Whether you call them galoshes, overshoes, or shoe covers, the protective covers men wear over their dress shoes have come a long way over the last few hundred years. They have evolved from basic leather footwear to examples of space-age technology featuring materials that did not exist a few decades ago. And through it all, companies like ours have been designing high-quality products that keep the weather and other undesirable influences away from the shoes.
What we now call overshoes used to be almost universally known as galoshes. But back then, they were more heavy boots than anything else. Today's galoshes could still be considered boots by some standards. You might even perceive our zip-up shoe covers as more boot-like. But numerous design features make today's products significantly different from their first-generation ancestors.
Leather Galoshes Started It All
The actual word 'galosh' has its roots in a similar French word that used to refer to wooden shoes. The English are said to have made the first pair of shoes that could be considered protective galoshes. They were made by combining wood soles with leather uppers.
Of course, we are talking about protective footwear made in the 16th and 17th centuries. Soles were made of wood in order to raise the feet up off the ground and away from water and waste. Leather was chosen for the uppers because it was the toughest material they had to work with. Not only that, but tanned leather can be made highly water resistant by a skilled tanner.
If there was one downside to the early galoshes it was their weight. You might not think that wearing small blocks of wood on your feet would be a big deal, but the weight gets to be quite uncomfortable after a couple of hours. It became abundantly clear at some point that there had to be a way to replace the wood soles with something else.
The Transition to Rubber
Shoemakers continued working with wood and leather, at least for galoshes, until the mid-19th century. That's when chemist and inventor Charles Goodyear introduced the world to vulcanized rubber. It was not long before shoemakers latched on to rubber due to its toughness, durability, and molding capabilities.
With rubber, they could create an entirely waterproof galosh that weighed considerably less than their wood and leather counterparts. The one downside was that early versions of vulcanized rubber were not as reliable as what we know of today. Still, rubber galoshes were a significant improvement over wood and leather.
Silicone and Breathable Fabrics
Vulcanized rubber eventually gave way to silicone rubber during World War II. The former was too expensive to produce while the latter could be easily synthesized in a lab. These days, almost all men's and women's galoshes are made with silicone rubber. But even silicone rubber has its weaknesses.
A decade or so ago, researchers began looking into ways to produce fabrics that were both breathable and waterproof at the same time. Those fabrics also had to be tough. Well, you know the story. They succeeded. Our waterproof overshoes are evidence of that. They are made from a tough, breathable fabric that keeps out the weather. They are as lightweight and waterproof as silicone rubber, but more durable and stylish.
We have come a long way since the days of wood and leather. Though galoshes have always been intended as protective footwear, modern versions of the galosh do a far better job while also being more convenient, stylish, and comfortable to wear. The evolution of footwear has seen to that.