Tuesday 21 November 2017

War of the wellies?

Kate’s new boots spark a trend

Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. Photo: Getty Images
Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. Photo: Getty Images

Iain Hollingshead

HOW much can you tell about someone from their choice of wellington boot? Quite a lot, apparently, if the rubber-clad pins in question belong to Kate Middleton.

Before Christmas she was spotted wearing a pair of €360 “Vierzonord” Le Chameau boots to watch her husband play in a football match.

Commentators have pointed out that she used to wear the cheaper Hunter variety and that this switch in loyalties is “typical of a more sophisticated angle to the Duchess’s style”.

They also picked up on the fashion faux pas of Prince Harry watching his brother in the same make of boots as his sister-in-law – not as faux a pas, surely, as if he’d turned up wearing, say, the same Zara dress, accessorised with a novelty swastika?

So can we expect to see the “Kate effect” – last week it was reported that Reiss, the high street clothing store, had almost doubled its profits this year, thanks to the Duchess regularly wearing its dresses – mirrored in the world of luxury semi-waterproof footwear?

Probably not, says Luke Leitch, deputy fashion editor at The Daily Telegraph. “They’re too expensive. And Hunter have pretty much sewn up the wellington boot market.”

Were you aware that there was a wellington boot market? I wasn’t. If pressed, I might have hazarded a guess that they were all once made by Mr (or perhaps Lord) Wellington, much as vacuum cleaners were all made by Mr (or perhaps President) Hoover. But research the industry further and it’s surprisingly interesting – and unsurprisingly ludicrous.

The first part, of course, everyone knows. In the early 19th century the dapper first Duke of Wellington, anxious to accessorise his novelty full-length trousers with a versatile boot capable of being worn into battle as well as into drawing rooms, commissioned a low-heeled calf boot of soft leather.

It caught on, adopted by the gentry, the police and the Armed Forces. After the Second World War, during which they were standard army issue, the ill-fitting “Argyll” black wellington boot became de rigueur for labourers.


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