History of the raincoat
We all have an idea of what the raincoat is today but do we ever wonder what is the history of a raincoat? How did it reach us through ages and many different shapes and materials? This is our today’s topic.
At around 1200 AD, the Amazonian Indians already used a milky substance – rubber. They extracted it from rubber trees to create a waterproofing garment. In the 1700s, European explorers went to the Americas and saw the way the indigenous people using a crude procedure and rubber to waterproof their clothing.
The first modern raincoat
Raincoats have taken many forms over the millennia, using different waterproof materials and techniques. The first modern waterproof raincoat was created following the patent by Scottish chemist Charles Macintosh in 1824 of new tarpaulin fabric, described by him as “India rubber cloth”. He’s made it by sandwiching a core of rubber softened by naphtha between two pieces of fabric. Charles wanted to create a fabric that could protect the wearer from rain without being harmed by the water.
The iconic raincoat
After some time Macintosh opened his own shops to make coats with properly waterproofed seams. His tartan-lined rubber cloth coat with fully sealed seams remains the iconic raincoat. However, because temperature always rises in the rain and because rubberized cloth is nonporous, the raincoats were liable to make the body perspire when worn. London manufacturer George Spill discovered a solution to this. They’ve started inserting metal eyelets under the armpits; such eyelets continue to be used in many raincoats.
The start of the industrial production
It was not long before Thomas Hancock (1786 – 1865), the founder of the British rubber industry, saw the potential of the invention. Hancock had, incidentally, found out that rubber becomes plastic and formable when it is rolled. This property enabled manufacturers to use rubber on an industrial scale on the basis of the vulcanisation process developed by Charles Goodyear. Macintosh recognised what his licensee Hancock had achieved and invited him to join his company Charles Macintosh & Co. as a partner in 1831. It was the start of a long and successful partnership.
The Klepper coat
As time went on, other companies entered the rain clothing business. The weatherproof waxed jackets are manufactured from cotton or blended cotton fabric. It is usually impregnated with a mixture of wax and oil or exclusively with wax. The master tailor Johann Klepper added rain clothing to his sports and outdoor range in Germany around 1920. According to the company, the inventor of the Klepper folding kayak set “a milestone in German textile history” with what is known as the Klepper coat. The coat was at the time one of the first items of clothing to be acknowledged as “absolutely waterproof”. However, it was anything but breathable and one sweated enormously when wearing it.
Here comes the PVC
From 1950 onwards, more and more rain jackets were produced using polyvinyl chloride (PVC). One of probably the most well-known forms of rainproof clothing was the oilskin. It was extremely popular with professional fishermen and sailors, particularly in the 1970s and 1980s. Waterproof clothing like the oilskin keeps you pretty dry even when it is pouring with rain – as long as you don’t have to move. Because one thing is obvious: anyone who sits underneath a sheet of plastic film does not get wet from the outside. He or she does, however, have to live with the sweat that condenses on the inside.
This problem is solved, if the raincoat is “breathable”. Many of the synthetic materials incorporated in sports and leisure clothing nowadays are made this way. These polymer materials do not have ventilation openings; instead of this, they have a membrane (Goretex, Sympatex etc.) It is more or less semi-permeable and means: sweat is transported from the inside to the outside via pores in the material. Rainwater does not, however, get inside through these pores.
This last kind of raincoats involves our raincoats, too. The material we use possesses the breathable qualities of the membrane, assuring that you are comfortable not only standing in the rain, but moving, too. Combined with stylish designs and vibrant colours, our raincoats are a perfect comfort and style combo for your active lifestyle.