Bootylicious: the unexpected return of the wellington boot

·3 min read

Forget stilettos. Thanks to the pandemic’s effect on lifestyles, fashion-conscious consumers may finally be seeing the benefit of practical footwear. Wellies – worn by toddlers, dog walkers and festival-goers – are now the choice of the stylish, too.

The boots more accustomed to muddy fields were on the catwalks of Prada, Bottega Veneta and Versace. Hunter – the British welly brand that dates back to 1856 – had a 114% rise in sales of its classic Original Tall Boot design compared with last year. Sales of its Balmoral boot, designed for hiking, have risen by 110%. The Danish fashion brand Ganni, loved by millennials, launched its recycled rubber Country Støvler design in September. The first delivery sold out in weeks, even with a price tag of £215.

It makes sense that an outdoorsy staple such as the wellington boot would chime with fashion now – as more restrictions come into place across Britain, all-weather items are gaining in popularity. “We need a bit of extra protection from the world in general at the moment,” says Hannah Rochell, the founder of the flat-shoe blog En Brogue. “Added to that, fewer of us are working in cities; maybe we’ve got more time to walk the dog or perhaps getting outdoors to the park is the only chance we’ll have to see anyone outside of our household.” While Dubarry boots (as worn by the Duchess of Cambridge) are £329, and Bottega Veneta’s cost £465, wellies are an affordable trend to buy into. Joules’s popular designs cost less than £50 while a classic pair of Dunlops are £11.99.

Vogue are endorsing the trend. It named the boots as “a late entry for the shoe of the season” and this week mooted the idea of white wellies – based not on the footwear more usually worn by butchers, but instead on influencers including Pernille Teisbaek wearing the slightly less practical outfit of white wellies with bare legs and shorts. Other examples of welly fashion moments include Lily Collins in a yellow pair in the Netflix series Emily in Paris, Timothée Chalamet on the cover of this month’s GQ and influencers such as Paula Sutton, posting selfies of herself wearing wellies on her country estate.

Unlike the last welly fashion moment – Kate Moss and friends in Hunters at Glastonbury circa 2005 – this isn’t just for festivals. The stylist Melissa Jane Tarling wears hers with tailoring. “I’ve started to tuck the hem of the trouser into the boot,” she says. “I’m wearing [them with] voluminous overcoats and cashmere scarves.”

A model wears the Prada boot at Milan fashion week in February 2020.
A model wears the Prada boot at Milan fashion week in February 2020. Photograph: Victor Virgile/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images

The welly fits into the so-called “cottagecore” trend, which fetishises rural life, complete with fields, farms and authentic mud. A picture of a young Princess Diana in the countryside wearing Hunters in 1981 has become a style reference for a new generation. Chalamet’s GQ cover has him “hiding out in Woodstock”. A rural address – once a sign that someone was woefully outside fashionable metropolitan life – is becoming an aspiration. “I think wellies can make us feel like we have access to the great outdoors even if we don’t,” says Rochell. “An increased number of people in my peer group [are] wanting to head out of the city and into the countryside to escape what’s happening,” says Tarling. “Yes, this might sound slightly trivial in the grand scheme of things, but what better way to do this than to be wearing your practical and elevated pair of wellington boots?”

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