10 Fun Facts About Wellington Boots
If you subscribe to the Merry People newsletter, you may have seen over Christmas last year that we sent around some Gumboot Trivia to liven up the holiday break! (We also gave away a pair of Merry People Bobbi Wellington Boots to one lucky trivia fan! If you don’t subscribe to our newsletter, you can do so here and be sure to stay in the loop for giveaways and other fun updates!)
We had so much fun writing the quiz, that it inspired us to share with everyone some FUN FACTS ABOUT GUMBOOTS!
So grab a tea, make yourself comfy, and get ready to learn some random trivia about wellington boots, rain boots - or gumboots as we call them in Australia!
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1. Gumboots were invented in the early 1800s by Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington.
Before the gumboot, the Duke (well known in history for his victory at the Battle of Waterloo) wore soft calfskin boots called Hessians to battle. These were about calf-high with tassels and a short heel. In the early-1800s, the Duke asked his shoemaker in St. James, London to modify the Hessian boot to increase its versatility. The cobbler removed the tassel, raised the boot to knee-high for better protection, and waxed the leather for increased weatherproofing. These modifications made the Hessian boot suitable for battle and informal evening wear. So even at its earliest form, the gumboot was a quintessential everyday boot!
People loved this versatility and the new boot - Wellingtons - caught on fast quickly becoming a popular shoe of the aristocracy.
2. Gumboots were originally made of leather. Rubber wasn't introduced until 1852.
In 1852, Charles Goodyear (of Goodyear tyres) invented the sulfur vulcanization process for natural rubber to make it mouldable. He then licensed this process to Hiram Hutchinson, an American-born industrialist. Hutchinson took this process back to France where he set up a mill to produce rubber Wellington boots. The farmers in the surrounding area had been working in wooden clogs, so (as you can imagine!), waterproof rubber boots were a hit and wellies soon became a go-to staple shoe!
3. Gumboots, gummies, rain boots, wellies, muck boots, Bluchers… gumboots have many names!
Originally only called Wellingtons, the nickname “gumboots” comes from the natural rubber - or “gum rubber” - that rain boots are made from.
4. Gumboots were only available in one colour, Black, until 1956.
5. Gumboot Day is a real holiday!
Not just one we made up because we love gumboots! Gumboot Day is held every year on the Tuesday after Easter in Taihape, New Zealand.
6. And Gumboot Throwing is a real sport!
Also known as welly hoying and boot throwing, gumboot throwing is a sport in which competitors are required to throw a Wellington boot as far as possible. Originally from the UK, it is also popular in Taihape and you can compete during Gumboot Day!
7. The current world record for gumboot throwing is 209.9ft (63.98 metres).
Do you think you can break that record?
8. The World's Largest Gumboot is 26 feet tall.
The Golden Gumboot can be found in Tully, Far North Queensland. It was built to commemorate the record 311 inches of rainfall the town received in 1950.
9. Gumboot dancing is an expressive form of South African dance where dancers perform in wellies embellished with bells.
Also known as Isicathulo, gumboot dancing started in the gold mines of South Africa. Mine owners often forbade conversation among workers, so they in turn developed gumboot dancing as a means of coded conversation. By placing bells on their boots, they could sound out conversation to a person a short distance away.
10. Gumboots are so versatile that there is a special song about the many ways to wear them!
At Merry People, our mission is to transform the humble wellington from a practical necessity to your go-to, everyday boot. While beautiful design and high-quality engineering can make a product essential, knowing that the gumboot has such a FUN and rich history makes it even more merry to us!
Stay Merry everyone! xx