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An American who offered a stylish British friend the harmless compliment “I love your pants” may feel confused when they are met with stunned silence or - more likely - a fit of giggles.
What Brits call trousers, Americans call pants, and to those in the UK, pants are what you wear underneath them - the well-meaning American has just inadvertently praised their friend’s underwear.
Though mutually intelligible, the many subtle yet important linguistic differences between US and British English can lead to some confusion, especially for us at Joules, and even more so since our collection took off in the States. Allies we may be, but let’s take a deeper look into what separates us from a fashion language point of view. Whether you’re wondering ‘what is a wellington boot?’ or you’re simply wanting to learn more about the history of the rain boot, take a read of this handy guide.
'Wellies' is the British word for 'rain boots'. What you call a rain boot in the US, we would simply call a welly or even its full title: Wellington boot. The difference stops there as both the UK and the US get to enjoy the beautiful Joules prints on offer in our rain boot or welly products including toddler rain boots, perfect for damp family outings
The waterproof boot was popularized by British war hero and politician Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington. Wellington, a titan of 19th-century Britain, defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 and served as Prime Minister – twice.
A famous innovator, Wellington asked his London shoemaker to adapt the knee-length leather Hessian boot by removing the trim, shortening it to the mid-calf and cutting it to fit tighter around the leg.
Wellington boots for men were once a symbol of high class and status. The hard-wearing design was perfect for riding and quickly made a splash with the British upper and middle classes seeking to emulate the wildly popular public figure. Years later the Wellington name was applied to rubber waterproof boots used in wet and muddy conditions, particularly on farms and across the countryside.
When the First World War broke out, British troops required footwear to navigate the wet and muddy trenches. Wellington boots were the answer! The features and benefits of the army men’s rain boots being snug and waterproof made maneuvering around the trenches a lot easier.
The benefits of this tough and protective boot were also appreciated by workers in mines, chemical and food processing plants, hospital operating theatres, boats, and more recently, the sterile environments needed for high-tech manufacturing.
Here’s an interesting fact: Rain boots aren’t just made for wearing, but for throwing too! The sport, ‘Welly Wanging’ originated in the UK where a competitor throws a rain boot as far as possible. Think discus throwing but with a boot. The sport has grown and spread to other parts of Europe as well as New Zealand.
In defense of our mates (or buddies!) across the pond, calling them ‘rain boots’ is perhaps a bit more logical than naming them after a 19th century British commander – but us Brits love a bit of quirky tradition!
A boot fit for royalty, as members of the British Royal Family can be seen wearing them during their countryside trips, the rain boot has become a fashion staple. The UK saw a spike in sales for women’s rain boots when the late style icon, Princess Diana, set the trend in 1981 when she was photographed sporting a pair of green rain boots, corduroys and a pink sweater.
Whatever you call them, the boots have evolved from purely utilitarian items only available in drab colors into the eye-catching footwear enjoyed by everyone from style-conscious city center dwellers to residents of remote country estates.
We have become famous for our brightly colored and printed rain boots. Our ever-growing collection features eye-catching patterns, beautiful floral and animal prints, including adorable bees and playful dogs.
Our customers love our vibrant designs, especially puddle-jumping children and the young at heart. We also have a pair of sleek and stylish black rain boots and blue rain boots for those who don’t like to compromise on style as they do chores in the backyard.
We have also written the next chapter on the welly’s history of innovation with our popular Wellibobs. These ankle rain boots have all the features of their taller cousin but in a handy short ankle style. Designed to pop on and pull off, they’re waterproof, feature a water-dispersing sole for better grip and include a removable faux-fur insole to keep your feet warm.
We also offer an innovative roll-up rain boot too. These handy and beautifully engineered boots fold up into their own drawstring bag so they can easily be brought along wherever you go. They’re lightweight too, which makes them perfect for festivals, field trips, vacations and simply to keep close by in case of unexpected downpours.
The rain boot or welly has a rich and fascinating history. It started as a custom riding boot for one of the most famous military leaders in history, then became a vital utility item for workers in wet, muddy, and difficult conditions, before evolving into a handy yet-stylish everyday item for people of all walks of life.
Joules offer rainboots for men and women as well as an awesome range of boys' rain boots and girls' rain boots. For more information on rain boots, check out our care guide which is filled with information about how to make the most of your lovely new rain boots.
If you’re wondering what are wellington boots, you may also be wondering what is a gilet? Another difference between America and Great Britain is the word for the useful and versatile padded vest – ‘gilet’ or just 'vest' in the US and ‘bodywarmer’ in the UK.
Gilet is the French word for ‘waistcoat’, from the Spanish ‘jileco’, itself adopted from the Turkish ‘yilek’.
We offer vests that are lightweight and a little sporty, filled with soft faux down that provides warmth without the weight. A perfect way to combat the cold, and a great stand-by when a sudden-chill sets in or the sun starts to dip at the end of a summer day.
They are popular among active people who enjoy country and outdoor activities such as horse-riding, fishing, and cycling because they keep you warm without restricting arm movement. Vests are commonly worn by farmers too, combined with a pair of rain boots, to help carry out muddy tasks at the crack of dawn.
If you’re looking to add some style to your look, wear a sweater of a contrasting color to your vest to add some warmth through layering. Or, if the weather is warmer, pair your vest with a long-sleeved shirt for a lighter feel while maintaining your style.
If we are looking at British vs American fashion, the differences aren’t all that great in the grand scheme of things so whether it’s a rain boot or a welly, a gilet or a vest, one thing stays the same: that typical Joules quality and sense of go-anywhere adventure.