The ‘boot’iful gumboot

by Anonymous Author

In the words of the great Kiwi legend Fred Dagg — if it weren’t for your gumboots where would you be?

Gumboots have long held a special place in Kiwi’s lives. From the ones caked in mud, to the ‘good’ gumboots for wearing into town or the pub, there’s a pair for every family member and every occasion.

In the early days, gumboots came up to the knees; however, in 1958 a shorter boot was created by staff at Marathon Rubber Footwear, and it wasn’t long before the first pair of red bands came into existence.

From then on other boot companies have recreated the gumboot and they have become as much a part of New Zealand culture as the Buzzy Bee and pavlova. After all, the capital city is named Wellington, and the town of Taihape boasts an enormous corrugated iron gumboot at the entrance of the town.

An authentic gumboot is made of rubber, making them durable, long-lasting and flexible; however, many people opt for the cheaper PVC versions these days for the sake of economy. It’s not just farmers who don a pair of gumboots these days either. Fishermen, politicians, firefighters, soldiers and even surgeons can be found sporting a pair. 

Fishermen wear them to keep their feet warm and dry, politicians wear them to seem more relatable, whilst firefighters wear them to stop their feet from frying and surgeons wear them for reasons we would rather not think about.

There are gumboot dances, gumboot politics and even gumboot throwing competitions. With so many different types of gumboots on the market these days it can be hard to know where to start. Some prefer the white gumboot, whilst others won’t buy anything other than the classic black possibly with a red band. Nowadays there are even printed ones to rival Kim Kardashian on the red carpet.

Whether they are a brand that has been around since the beginning, or PVC plastic ones that last a single season, chances are if you check by the back step of any Kiwi house you’ll find at least one faithful pair, waiting like a loyal dog for the next outdoor excursion. Sometimes in summer, when jandals are favoured over the gumboot, the boots might be delicately draped with a carefully woven spider web or home to a weta or two.

So next time you see a pair of these boots parked outside your local fish and chip shop or bank, take a moment to appreciate the humble but brave gumboot, and the feet they have protected from rain, cold and all kinds of unmentionable things over the generations.