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Golly, what happened to Gumboots?

Updated on April 9, 2013

Out with the old boots, in with the new

Once upon a time all gumboots were uniformly dull. What else could be expected from a pair of rubber boots?

Always in serviceable black, the boots were made to protect your feet from mud and slush, not to be paraded up and down the town as a fashion item. As long as they kept our feet dry, that's all we asked.

These wet weather boots were made for practicality. For splashing in puddles, for sliding in sludge and for snail hunting at midnight with a torch. They were good and faithful servants. Sturdy, trusty and true.

But gumboots have changed! You could say they've come of age.

Image : Sandra Horsburgh

Gumboots come in all colours and patterns now, paisley, stripes and spots.Gone are the drab old days.

wikimedia commons

The Duke of Wellington

It's said that the first Duke of Wellington invented the gumboot about 1815. Like Lord Cardigan and the Earl of Sandwich, the Duke of Wellington left his name in the language.

The boots he required of his cobbler came up to the knee, higher in the front than in the back, and you can see them in his portrait to your right.

These boots were made of leather of course, we had to wait till 1852 and Charles Goodyear to invent the vulcanisation process before we got rubber boots.

These days they're made of PVC.

Duke of Wellington

A boot by any other name ..

Call them what you like. Wellingtons, wellies, rain boots, rubber boots, billy boots, top boots, it's all much of a muchness. In Australia we call them gumboots.

Gumboot Day

Gumboot Day is celebrated in Taihape, New Zealand, on the Tuesday after Easter. It's a celebration of all things to do with gumboots, and features competitions such as the best-dressed gumboot and 'shoot the loop' with gumboots. The highlight of the day is the famous gumboot throwing contest.

The aim of the festival is to break the world record for the longest gumboot throw.

(Gumboots can also be tossed skyward on any day of the year in the official Gumboot throwing lane just behind Taihape's main shopping centre)

Northern Star

The BIG Gumboot

The Big Gumboot at Tully, in North Queensland.

age entertainment

The Racing Gumboot

Gumboots reached a new height of fame in 1983 when Cliff Young, a 61 year old potato farmer, won a race between Sydney and Melbourne (875 kilometres, 544 miles), after training in gumboots.

There is now a Cliff Young Gumboot award.

Tell me about YOUR Gumboots

What do your gumboots look like?

See results

Have a splash in my guestbook

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    Post Comment

    • mariacarbonara profile image


      5 years ago

      I love the fact that we can move on from plain black now. Save black for the boys.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 

      5 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Now, I am feeling very deprived because I don't have a pair of Gumboots. Maybe I need to get me a pair. I certainly enjoyed reading all about them. Thanks.

    • jmsp206 profile image

      Julia M S Pearce 

      6 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      Great range of colorful gumboots!Makes me want to go out and buy some new ones.I like the flower garden rain boots. Cool.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Another great lens Susanna, I am glad I was able to contribute!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I've been searching for lightweight comfortable gumboots since the back of my ankle was bitten by something nasty last year, and a deadly brown snake was seen coming into my yard - I feel the need to wear more than open sandals while watering or working on the garden. But I can't find anything suitable in my small town.. the picture of mini boots in your Introduction might be something like I could wear... will check more out on this lens, thanks!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I love leopard print gumboots!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Never heard of gum boots. We just called them rain boots. Unfortunately, I don't have any.

    • emmaklarkins profile image


      7 years ago

      I just got a great pair in NYC, and I love them! They keep my feet toasty and dry :)

    • redroses lm profile image

      Jenny Campbell 

      7 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      You've inspired me to get a pretty pair.

    • kislanyk profile image


      7 years ago from Cyprus

      OMG these bring up some great memories of my childhood. Of course then the gumboots were dull in one color only, but I remember having my trusted pair and trotting along with my grandpa working the field after the rain. Great lens!

    • sidther lm profile image

      sidther lm 

      7 years ago

      I have not heard the term gumboots in a long time! I like those buffalo bone lace up gum boots!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      A good time to go for one, now that the rains have started pounding down this part of the world. Never knew so many colorful ones existed!


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