They said it would rain all day. It did. They called it a storm but I called it ‘set-in rain’ of the kind that occurred during my Western Australian childhood and which doesn’t any more. It was persistent and of varying intensity.
Well before the end of the first block from my Berkeley (California) hotel, the sole of my right shoe had sprung a leak. My toes were damp by the second. I classed the sock as ‘wet’ by the end of the fourth and I could feel the water flowing over the top of my foot with each step along the sixth. In shops, I wasn’t sure whether to stand on the wood and create a slipping hazard as water leaked out or stand on the carpet and create a future mould spot.
I began to notice obsess with the footwear of passers-by. Gumboots. (Wellingtons. Goloshes.) Elaborate, colourful, serviceable, waterproof gumboots. They came in single bright colours, spots, stripes, florals and scenes. Finally, I took the only sensible course. I sidled up to an unsuspecting shopper and asked her where she had bought hers: Bancroft Clothing Company on Bancroft Street.
So I slooshed my way up there. The right sock almost dripped, and was certainly ‘wringable’ (I resisted the urge), when I removed it. I draped that and the sodden left one over my disgraced shoes and requested store socks to try on what were to become my bosom buddies.
Praise be to the consumption-oriented designers who realised that, after hundreds of years slogging it out in sheepyards and pigsties, the humble gumboot was the very stuff of high fashion. A tweak here, a dash of colour there, a buckle or two and voila, a fashion statement is born.
I was reminded of my adolescence when my sandpit friend and I would wear our tartan gumboots into town to do the shopping. Very daggy* – that was the fun of it. The irony is that, when I return to Australia wearing my improbably ‘happening’ boots, I shall be a dag again until this fashion hits the shores.
Surely this is the perfect meeting of hip and practicality; the answer to our consumptive society – make all necessary or useful goods, appealing. Or, to put it another way, render fashion from necessity. So necessity becomes the mother of fashion – a sibling for invention. Spectacle manufacturers have been trading on this idea for years. Hats have a way to go yet before they replace the ubiquitous cap.
What necessary or everyday items would you like to see ‘up-skilled’, trendified, given the chance to truly serve us through the world of fashion?
And now I’m off to jump in a puddle.
*A dag is the (Australian?) term for a piece of manure stuck to a sheep’s wool but now also refers , generally with affection, to dopey (silly) items and people.