For a country with so much rainfall, it’s remarkable that city-appropriate waterproof footwear has barely evolved beyond the Wellington boot. Yes there have been the logo’ed varieties from Chanel, LV et al, but who in reality is going to shell out for those?
But not in 2023. Textile innovations, coupled with a growing demand for footwear that is as practical as it is beautiful, have finally delivered rain-proof boots that don’t make you look frumpy, or like you’re off to Glastonbury.
This new generation of all-weather footwear won’t look out of place at the office, a smart dinner, or any other occasion that requires a bit of polish. They have a decent heel; they look great with cropped trousers and midi dresses, and have chic contrasting laces and colour-block panels - some even have brogue-style perforations.
Russell & Bromley has some of the most convincing stealth-waterproof boots. Its Dryleks range includes styles with suede uppers and stacked heels, and they do knee-high riding boots with easy-to-pull-on elasticated panels - many of which are on sale right now.
There’s nothing wrong with a more hardy, functional aesthetic though. Chunky track soles and hiking boots are one of those trends which segued easily from the catwalk to the street, largely because they’re so comfortable, but also because they lend a bit of balance to the ruffles and oversized collars that continue to proliferate in fashion.
Swedish brand Ganni has probably had the biggest influence on rain-friendly footwear. While its rubber trimmed track sole boots aren’t described as waterproof (though they apparently do a decent job keeping feet dry), White Stuff and Boden do affordable takes which work as well with midi hemlines as they would with straight-leg jeans.
Outdoorsy brands which specialise in all-weather gear have also raised their game: Sorel, Woden and original wellie maker Hunter all deliver on the style front. The Princess of Wales is often spotted in her ultra classic Blundstones, while Penelope Chilvers, another royal go-to, has created waterproof versions of her most popular boots.
Timberland’s colourful collaboration with Pangaia sold out rapidly, but the original yellow lace-up hiking boot is still a strong sartorial and practical investment.
But how can you identify genuine waterproof boots when you can buy rubber footwear that isn’t rain-proof and leather shoes that are? Read the small print - if it doesn’t specifically say in the online description that it’s waterproof, it’s probably not.
Descriptions such as ‘splash-proof’ or ‘water-resistant’ should also suffice for an urban environment. Tramping through a muddy field will require something more robust.