Galoshes (from French: galoches), also known as boat shoes, dickersons, or overshoes, are a type of rubber boot that is slipped over shoes to keep them from getting muddy or wet. The word galoshes might be used interchangeably with boot, especially a rubberized boot. Properly speaking, however, galoshes are synonymous with rain boots often reaching heights just below the knee.
The term may trace back to the Middle Ages, from the Gaulish shoe or gallicae. This shoe had a leather upper and a sole carved of wood. When the Romans conquered Gaul (France), they borrowed the Gaulish boot style. Nobles would wear a red leather boot with ornately carved wooden soles to display their station.
The term originally referred to wooden soled clogs or pattens, or merely a wooden sole fastened to the foot by a strap or cord. Pattens were overshoes with tall, shaped wooden bases and mules or slippers into which one could slip their indoor shoes. In this respect, they could be considered similar to galoshes.
In Turkey, the word refers to a polythene overshoe that is worn temporarily when visiting homes or offices, to protect the floors against dirt from the outside.
In modern usage, galoshes are outer shoes worn in inclement weather to protect the inner shoes and keep the feet dry. Galoshes are now almost universally made of rubber. In the bootmakers' trade, a "galosh" is the piece of leather, of a make stronger than, or different from that of the "uppers", which runs around the bottom part of a boot or shoe, just above the sole.
A more modern term for galoshes is rubber boots. Overshoes have evolved in the past decades and now are being made with more advanced features, such as high traction outsoles.
The transition from a traditional wooden sole to one of vulcanized rubber may be attributed to Charles Goodyear and Leverett Candee. The qualities of rubber, though fascinating to Goodyear, were highly dependent on temperature: it was tacky when hot, brittle when cold. Vulcanization of rubber tempered its properties so that it was easily molded, durable, and tough. A rubberized elastic webbing made Goodyear's galoshes (circa 1890) easy to pull on and off.
An unconfirmed legend states that an Englishman named Radley invented galoshes. He suffered from rheumatism and wanted to keep his feet dry. While reading De Bello Gallico by Julius Caesar he noticed a description of protective cloth overshoes "gallicae" and decided to capitalize on the idea. He patented cloth overshoes reinforced with rubber to keep the feet dry.
There are two basic types. One is like an oversize shoe or low boot made of thick rubber with a heavy sole and instep, designed for heavy-duty use. The other one is of much thinner, more flexible material, more like a rubber slipper, designed solely for protection against the wet rather than for extensive walking.
In the upper U.S. Midwest, school children know the black rubber, over-the-shoe boot as "four-buckle arctics".
Galoshes are also in use in Canadian delivery rooms, where splashes may occur and damage shoes of medical students and hospital personnel.
Galoshes in media
- Russian FM radio station Silver Rain Radio has presented a "Silver Galosh Award" for the most dubious achievements in show business every year since 1996. This references the Russian idiom "to sit into a galosh", which means "to get into a mess".
- Gummo Marx, the fifth of the Marx brothers, who quit the act during the family's vaudeville days and thus never appeared in a Marx Brothers film, was nicknamed by Art Fisher based on his habit of always wearing gumshoes. While all the other performers wore street shoes, and thus made a loud noise when they walked on a hardwood stage, Milton (Gummo) was known for startling people by appearing suddenly from out of nowhere, because the gumshoes on his feet gave him a nearly soundless footfall.
- Hans Christian Andersen wrote a fairy tale The Goloshes of Fortune about magic galoshes which made every wish of their bearers true, but this often didn't bring them real fortune or happiness. There are children's movies based on this tale, The Magic Galoshes (Czechoslovakia | Austria | Germany, 1986) and Russian Galoshi schastya (Russian: Галоши счастья).
- James Joyce's short story, "The Dead," discusses "goloshes."
- The anti-Bolshevik scientist of Mikhail Bulgakov's story Heart of a Dog traces the downfall of Russian civilization to the disappearance of all the galoshes from the front hall of his apartment building one fine day of March 1917.
- In the book Big Nate on a Roll, Mr. Galvin says he sold galoshes as a child when he was a Timber Scout. He says that when Nate is shown drawing his dream skateboard, which he can win if he raises money selling cheesey wall hangings. It is the first time Mr. Galvin is nice to Nate.
- In the Star Trek episode, "A piece of the Action", Scotty makes reference to "concrete galoshes", which is another term for "concrete overshoes", used by the Mafia to dispose of their victims.
- In the stop-motion holiday special, Here Comes Peter Cottontail: The Vincent Price-voiced villain, January Q. Irontail, makes plans to replace the traditional Easter bonnet with Easter galoshes.
- In the Mighty Boosh episode 'The Strange Tale of the Crack Fox', the Crack Fox asks Vince to move his galoshes before sitting down, referring to a pair of used condoms he calls 'squishy boots'.
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- Lawlor, Laurie. Where Will This Shoe Take You? A Walk Through the History of Footwear. New York: Walker and Company, 1996.
- Moilliet, J. L., ed. Waterproofing and Water-Repellency. London: Elsevier Publishing Company, 1963.
- O'Keefe, Linda. Shoes: A Celebration of Pumps, Sandals, Slippers, & More. New York: Workman Publishing, 1996.
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