In the 1950s and into the early 60s all boys had a similar identity – grey short trousers, long turn-over-top socks, grey shirt usually with a tie and drab-coloured pullover and a jacket of some sort, and in cooler or wet weather topped off with a school cap and a gaberdine raincoat. On our feet we usually had black lace-up shoes or if it was wet we wore wellington boots. It wasn’t that boys all wanted to look the same, that’s just the way it was, that’s what boys wore in the 1950s post-war period of austerity. I don’t ever recall thinking about what I was wearing as clothes were just not a significant part of our childhood. Even boys that came from families that were a little better off financially wore the same style, albeit a little smarter and looking less shabby.
When I was in the last year of junior school one of the boys in my year turned up for school on the first day of term wearing wellington boots. There was nothing unusual in that as most boys during that era only had one pair of shoes, so if it was raining you’d wear your wellingtons to school. This particular day though it was very warm and one of the boys attempted to ridicule him for wearing his boots on a sunny day. Unabashed he announced they were his new Dunlop wellingtons and proudly drew our attention to the cleated sole with good grips for messing about in mud. Unlike most other kid’s boots of the 1950s they were seamless and had the name Dunlop in raised lettering all around the trim at the top and also a Dunlop logo on the front about an inch below the trim; best of all they were in a matt-black finish and, to my ten-year-old eyes, looked very smart indeed.
I now realised the visual inadequacy of my own shiny wellingtons especially when before very long many other boys my age were beginning to sport the new Dunlops. For a year or so I envied those that had them so when it was eventually necessary for me to have a new pair as I was about to go to boarding school, I had to trick my mother into buying the more expensive Dunlops. When she asked where we bought my last pair I marched her off to Halewoods, the shoe shop that sold them, once inside she would not want to lose face and leave the premises to find some cheaper ones elsewhere. And so, in 1960 at the age of eleven, I had my Dunlop wellington boots, I think they cost 25 shillings (£1.25p) but maybe that’s in my imagination. My Dunlops and I had many adventures over the next few years until I could no longer squeeze my growing teenage feet into them, but I’ll tell you more about that another time.
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If you think you’ve read this story before you’d probably be correct, it has been recycled from a page on my website and has also appeared on my flickr site as well, but has been republished for a new audience here on WordPress. Photograph of the 1950s schoolboys courtesy of Philip Howard, the other pictures are from my own extensive collection.