Since the London 2012 Olympic Games is underway, I feel like I should write something about the Olympics. Did you notice the team from Czech Republic at the opening ceremony? The Czechs must either have a great sense of humour or are very well prepared for the famous London rain. At the Olympics opening ceremony, the Czechs wore blue Wellington boots and waved matching blue foldable umbrellas.
This type of boot is known by many names. I have called them Wellington boots since the Olympic Games are being held in London, and Wellington boots were named after a British soldier and aristocrat. Arthur Wellesley (1769 – 1852), the first Duke of Wellington wore this kind of boot and subsequently this style of boot were called Wellington boots. They are also called wellies, gumboots, rain boots, rubber boots or galoshes. They are mostly made of rubber, but can also be made of PVC. Wellington boots are great for keeping your feet dry and are also quite comfortable. Traditionally, Wellington boots came to just under the knee, but now shorter ones (ankle-length and calf-length) are also available. In the past, they were plain in dull colours, like black. But now Wellington boots can be found in many bright colours and with different designs.
These boots are practical work boots. In Australia and New Zealand, they are called gumboots. Some time ago, I spent a year living on a farm in rural New Zealand and gumboots are the only footwear worn on farms. Plain black gumboots with a red band around the top are especially a kiwi icon. Gumboots are great because it’s no problem to step in cow pats or sheep droppings while wearing gumboots. They are also excellent in wet, muddy conditions.
It is not unusual in rural New Zealand to see a pair of gumboots outside the post office or bank or some other kind of business. Farmers fresh off the farm wearing dirty and muddy gumboots remove them before entering so that they don’t dirty the floor or carpet of the business. Below is a sign from the front door of a branch of the National Bank in New Zealand. Further along the same road, a branch of the Bank of New Zealand has a similar sign on their front door that said ‘Please remove all muddy shoes and boots.’
There are also funny sports associated with gumboots in New Zealand, like gumboot tossing competitions to see who can throw a gumboot the furthest. There is even a rural town in the central North Island of New Zealand called Taihape that markets itself as the ‘gumboot capital of the world.’ Taihape has held a Gumboot Day every year since 1985, which was where the gumboot tossing competition started. I have vague memories of throwing a gumboot. It’s not as easy as it looks. Wellington boots or gumboots are not the best fashion statement, but they are very practical footwear and keep your feet dry.