Around this time, manufacturers were beginning to experiment with crafting boots out of rubber or “gum” fabrications, and the Wellington evolved as well. It became a revolutionary innovation. French farmers could wear them to work in the fields, while soldiers in the First World War began wearing them to prevent “trench foot.” A brand who produced vast amounts of rubber Wellington boots for troops during this war and WWII? That would be Hunter Boot LTD, which is still the leading Welly brand. Even after the war, they remained a mainstream staple as they were waterproof, comfortable, and relatively inexpensive. They skyrocketed in popularity in the 1950s, when Hunter introduced the green Wellington (now its most iconic shoe). The style was embraced by members of British high society, including Princess Diana, a major fan, in the ’90s.
There are now several rain boot brands that continue to specialize in Wellington boots, all of whom are keeping its original intent—to stay dry!—alive. Hunter still leads the pack, though brands such as Aigle, Ilse Jacobsen, and Joules have all made the style their bread and butter (luxury labels such as Burberry, Tamara Mellon, and Dior have incorporated them into their core offerings, too). But that doesn’t explain how the army shoe became the It girl festival shoe.
Glastonbury, which began in 1970, is hosted on the grounds of the Worthy Farm and can get quite muddy (especially with Britain’s infamous rain). Showgoers slowly began wearing them for practical reasons. When Moss and more fashion-forward guests started rocking Wellies at Glastonbury in the 2000s and early 2010s, however, the shoes quickly transformed into being more of a trendy item. A ripple effect occurred slowly, but steadily, in the fashion industry. For spring 2016, Saint Laurent (then led by Hedi Slimane, a well-noted music lover) showed Wellington boots with his signature grungy dresses and jean jackets. Brands like Margiela and Jeremy Scott followed. More recently, for fall 2022, Chanel showed Wellington boots embellished with its double Cs.
As Glastonbury has persisted (and continues this week!), the craze for Wellies hasn’t died down yet either. You’ll find many showgoers rocking them again this year. In fact, every year after the music stops and the festival clears out, thousands of Wellington boots are left behind, littering the fields of the festival (though some charities have stepped up to redistribute them to those in need). It’s the shoe that simply won’t quit—and you can thank Kate Moss for that.
Below, more Wellington boots at Glastonbury.