I was standing under torrential downpours, listening to a surprisingly good rendition of “Love, Reign o’er Me” and most of my concert going brethren we soaking wet. I was, on the other hand, dry as a bone thanks to my Mackintosh (Mac). It’s surprising that in this day of nanotechnology-infused clothing that a coat based on technology from 180-years ago is so damn effective; if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
The Mackintosh was created in 1823 by Charles Macintosh, the inventor of waterproof clothing. Macintosh was a renaissance man when it came to manufacturing chemistry. Macintosh wasn’t the first to conceive using rubber to make fabrics waterproof, but his methodology of utilizing cheap coal oil as a solvent was well suited for large-scale, economical manufacturing. It’s likely that the Macintosh method led wider use of rubber products by the general public for everyday purposes1.
The original mac had the reputation of being a stiff and odorous garment that had the unfortunate tendency of melting in hot weather. It wasn’t until 1843 that the problem was solved by Thomas Hancock, who patented the rubber vulcanization process in that year.
Macintosh and his business partners were especially adept at marketing their waterproof fabric and coming up with new uses for it. For Captain John Franklin, an arctic explorer, Macintosh fabricated life preservers, pillows, bags and mattresses with his waterproof material2. Thomas Hancock’s autoiographical, Personal Narrative of the Origin and Progress of the Caoutchouc or India-Rubber Manufacture in England, serves as pretty good primer on the history of waterproof fabric. It also has some interesting pictures or engravings on the uses of this amazing textile.
I can attest to the strength and resiliency of the Mac, and it’s really a sharp looking piece of kit. Luckily Mackintosh has teamed up with J.Crew and released the coat stateside, which is available online and at their men’s shop at the Liquor Store. For those of you in New York, I would highly recommend going to the Liquor Store, the space is beautiful and the staff…well you should experience the staff for yourself.
- Macintosh, Charles. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 2004–8
- T Hancock. Personal narrative of the origin and progress of the caoutchouc or India-rubber manufacture in England. 1857