One of the most well-known lines from classic literature comes from William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. In one of Juliet’s monologues, she states:
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
We frequently reference the line to illustrate the point that what we call something is less important than what that thing really is. This is true to a certain extent, but there are times when the words we use do make a difference. Take waterproof shoe covers for men. They are a great example.
There are lots of terms we use to describe shoe covers. Sometimes we refer to them as ‘galoshes’. Other times they are called ‘overshoes’ or ‘rubbers’. A good shoe cover is good regardless of what you call it. But what you call shoe covers at any given time can influence someone’s understanding of what you’re talking about.
The Modern Shoe Cover
To illustrate the point, let us start with the men’s shoe covers sold by a Utah company known as GC Tech. Their products are intended to protect your shoes against the weather. The company sells two models: one that slips on and the other that zips up.
When we refer to shoe covers in the modern era, we generally think of what GC Teach sells: waterproof footwear designed to be worn over a pair of dress shoes to protect them from rain, snow, salt, etc. We also tend to think of hard-wearing covers that last for years.
An older term for shoe covers is ‘galoshes’. You might see a modern pair of shoe covers and think galoshes just the same. But originally, galoshes were quite different. They were more like heavy boots than covers. Furthermore, they did more than just cover your shoes.
The galoshes of the 60s and 70s were full boots you wore over your shoes. They offered protection well above the ankles, making it easy to tuck your pants into them. Around the turn of the 20th century, galoshes were even more different.
As older galoshes transitioned from heavy boots to shoe covers, some of us began referring to them as rubbers. The name was derived from the fact that they were made of natural or synthetic rubber. These particular products offered so little flexibility that manufacturers had to create one size for each corresponding shoe size.
Rubbers worked well enough in their day. But they were heavy, bulky, and difficult to put on and remove. They also weren’t breathable, which made them quite uncomfortable.
The term ‘overshoes’ is the modern term that most closely fits with our understanding of shoe covers. GC Tech sometimes refers to their products as overshoes. This term may be chosen to distinguish between durable and expensive overshoes and cheap, rubber or silicone shoe covers designed for temporary use.
In that sense, overshoe is probably the better term for the footwear business professionals, attorneys, and outdoor workers who rely on them to protect their shoes year-round. These kinds of workers certainly aren’t wearing cheap silicone shoe covers they bought on Amazon for a few dollars.
We use multiple terms to describe the waterproof covers we wear over our shoes. No particular term is better or worse than the other. It is all in your understanding of what it is you are talking about. What matters, in the end, is that whatever you use to cover your shoes does the job. You want waterproof shoe covers to actually be waterproof. Get that settled and you’re good to go.