When I first learned to fly fish when I was about 14 or so, though I might have been 13 or 15, I did it without waders. I always wet-waded. We fished pretty much only in mid-summer into the fall, so we didn't really need waders to keep us warm and dry.
It wasn't until I got back into fly fishing, almost three years ago now, that I got my first pair of waders. To save money, I skipped out on the wading boots, and went with the only pair of shoes I had that would accommodate the thick neoprene boot: a pair of Etnies skating shoes. The soles were slick, and they offered no ankle support at all. I'm surprised I didn't get washed down the river. I've since upgraded to a pair of boots that grip the bottom a bit better, and give good support so I don't twist my ankle if they do slip.
I sometimes fantasize about showing up on the Madison, Yellowstone, or Missouri Rivers, among all the fishermen decked out in their Orvis and Simms gear (full disclosure: I own a lot of Simms gear and clothing, waders included), and throw on a pair of rubber hip boots, and umbrella hat, and a white tank top, and just start swinging a stick with kite string on it. I wouldn't do anything to spook the fish that the other fishermen are casting to, or be obnoxious, I'd just throw the biggest, ugliest flies, perhaps bass bugs, and act like nothing's wrong.
Sometimes we fishermen get caught up in getting the flashiest, newest stuff. Don't get me wrong. I believe in getting the best equipment you possibly can, whether it's fly fishing gear, or backpacking gear, and taking care of it, because it'll last a long time if good equipment is taken care of. But gear only assists the person using it.