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Waxed-Cotton Jackets

Jack Bettridge
From the Print Edition:
Andy Garcia, March/April 2014

Mother Nature offers little weather respite when winter ebbs. Now come March winds and April showers, and we still need gear that wards off the elements, yet keeps an eye on style. With apologies to all the latest and greatest microfiber polyamides, may we suggest one of the oldest technical fabrics: waxed cotton?

Since the nineteenth century waxed-cotton jackets and coats have been shedding rain from wearers of all stripes from outdoorsmen to farmers—even boulevardiers. The secret to their lasting fashionability in the face of scientific advancement is the way they bind natural fibers with a protective treatment—and, of course, how good they look and feel.

Unlike the many men’s styles that derive from war making, wax cotton comes to us from sailing. Seamen noticed that wet sails caught the wind better than dry, porous ones, but the tradeoff was that after soaking up water they weighted down the ship. The solution, dating from the fifteenth century, was to coat the sailcloth with fish oil grease. By the end of the eighteenth century as tea trading and yacht races became important, the English made paraffin the coating of choice. With a better aroma, the material encouraged sailors to cut capes out of extra cloth. Soon tailors were fashioning the stuff into proper garments.

By the middle of the last century, new, lighterweight, materials began to cut into the hold that waxed cotton held on soft rainwear. Still, when you want to beat the weather in a rugged pose, nothing works like it. Beretta chose its own fabric treatment—for the Correspondent Jacket pictured—for a supple texture without an oily feel. The 500-year-old Italian company, better known for firearms and hunting wear, provided ample pockets and a host of leather details.

Of course, journalists don’t have a corner on garments made with the fabrics. A maker of clothing typically aimed at outdoorsmen, Barbour makes a line of waxed jackets for a variety of purposes. It even offers a service to reproof
(apply wax to) the material. Belstaff, which specializes in motorcycle clothing, offers it as an alternative to the leather jacket. Whatever you wear it for, you can count on keeping warm and dry, while looking cool.

Visit barbour.com, belstaff.com and berettausa.com


 

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