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Though many of us grew up with a pair of rain boots in the coat closet for those spring days when the puddles needed stomping, many of us are unaware of their rich history. While the many yellow and black pairs that lined our elementary school classrooms might have made for frustrations when it was time to go outside, we forget there was a time when they simply did not exist.
Rain boots were originally created less than 200 years ago, in early 19th century England. Arthur Wellesley, the First Duke of Wellington, wore Hessian boots, which were tall, tasseled boots for men, brought to England by the Hessians. The popular duke instructed his favorite shoe maker to modify the boots a bit, removing the fancy trim and making them a bit more form-fitting; the boots became known as Wellingtons or "Wellies" and became the fashion rage among well-to-do English men. In 1853, after learning of the creation of rubber, Hiram Hutchinson introduced the first rubber Wellington boots to farmers in France. The boots were an instant success, saving field workers from coming home each day with wet and muddy feet.
Today, Wellington boots have impacted the style of boots around the world. Rain boots are now waterproof and made from either rubber or other man-made equivalents. GORE-TEX®, one of the latest materials used for boots, is completely waterproof.
While Wellingtons are usually knee-high, rain boots are also available low cut, just above the ankle; or high cut, all the way up to the thigh. Wellingtons were originally made in simple black rubber, but today they are popular in a variety of colors, with solid green, solid yellow, and black with red or green soles being the most popular. Multi-colored boots and those with designs, patterns, or polka-dots can now be found in every color of the rainbow.
Though the name implies use only in inclement weather, rain boots are useful for more than a rainy day. Snow, mud, and chemical waste all require waterproof boots for protection, dryness, and warmth. Many boots are made with inner liners of flannel or other warm materials for use in cold weather. Gone are the lines of yellow and black boots in elementary school classrooms. Today, every child in class may have a completely different look, thanks to fashion variety combined with the traditional style.