We have Hiram Hutchinson, an American living in France, to thank for the modern rubberised Wellington boot (or gumboot, rain boot, billy-boots or Alaskan sneakers) after he founded this company and brand – Aigle.
Popularised by Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington, “Wellington” boots soon became a staple of hunting and outdoor wear for the British aristocracy in the early 19th century. Originally made from soft calfskin leather, it was Hutchinson who decided to utilise the exciting new technology of vulcanised rubber to create hard-wearing, weather-proof footwear after purchasing the patent for footwear from Charles Goodyear (who famously focused on tyres…). Based on the design of the boots worn by German military, the first rubberised Wellington boots were handcrafted and made available for purchase in 1853.
Hutchinson named his brand ‘A l’Aigle’ as a tribute to the American eagle, the national emblem of his homeland. It represented long life, great strength and majestic looks. The brand was soon known as Aigle and its sturdy boots and outerwear – with designs inspired by the natural playgrounds of the sea, mountains, countryside and deserts – became de rigueur for countryside pursuits.
In 1972, Aigle introduced the now iconic Blue Watersports Boot with the signature double white stripes. Launched to coincide with the Olympic Games in Munich, it is a classic and still one of their best-selling designs
However, since those early days the brand has branched out to create various fashion-forward alternatives such as the cute Lolly-pop boot – a modern take on the classic Watersports Boot – in bright pop primary colours, as well as collaborations with Liberty that feature the brand’s iconic floral prints.
The brand has an enviable heritage, and to this day loving care and attention is given to the hand-made manufacturing process (see the video showcasing their techniques above). Each boot is authentically labelled Fabrication a la main en France (Handmade in France) and has two reflective bands on the heel to ensure extra visibility in the dark, while the natural rubber material provides comfort, strength and flexibility.
Fun Fact Affectionately known as “wellies” in most UK households, Wellington boots are also referred to as rubber boots, topboots, billy-boots, gumboots, gumbies, gummies, rainboots, and even Alaskan Sneakers.
Designer Details With a heritage that dates back to 1853, master rubber craftsmen at Aigle in France continue to hand make the boots, with 200 craftsmen producing almost 4,000 pairs of boots each day. From the 1920s to 1960s, Aigle garnered a reputation for making rubber and canvas shoes for sports and leisure. In 1989, the brand launched its first clothing collection designed for urban and country living, opening its flagship store in Paris on the Boulevard Saint-Germain. Aigle now has 131 stand-alone shops worldwide.