20 Jun Rain, rain, go away…
With all this confetti from heaven falling, I for one am missing my beautiful ‘Mac’.
When our mother Hazel passed away, I found the most fabulous Suede coat and an Aquascutum Mac up in the attic, both which were in desperate need of love, so I had them reconditioned. Hazel modelled back in the day for Liberty and she has told me many years ago, her Mac was a present from one of the shoots. The Suede softened and was relined, and now is worn with great regularity but the Mac went back to the maker. Given the age of the Mac, I was delighted when they said it still had a lifetime guarantee, given the piece was so old, it was fully refurbished and my raincoat was brought back to life. Sadly, I only wore it a few times before going to a well known and prestigious West End nightclub. I had so many compliments upon arrival, and trustfully handing it into the cloakroom then headed off for the night out. Of course when it came time to pick mine up, it had been taken with some nasty alternative left for me, and with little to no recompense – I know can you believe it. I was devastated. Furious to say the least. Caused a stink naturally by which time my Mac was long gone….
Interestingly, the Mackintosh is named after its Scottish inventor Charles Macintosh, though many writers choose to add a letter k and this variant spelling “Mackintosh” is now a familiar part of our vocab. This cruciall element of the the wardrobe is such because its waterproof. It was first sold back in 1824, and made from rubberised fabric. Its lightweight quality was specially treated to repel water. Many raincoats are made of a blend of two or more of these materials: cotton, polyester, nylon, and/or rayon. Raincoats are now also created in gaberdine, wool, vinyl and high tech microfibres.
The 18th-century coachman’s coat is better known as a predecessor of the greatcoat and was likely the forefather of the trench coat. Unlike modern designer garments, each element of the trench was born out of pure practicality. Today, the trench coat is referred to as a raincoat, which brings us to our starting point at the beginning of the nineteenth century. At a time when gas lighting was first popular, and in Glasgow, the gas was derived from coal. It was in 1818, when Scotsman James Syme discovered that the by-product, coal-tar naphtha, was capable of dissolving rubber. Charles Macintosh, seemed the right person to share his findings with, as he had successfully made a lot of money with dry bleach. Also he was an entrepreneur and more likely to see the potential for product development.
Today, the trench coat is referred to as a raincoat, which brings us to our starting point at the beginning of the nineteenth century. At a time when gas lighting was first popular, and in Glasgow, the gas was derived from coal. It was in 1818, when Scotsman James Syme discovered that the by-product, coal-tar naphtha, was capable of dissolving rubber. Charles Macintosh, seemed the right person to share his findings with, as he had successfully made a lot of money with dry bleach. Also he was an entrepreneur and likely to see the potential.
By 1823 after many tests and trials the Charles Macintosh & Co. was founded in 1824 Manchester to produce this hard wearing versatile garment. Based in the home of the cotton mills that provided the basic materials for the raincoats. Macintosh had moderate success but by the late 1830s, the coat was flawed by its lack of style and fell out of popularity. Fast forward to 1854 and product development Hellewell’s creating a lightweight reversible Paletot, which looked in vogue and fashionable, that coupled with its ability to face the elements meant its second wind became so popular as the ‘Macintosh’.
The coat became even more desirable in 1851 after John Emary, who had opened a tailor shop on Regent Street in 1851 developed a special raincoat called Aquascutum which depends from the Latin aqua meaning water & scutum meaning shield. It didn’t take long before Aquascutum were creating product for the British soldiers. Larger numbers were made for the British military and worn in the Crimean War thereafter the American Civil War, Boer and the Russo-Japanese Wars.
Thomas Burberry opened his first store in 1856 in Basingstoke. A country boy, who recognised the qualities of this fabric had certain properties that he wanted to utilise into overcoats and topcoats. Although Aquascutum was the first to produce weatherproofed raincoats on a commercial scale, Thomas Burberry soon developed into fierce competition.
Since the horrors of wartime the coat quickly took on its own identity, and made evermore famous by Hollywood icons and featured in one of my favourite movies, Casablanca by Humphrey Bogart.
and the hysterical Pink Panther films with Peter Sellars as Inspector Clouseau….
Not only have we seen, shorter more fashionable versions of what we knew as the trench coat, it has also since lost its military significance. Now, Burberry are designer investment pieces rather than the once practical garment. So if you know anything about vintage quality Burberry or Aquascutum, you will now understand how sad I was to have Hazels coat stolen, not just for the joy of owning a piece of history, the sentiment of it being Hazels, but because it was stylish, beautifully made and really useful.
Especially with the showers we are experiencing.
Yes I miss it dreadfully…
And on that note I am off to go singing and dancing in the rain.