Last summer, Lynsey Dargue was wearing a knockout pair of shoes while out at a bar with friends, when suddenly the sky opened up and poured torrential rain. With no umbrella and no sign of the downpour stopping anytime soon, there was only one alternative. Dargue, a financial conference organizer, kicked off her £100 designer stilettos and ran like the wind for the shelter of her car.
“Despite having lived in London my whole life, I still haven’t got into my head that it’s going to pour down without warning,” Dargue says.
Like Seattle and Portland, London’s capricious weather is famous for sudden downpours and gray overcast skies. Do an internet search on London’s climate and mostly what you find are warnings and cheery content about unpredictable temperatures and sporadic showers. Stroll the city’s uneven historic cobblestones and cement sidewalks during one of those cloudbursts and you’re likely to immerse your feet in streams of icky brown surface water. It’s all enough to make a well-shod woman with more than eighty pairs of fabulous shoes embrace a pair of sturdy rubber boots. Almost.
Despite the ever-burgeoning fashion craze of colorful rubber rain boots modeled after their more famous and older cousin, the Wellington, shoe-crazy women in some rainy climes grimace at the suggestion of wearing them. In London, it’s better to look good than to stay dry.
Yes, wellies are cute. From quirky patterned gumboots to hip limited edition galoshes, they are not just for country life anymore. These rubber feet-protectors are far more fantastic than anything the Duke of Wellington could have envisioned when he asked his trusted boot maker to fashion him something a little funky. But today’s wellies aren’t exactly glamorous. Have you ever taken a whiff of them after a few hours of wearing them? And would you wear them on a hot date?
“No way! I don’t care if it’s pouring down raining. I’m not wearing wellies.” Dargue says. “Have you noticed they really hum? They really smell! Wellingtons… have one of the most disgusting smells ever. Even with a pretty pattern, how can you wear Wellingtons with lovely pencil skirt?”
Indeed, a little rain never hurt anyone, but if you’re looking like a cupcake and your shoes are the frosting, wellies may not be the tastiest topping. Venture out on most rainy days in cities like London and you will see some women splashing out in wellies. Still, there are a bevy of style-conscious women who are brave enough to risk ruining a gorgeous pair of shoes to complete an outfit. Are they crazy?
“No because I look good!” Youlande Biosah says.
Hoofing it in a downpour in a pair of lovely shoes is not a big deal to Biosah, who is a salesperson at Faith shoe store on Oxford Street. She knows you can still look great without wearing the rubber. Biosah prefers leather. On a rainy day, she likes her feet to feel snug, comfortable, and stylish in a pair of trendy flat-heeled boots. She is particularly partial to Razor. They are versatile enough to wear with leggings or with jeans tucked inside the calf-high leg, and they’re sleek enough to wear with skirts. But if she’s out on the town and dressed to impress, a pair of pumps or heels are her preference. “The thing is, if you want to look nice, it actually doesn’t matter if you’re getting wet. So you can wear peep toes or leather pumps.” Stores like Faith have a variety of them and women flock to the stores every day of the week, which are dotted around the city.
Perhaps women in drier climes just don’t get all the fuss. After all, wellies are cool. Dargue agrees. But if you’re thinking wellies are hot, absolutely not. “If I’m going on a date and I’m channeling Dita Von Teese, Wellington boots are not going finish the look off, even if they are pink with flowers on them,” Dargue says.
Rain doesn’t bother some women, but it’s the unexpected nature of it that really grinds. Iola Smith agrees. “I don’t mind the rain, but I don’t like the rain over here [London] because it’s just horrible, whereas if you’re in a hotter climate, the rain will just come down in one go and then it’s gone. And everything just dries up as opposed to over here, where it’s in bits and bobs—that light rain, then really heavy and I just hate it,” Smith says. Smith, a cultural strategy consultant, says it also affects her mood and she tends to wear dark clothes when the weather is gloomy. But she still wouldn’t buy wellies. “I wouldn’t wear wellies, full stop. I wore them when I was in nursery and primary school and I don’t think I need to be wearing them anymore as an adult. Fashion can keep them,” she adds.
Smith mostly wears flats and she shops at Nine West frequently, though she isn’t shy about spending more than 100 pounds on a pair of shoes if they are unique. “I’ve got a pair of shoes, they’re gorgeous. I call them my dominatrix shoes. They’re black and silver with studs all around them,” Smith says. But they are not shoes constructed for the rain, so she often wears a “killer” pair of leather boots with a kitten heel if she’s going out. Like Biosah’s choice in boot wear, Smith’s boots also look good with pants and jeans or she can be found wearing a limited edition pair of sneakers, if she’s going to a downtown kind of affair. Adidas concept boutiques and their online site, as well as Nike.com, are renowned for their special or limited edition creations, which canonize athletes and celebrities by designing and naming shoes after them.
Dargue is more of a haute couture shoe devotee and she’s quite careful with her extensive high design collection, consisting of Jimmy Choo and Christian Louboutin treasures. Dargue closely inspects the architecture of a shoe before making her considerable purchases, but she’s not shy about wearing them all over town, even if it’s raining. However, she does take some precautionary measures like folding flexible ballet flats into her handbag or kicking off the expensive shoes and walking barefoot. “I do find it really difficult. Quite often I have a rough idea of what I want to wear the next day and I wake up and it’s pouring down with rain, and my wardrobe is not designed for rainy weather,” she said. So now she has an eye out for a fantastic pair of flat-heeled leather boots. “But if you’re going on a hot date, I wouldn’t wear those. So I think very hard.” And what does Dargue propose for rainy days if you can’t find that perfect pair of sexy boots? “Get a cab!” she said.