Claire Elanthy bought her inaugural pair of Wellington boots at the 2009 Glastonbury Festival. Little did she know that this was to be the start of a long search for the perfect pair of wellies. She was cold, wet and muddy, and she reluctantly handed over 20 quid to a shady trader for the ill-fitting pale-green lumps of rubber. However, it was not very long – just a few steps, in fact – before the fashion-conscious City PA came to despise her new, inelegant footwear. They were considerably more uncomfortable than her five-inch-heel Manolo Blahnik slingbacks and, furthermore, they leaked.
The boots and the elements that brought about a need for them had been a novel rustic experience for the 23-year-old metropolitan, who’s PA to a hedge funder. Until then, the closest she had come to the English countryside was when she flew over it on her way to the Costa del Sol. Nevertheless, after her grim experience at Glastonbury she quickly understood that her particular wellies were not just useless but also a country mile from either rural or rock chic. A subsequent photograph in Heat magazine featuring Kate Moss wearing black Hunter gumboots at the Somerset jamboree made it quite clear that the right welly was now as important as the correct little black dress.
And so when a surprise invitation to an early-autumn country-house weekend dropped on her doormat, Claire scurried off to the renowned countryside outfitter Farlows in London’s Pall Mall. The dapper shop assistant advised her that if she was going to spend any time at all in the country a stout pair of leather Dubarry knee-length boots was more sensible than wellies. The £299 price tag would, he assured her, definitely pay dividends in the long run.
Unfortunately, the arrival of an Indian summer over the days of the house party made Claire’s feet swell and sweat, and turned her into a laughing stock among her contemporaries from the shires. They were all wearing designer flatties; Claire finally opted for trainers.
The now-hated Dubarry boots were consigned to the back of the cupboard and when it snowed on London in December Claire popped into Russell & Bromley for a pair of shocking-pink rubber boots. They were “just the thing” for commuting and she’d change into heels when she got to the office. However, when the snow melted, the boots were abandoned in the stationery cupboard.
At the next Glastonbury Festival, the voguish Ms Elanthy, following in the footsteps of her heroine Ms Moss, cannily sported a brand-new pair of black Hunter Wellingtons. They had cost £75 but at least she knew they would be both practical and look cool but as Sod’s Law came into play and Glastonbury was hot and sunny, they were neither of the aforementioned. Instead, she was forced to leave the heavy vulcanised boots in her tent when she went to see Snoop Dogg on the Pyramid Stage. On her return to base one of the Hunters was missing. “Some kids were having a welly-throwing competition and wanted one of your boots,” said her tent-mate in an uninterested tone that implied that the theft of the boot had been of no more importance than a filched cigarette paper.
That year The Honourable Simon Foxdenton, with whom Claire had been flirting all summer, finally made his move and asked her if she would like to spend a week at his parents’ estate in the Scottish Borders. “It’s very informal,” he said. “Just bring a Barbour and a pair of old boots.” Claire, however, knew about aristocratic understatement and had heard all about grand Scottish house parties from her “hedgie” employers, and was not going to be caught outdressed like a bumpkin in front of a potential suitor. So she invested in a tweed hacking jacket, breeches and a new pair of Hunter boots. The latter cost an eyewatering £255, were embossed with a crocodile print and boasted a faux leopard-skin lining, gold buckles, metal rivets and a Jimmy Choo signature. Perfection, she thought.
“You’re nae thinking of going up the hill in those pumps?” said the Foxdentons’ dour gamekeeper after he spied the nattily dressed Claire waiting to go out on the glens. “There are nae Glastonbury pop stars up there.”