Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Wellies revisited...

Last February we had snow, and I posted about finding wellies to accommodate the larger calf - with your indulgence, I'll post that again here, but with updates based on a test of my newly purchased boots in the snow today.  If you remember the original post, just scroll to the end for the new stuff.

I don't often need to go places where my feet will get wet. Other than the shower, that is. But one ought to own a pair of wellies - this much has been evident today - when surely I would have frolicked with unbridled energy in the snow (as opposed to staying in my cosy bed all day) had I only owned a pair of good old gum boots.

I did have a pair. They were £6 in Tesco's kids department several years ago. I eventually pressed them into employ on one weekend, at last year's Endorseit festival, and I was jolly glad of them in the Somme-like conditions. By the end of the weekend though, I'd sliced them down the back (because it's one thing getting your legs in; losing all feeling in your feet due to constricted blood supply is quite another), and eventually threw them away on the way home, in a motorway service station bin, because our car was rammed to the gunnels, and the boots had doubled in size thanks to having half a Dorset field clinging to them.

So now I am bootless. It's quite discomfiting to discover myself lacking in clothing or footwear for any occasion, so I've been looking on the internet for my next pair of wellies. Of course, if I do buy some, they won't be delivered before the snow disappears... but I'll be ready if it happens again, goshdarnit!

But my word - buying wellies which will accommodate the larger calf is harder, and in some cases more costly than buying lovely leather boots from Duo. Who knew?

Purveyors of Serious Wellingtons, Hunter, stock a larger calf size in their more boring styles, but prices start at £50 - rising to £240, and the most exciting colour in the wide fit styles is black. There are other serious brands selling serious wellies - mostly for horsey types - but the only brand selling purpose-made, wider-fit wellies that don't look eye-gougingly dull are Jileon Ltd. Jileon are welly specialists who stock loads of cute and glam welly designs at around the £25 mark. Sadly, only one pretty pattern makes it to the wide-fit style, but it's a versatile black-and-polka-dot boot (above), which should please many. However, for some reason, for the larger fit they nearly double the price - to £44.99. Even then, I was tempted... but sadly, their smallest size is a 5. Tsh! Back to the drawing board.

I should probably point out that Jileon stock two other 'wide fit' styles - which cost £19.99/£32.99, but they are that ubiquitous muddy green colour. They'd have to be free to find a place in my wardrobe...

Another welly-specialist is Funky Wellies - and the name sounds promising. Their neoprene-lined range is supposed, according to their blog, to be more capacious around the calf. They have a cute pink floral boot, but I rather love the royal blue ones patterned with cars and camper vans. I don't love them to the tune of £45.95, though - even though they have them in my size. Lakeland Welly Workshop do a cute daisy boot with handles for £25, which they say is good for wider calves - but seem to have very few sizes in stock.

So what, then. Well the choices seem to be one of two: buy a pair of sensible wellies in sludge green or black; or go for something other than a standard welly. Plenty of retailers sell ankle-height wellies, which will fit - but you can't exactly tuck your trousers into them. I know serious outdoorsy types who reckon wellies are for fools anyway, and would encourage me to buy some stout walking boots and waterproof gaiters. Quite apart from the cost, walking boots seem to only come in ugly colours, and I guess I'm just too shallow. And that's before I even contemplate wearing 'waterproof gaiters'. There is a compromise of sorts in low-calf boots, epitomised by the Crocs above (£25-£35). Pretty colours, yes - and if you buy the imitation ones on ebay they can be cheap as you like... but they're truly very odd looking. Maybe I'll wait it out...

Proof that I did wear wellies once. Even if they were the most sensible part of my outfit...


So, despite the recent Arctic weather not really troubling us that much in London, I felt frustrated that there might be other occasions when I would want to frolic in the snow, and be denied due to my inadequate footwear. The situatation in terms of what's available hasn't really changed, but Jileon did have size 4 boots in stock, which is close enough - allowing for two extra pairs of woolly socks, so I bit the bullet and shelled out close to fifty quid (including delivery) for a pair of spotty wellies.

No sooner had I placed my order than a friend sent me the following report:

I bought some of those and the strap on the side broke as soon as I put them on. I was really unimpressed with them, the soles were very thin too.

I never got round to sending them back so I might stick them on ebay.

I hope you like yours, I guess it depends what you want them for but I knew the thin soles would make walking round festivals very uncomfortable.

Which was discouraging to say the least, so I awaited their delivery with some trepidation, and as soon as  opportunity afforded itself, I gave them a good old test.

Look - they match my diary!

They're certainly spacious.  I have large calves, even for my size, and they had no problem accommodating them, plus three pairs of socks, and my turned up, wrapped-round bootcut cords.  I reckon these would easily fit up to a UK dress size 26 - perhaps even larger.  The straps on the side aren't terribly heavy-duty, it's true.  I used them to hold the sides in place after I decided how much folding the gussets needed; you wouldn't want to use them to actually pull the sides in snugly.

So I set off, first on pavements - where the slight heel (half an inch) gave me more traction on slippery surfaces than my trainers have done - and then over the parkland of Peckham Rye.  The snow wasn't super-deep: perhaps two and a half inches in places, but after about half a mile (and then a couple of hundred meters more on pavement again) I reckon I got a sense of what they're be like to wear.  I found them very comfortable. Perhaps it was all the socks, but the soles didn't feel thin to me at all.  At one point I wasn't sure if they were leaking ever so slightly at the heels - it may have just been the cold - but the sensation didn't last long, and when I got home my socks were dry.  I liked them.  I think for a pair of wellies they're too expensive, but at least I have a pair now, and can go festivalling, snowballing or puddlejumping with the best of them for, hopefully, many years to come.

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