Named after a knee-high boot commissioned by the Duke of Wellington, the welly as we know it dates back to 1852, when Hiram Hutchinson met Charles Goodyear, who’d just invented the vulcanisation of rubber. Goodyear made his name by manufacturing rubber tyres, while Hutchinson went to France with the patent for making rubber footwear and founded the company now known as Aigle.
Wellies can be made of PVC or rubber. PVC is cheaper, but not as durable as rubber and can be stiffer, meaning edges can be uncomfortable.
Knee-high boots are the classics we know and love – great for sloshing about in muck and mud in the great outdoors – but ankle boots are a less agricultural-looking option for pounding the pavements.
Several brands offer online advice on calf and foot fit. Also on offer is guidance on getting the wellies you need, which could be for wet-weather commuting, horse-riding, fishing, gardening, walking the dog or festival-going.
160 years in the making
After 160 years, Aigle is still making rubber boots. Celebrating its 20th anniversary is the traditional Parcours, in 12 short and long options for men and women. The Parcours 2 Vario (in bronze, brown, khaki, black, £130) is designed to combat fatigue.
Their soles have improved grip and balance, with damping cushions to return energy to the legs. The ankles are fitted and the leg has adjustable tabs and gussets.
(And until December 31, there’s a free Thermos flask with every order, plus entry into a log cabin stay competition.)
All sizes of leg
If too close a fit around the calves is an issue, The Welly Shop has a ‘wide calf wellies’ section. But don’t imagine that sturdy field-stompers are your only option. The sophisticated black Man Eater from WedgeWelly has a crocodile texture, with a 2.5in/4cm wedge heel, and a top buckle (£35)
For the truly manly, the hunky, chunky Muck Boot Chore 2K should be up to the job (£95).
Snugg as a bugg
Prefer your wellies to look… well… not like wellies? Blackfox Snug Boots look like the Antipodean footwear whose name rhymes with snug*.
However, these have a fully waterproof brushed-PVC outer, and a cosy (faux) furry lining so they’re soft, warm – and waterproof (in beige, brown, black or grey, £36.95 for women’s sizes 3-4 to 8-9, from Cuckooland)
(*Ugg, of course)
Budget boots do the job
If you’re on a budget, or want basic boots, B&Q sells good own-brand green rubber wellies in sizes 4 to 11 (£11.97).
12 ways to get a discount when shopping online
A royal endorsement
The Royal family are regularly seen in wellies at country and sporting events. Traditionally, their brand of choice has been the Hunter, which holds Royal Warrants for supplying the Queen and Prince Philip. Hunter started out as the North British Rubber Company in 1856. Its boots are now made in China, although its head office is still in Edinburgh.
Hunter Originals are the classic introduced 60 years ago, now in tall, short, matt, glossy, lace-up and even quilted options and famously worn by Kate Moss at Glastonbury in 2005. The new Hunter Field range is more farming, less fashion, featuring a soft rubber compound and hi-tech functionality to make it comfortable and practical. Try the Balmoral, in tall, short, equestrian and neoprene-lined, and purple, black and grey – as well as green; men’s come in dark olive and moor green; both from £80.
The Duchess of Cambridge, always a fashion leader, chooses the Vierzonord, best-selling boot from Le Chameau since 1965. In two shades of green, it’s lined with neoprene for warmth and has an adjustable tightening strap for fit. Handcrafted by an individual ‘bottier’ or bootmaker, men’s and women’s sizes have a two-year warranty, and cost £170, from Le Chameau.
Solid as a croc
Lightweight Crocs rain boots are light enough to wear all day. The women’s Jaunt Shorty Boot (£29.99) has an eyecatching porthole at the ankle to help you pull them on. Great for brief outdoor forays (letting the dog out, putting out the bins…), Classic Blitzen II Fuzz Lined Clogs are cosy and comfy, with an upper without holes and a soft, furry lining (sizes 4-12, £39.99).
Last but not least
Easy to pull on and off, Spats short boots live up to their name with natty contrasting-colour ankle flaps, with a three-popper fastening (in lots of colours, sizes 3-9, from £50).
And once you’re dry and snug in your new wellies and they’re covered in water and mud, all you need is someone to help you pull them off!