Last summer we sent yet another son off to college. I was totally relaxed as this was the second time we had been through this, and had it all under control. Sending a guy off to school is really no big deal: grab a duffle of clothes, some bedding, the computer, a backpack: DONE.
Apparently sending a girl off is a whole different matter. I received a panicked call from a fellow parent concerning exactly what we were going to do about rainy weather footwear for our future students. I had one in college for 3 years and have no idea what he wore on rainy days. Probably flip flops, unless it was winter. Actually, probably flip flops then as well.
Trying to be as understanding and accommodating as possible, I asked my parent-comrade “what in the WORLD are you talking about?” To which I was breathlessly asked whether she should be getting, “those rain boots” for her daughter? I was then advised that there are boots out there – rubber, nearly knee-high rain boots – that girls wear on rainy days that are reminiscent of green rubber fishing boots but come in all sorts of colors and designs.
I decided to go straight to my primary source and ask the experienced college student in our family, a.k.a. the flip-flop wearer, if he thought they should be on the (female) college student’s must-have list. I could hear the eye-roll over the phone–this from a guy who finds talk of fashion intolerable. “Mom, those are ‘Wellies’ and EVERY girl has them. The girls all think they have to have AT LEAST one pair! You should see campus on a rainy day!”
I wasted no time in calling the alarmed parent back to tell her I was dreadfully sorry I had given her bum advice not to worry so much about rain boots and to RUN NOW to the store to get some because who knows what could happen to a gal at college without them? She might be shunned from all sorts of activities – turned down from sororities . . . ridiculed on Facebook . . . get her feet wet . . . The horror.
I have since been serenely preparing to send my own and only daughter off to college. I googled rain boots and discovered they really are called “Wellies,” after the first Duke of Wellington, who asked his shoemaker to modify the boots that soldiers wore so that he could have something practical to wear. They have since evolved into the rubber boots we see today, thanks in part to Charles Goodyear, who along with a Frenchman, teamed up to patent a rubber boot way back in the 1850’s.
Fully armed with newfound Wellie knowledge, and thinking ahead, I wisely nabbed a pair this past spring from the J. Crew store at the Williamsburg Outlet Mall. They were on clearance for only $9.99 instead of $50! (Says something about the normal profit made on these babies.) Only caveat: there was just one design left–a gray boot with coral polka dots. Ok, not one of the most inspiring designs judging by my daughter’s disdain.
For the record, if price is not a huge issue, there are tons of fabulous designs out there for the taking – ranging from plaids, florals, and preppy animal designs to almost gothic tattoo-looking patterns. My personal favorite is one I saw on a UK website. They are totally chic, white with bright red poppies all over.
Having dispatched with the obligation of procuring our own Wellies, I finally thought to ask the flip-flop wearer: just what DOES campus look like on a rainy day? His description brought to mind an experience my husband had back in 2005 when he visited Death Valley. It was just after an unusual amount of rain that causes the fleeting but spectacular show of wildflowers that comes with just the right combination of conditions. It is a breathtaking and rare sight considering the place is typically so barren and he was indeed fortunate to see it.
Like Death Valley after a rain, apparently campuses around the country come alive with color on dreary rainy days, thanks to the co-ed population’s love of Wellies. The guys find it rather amusing to see the varied, widespread display that appears with the wet weather and just as quickly disappears back into dorm room closets, forgotten until the next rain. On a practical note, now that I know how this works, I’ve offered to buy them a guy version of Wellies, something plain like the green fishing boots, or perhaps some camo ones, but for some reason they’re still sticking with the flops.