John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.
"Sardines" collapse down to just a fifth their full size.
At a certain age, you can no longer get away with wrapping your feet in plastic bags to brave a thunderstorm. And that's unfortunate, because the alternatives are lugging around extra shoes or clumping around work all day in stiff rain boots.
Estel Alcaraz thinks she's found a better, squishier way to weather a downpour. The Barcelona-based designer has created Wellington-style boots made from ultra-pliable, recyclable thermoplastic polyurethane. With these babies, you can confidently splash through puddles on your commute, then roll them up once you reach dry land and slip them into your bag. She calls them Sardines, a name that plays on their compact shape and their ability to handle water.
Alcaraz has been honing her fashionable, functional design for two years—ever since being inspired by a chance meeting with trash:
One evening in february 2012, I got caught in the rain. By the time I got home, my clothes were soaking wet, even my socks. Just as I arrived at home, I saw a squashed water bottle. It was interesting to see how its volume was being reduced to one-fifth when the bottle was useless. In that moment, I wondered why my rain boots couldn’t reduce in size just like the water bottle.
Like that crumpled bottle, Alcaraz says, her Sardines can bunch into one-fifth of their wearable size. Their malleability does make one wonder whether they have the stuff it takes to survive the elements, as rain boots have the uncanny ability to develop holes at the worst possible time. There's also the issue of whether you have to sit around waiting for them to dry before stowing them in a bag, which could be a hassle. But still, mondo props for thinking outside the boot: