Remember when Kate Moss wore wellies (that is rain boots for all those outside the UK) into Glastonbury?
Fourteen years ago, Britain’s best-known supermodel broke style’s proverbial fourth wall and joined the mortals in their helpless squalor. Sure, she’d likely spent the weekend glamping in the festival’s VIP zone. But a filthy field is England’s great leveler — and during these short, well-photographed walks throughout the Glastonbury grounds, smoke in hand, she was exactly like us.
Until, that is, her choice of footwear transformed festival fashion and helped rescue a heritage boot maker from the brink of obsolescence.
It was the summer of 2005 and Moss was near the height of her powers. However, while The Libertines’ frontman definitely appeared more at home in the states, it was Moss who caught the limelight.
Matching a pair of classic black Hunter rain boots using a waistcoat, short shorts and studded belt (and after a glittering tunic), the version was a photo of understated glamor. Below the knee her appearance was synonymous with that of a Somerset pig farmer. But above it, she might just have easily emerged from a Chelsea mansion into some well-placed paparazzi ambush.
The images immediately went viral (or as viral as they could from the pre-social media age). The bastion of mid-1990s so-called”heroin chic” had been the face of its own somewhat older, more respectable cousin: mid-2000s festival chic.
In the process, wellies secured their location in the popular imagination. No more the preserve of agriculture, they had turned into a rubbery status emblem best matched with trilby hats, cravats and other suspicious noughties accessories. This once-practical boot had morphed into bourgeois badge of honour indicating that the wearer had been ready to”rough it” and still look fabulous (the drug-afflicted rockstar boyfriend remained an optional area of the look).
Unexpectedly, festival wear turned into its own category of clothes, something far more than an amalgam of things you did not mind ruining. But an even deeper transformation was also taking place — that of this then-struggling Hunter Boot Limited.
The brand’s true heyday might have been during the World Wars, when it generated huge amounts of waterproof boots for the front lines. But not before in the company’s then 149-year history had its practical footwear been so desirable. While you shouldn’t overstate the ability of the Moss effect (her endorsement could not save the boot manufacturer from entering administration in 2006), it helped set in motion a remarkable turnaround in the firm’s fortunes.
From 2007, the firm was under new ownership and reporting that an 85% increase in pre-tax earnings. It’s become a bona fide festival fixture, producing rainwear, outerwear and boots in all types of colours and styles.
Once prized for maintaining gangrene at bay at the trenches, Hunter has finished the ultimate 21st-century transformation to become the rainy-day boot de jour for actors from Rita Ora to Rihanna, Cara Delevingne into Alexa Chung.
And to think that Kate needed was a pair of snug, dry feet.