Rubber is neither permeable nor glamorous. You can depend on it to keep water or bogs at bay and sweaty feet close at… hand. When fishing or mucking out stables, this is clearly a good thing. Politicians have always liked to wear rubber boots at sites of floods as a sign of being one of the people, of hands-on action. But today, rubber boots appear on the ends of joyfully splashing children’s legs, even for the most manageable of puddles. Perhaps this is why rubber boot design still is often a little infantile, although it’s no longer restricted to the classic muddy green colour. A very popular motif seems to be the classic toadstool design – red with white dots – or else bright green, sometimes sporting painted-on frog’s eyes.
Rubber boots are so wonderfully functional and faithful in inhospitable weather. That’s why they have an enduring reputation for being the epitome of casual, entirely justifiable bad taste. Don’t they? Everywhere? Well, actually, no. Not in the country that has perfected its conversations about rainy weather to a fine art, and where umbrellas are part of the stylistic canon. Not in England. No nation is capable of being more capriciously conservative that the English. No matter whether you are grubbing around for your 15,000-euro engagement ring in the mud at the Glastonbury festival or, less hysterically, off for a walk around Sandringham with the Royal corgis, everything runs perfectly in rubber boots.
And – in theory – the brand doesn’t really matter. In practice, however, you will see people wearing boots almost exclusively by the traditional Hunter brand. This is true of the two most important English style icons, Kate Moss and the Queen. Is it surprisingly that these two women wear the same boots? How did Hunter manage to be purveyor to the Royal family and adorn a model’s legs at the same time? Hunters were first made for farmers, then soldiers and finally for people with orthopaedic foot problems. Both women seem to be perfectly happy with this fact: the Queen respects quality and Kate Moss has always worn whatever she feels like. So it’s nothing to write home about. What is surprising – not only do the Queen and Moss still wear these boots, but they have been copied a million times over by clubbing popsters and fashion-blog obsessed office girls. They are no longer state-of-the-art even if they were to mud-wrestle in Hunters at the next Glastonbury. Angela Merkel would cause more of a stir in toadstool-patterned boots with a sandbag slung over her shoulder.
The story of the rubber boot began in Scotland in 1856 with the American businessman, Mr Henry Lee Norris. And these days everyone wears them, including the Queen and Kate Moss. The moral of the story: in mud, we are all equal. Almost. Get dirty!