding, yet smart enough for informal evening wear. The boot was dubbed the Wellington and the name has stuck in English ever since. In the 1815 portrait by James Lonsdale, the Duke can be seen wearing the more formal Hessian style boots, which are tasselled.
- Wellington’s utilitarian new boots quickly caught on with patriotic British gentlemen eager to emulate their war hero. Considered fashionable and foppish in the best circles.
- From the Amazonian Indians’ pain of roasting rubber over fire, modern society may have gained the rubber boot. That’s the best guess, anyway, of experts who know their latex. “When the New World was discovered by Columbus and his followers, one of the first things they found was rubber,” says Joe Jackson, author of The Thief at the End of the World: Rubber, Power, and the Seeds of Empire. “There were two things reported back: bouncing balls and boots.”
- Indians would go out and slice into the bark of a rubber tree, collecting the white latex sap in a process similar to tapping maple syrup, Jackson explains. Then they would turn to the fire. “And, for hours, they would just sit there turning this stick over a smoky fire,” he says. “Then they would take a cup from a bigger basin of latex and pour more on the stick until they had a black ball of rubber,” to be sold for or used in games.
- Whether or not this boredom was the inspiration, historians do believe that Indians created makeshift boots by hanging their rubber-coated feet over fires. “It may have taken an awful lot of will power,” Jackson guesses. “Maybe they dipped them in until they couldn’t stand it anymore. Took a break. Then dipped them back in.”
- The result was a crude form of what would later evolve into high men’s fashion, a farmer’s standard, and a kid’s rainy-day footwear. None of them would come until centuries later, however, after Charles Goodyear improved on the Amazonian technology.
- “Goodyear was obsessed with rubber,” says Chris Laursen, the science and technology librarian for the Rubber Division at the University of Akron, a professional organization for the rubber industry within the American Chemical Society. “He foresaw a world in which everything was made out of rubber.”
- Before he could make that world a reality, Goodyear first needed to find a way to keep rubber from cracking in the cold and melting in the heat. The solution came to him by accident in 1839, according to his own book, Gum-Elastic and Its Varieties. Goodyear spilled a concoction of rubber, sulfur and white lead onto a hot stove and witnessed the mixture charring around the edges but, surprisingly, not melting.
- In this eureka moment, Goodyear managed to cross-link rubber molecules via sulfur bridges into one large macromolecule—creating a stronger, more thermal-resistant material. “Under a powerful microscope,” Laursen says, “it would look like a cooked plate of spaghetti all intertwined.” Goodyear would later fine-tune the process and coin it “vulcanization,” after the Roman god of fire.
- Wellington boots were at first made of leather. However, in 1852 Hiram Hutchinson met Charles Goodyear, who had just invented the sulfur vulcanisation process for natural rubber. Hutchinson bought the patent to manufacture footwear and moved to France to establish À l’Aigle (“to the Eagle”) in 1853, to honor his home country. Today the company is simply called Aigle. In a country where 95% of the population were working on fields with wooden clogs as they had been for generations, the introduction of the wholly waterproof, Wellington-type rubber boot became an instant success: farmers would be able to come back home with clean, dry feet.
- Production of the Wellington boot was dramatically boosted with the advent of World War I and a requirement for footwear suitable for the conditions in Europe’s flooded and muddy trenches. The North British Rubber Company (now Hunter Boot Ltd) was asked by the War Office to construct a boot suitable for such conditions. The mills ran day and night to produce immense quantities of these trench boots. In total, 1,185,036 pairs were made to meet the British Army’s demands.
- In World War II, Hunter Boot was again requested to supply vast quantities of Wellington and thigh boots. 80% of production was of war materials – from (rubber) ground sheets to life belts and gas masks. In the Netherlands, the British forces were working in flooded conditions which demanded Wellingtons and thigh boots in vast supplies.
- By the end of the war in 1945, the Wellington had become popular among men, women and children for wet weather wear. The boot had developed to become far roomier with a thick sole and rounded toe. Also, with the rationing of that time, labourers began to use them for daily work.
- The lower cost and ease of rubber “Wellington” boot manufacture, and being entirely waterproof, lent itself immediately to being the preferred protective material to leather in all forms of industry. Increased attention to occupational health and safety requirements led to the steel toe or steel-capped Wellington: a protective (commonly internal) toe-capping to protect the foot from crush and puncture injuries.
- Green Wellington boots, introduced by Hunter Boot Ltd in 1955, gradually became a shorthand for “country life” in the UK. In 1980, sales of their boots skyrocketed after Lady Diana Spencer (future Princess Diana) was pictured wearing a pair on the Balmoral estate during her courtship with Prince Charles.
- While usually called rubber boots, but sometimes galoshes, mud boots, rain boots, mucking boots, or billy boots, in the United States, the terms “gumboots”, “wellies”, “wellingtons”, and “rainboots” are preferred in Canada. Gumboots are popular in Canada during spring, when melting snows leave wet and muddy ground. Young people can be seen wearing them to school or university and taking them to summer camps. They are an essential item for farmers, and many fishermen, often being accompanied by hip waders.
- While green is popular in Britain, red-soled black rubber boots are often seen in the United States, in addition to Canadian styles. Rubber boots specifically made for cold weather, lined with warm insulating material, are especially popular practical footwear for Canadian winters. This same style of lined boot is also popular among those who work in or near the ocean as one can wade in and out of shallow, but cold, ocean water, while staying dry and warm. In the US white mid-calf rubber boots are worn by workers on shrimp boats and yellow boots for construction workers pouring concrete.
- Boots, including rubber boots, are an $8 billion-dollar worldwide industry. Emerging markets in China, India, and Africa account for the largest growth estimates through 2025.
DO YOU LIKE CONTESTS?
As you may know the Kowalski Heat Treating logo finds its way
into the visuals of my Friday posts.
I. Love. My. Logo.
One week there could be three logos.
The next week there could be 15 logos.
And sometimes the logo is very small or just a partial logo showing.
But there are always logos in some of the pictures.
So, I challenge you, my beloved readers, to count them and send me a
quick email with the total number of logos in the Friday post.
On the following Tuesday I’ll pick a winner from the correct answers
and send that lucky person some great KHT swag.
So, start counting and good luck!
Oh, and the logos at the very top header don’t count.
Got it? Good. :-))))