Thursday, 6 February 2014

Thank Goodness for Waterproofs - The History of the Mac

Unless you've booked a bit of winter sun, there's no escaping the grim weather we've had lately. Meteorologists are warning the worst is yet to come with another big storm predicted for Saturday. As Jolliman HQ is just off the seafront, we've taken a bit of a bashing - which got us thinking how grateful we are for an every day garment that we take for granted. The waterproof mac.

It was Glaswegian chemist, Charles MacIntosh (1766-1843), who first patented waterproof fabric. His experiments to find uses for the by-products of gas works waste led to his discovery that naptha, produced by the distillation of tar, could form a watertight seal when it was spread on two pieces of fabric which were then pressed together.

The first MacIntosh coat was sold in 1824 but in the beginning the new fabric was treated with suspicion. People feared it was unhealthy as it trapped perspiration. The strong odour of rubber, the inflexible nature of the fabric, as well as the tendency to melt in hot weather, presented MacIntosh with challenges to overcome if he were ever to make it successful. In 1830 he merged with a Manchester based clothing company run by Thomas Hancock who had also been experimenting with waterproof fabrics and who had patented a means of vulcanising rubber which solved many of the issues and made the fabric more wearable.

But it was a blue military cloak, lined with crimson silk, made for the Duke of York that finally shot the waterproof into the limelight. Suddenly everyone wanted one and the popularity of the mac was sealed.

Charles MacIntosh was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1824 for his chemical discoveries and his namesake garment remains popular to this day.

At Jolliman we sell various incarnations of waterproof macs and coats, but we think Mr MacIntosh would have particularly liked our Highgrove Full Length Coat. With it's traditional styling, generous pockets and handsome lining it makes for smart and stylish protection.