You rush out to work, you’ve not checked the weather and it starts pissing down; not drizzle and not a light shower, but a full on downpour. In seconds you’re soaked. At work it’s a paper towel fest to dry yourself off, then you sit uncomfortably damp in front of a computer screen for the next hour. If only you’d worn a quality raincoat.
Raincoats are rightly at the heart of British fashion. For years Aquascutum and Burberry warred over who had invented the original trench coat, whilst some of Britain’s best brands, such as Barbour and Berghaus, are firmly focused on protecting us from wet weather.
The term raincoat is a bit of a misnomer perhaps as it usually means a Mac style affair with no hood. Fine if you carry a brolly but, really, a man and a brolly is just not right. Other than the fact you will most likely lose it within 6 uses there is something cumbersome about carrying a brolly.
Of course, if you’re in the Royal Family or extremely rich you could have a person carry the brolly around for you, but that too could feel cumbersome. Eventually you’d be tempted to say, ‘thanks for your assistance but please go away. I want to walk down the street on my own’. So, the answer is a quality waterproof coat, with a hood.
Five things to think about when selecting your garment for inclement weather.
1. Is it waterproof?
An obvious one, huh? But there are many degrees of waterproofing, from showerproof to Gore-tex Pro, which could keep you dry for days in torrential rain. Whilst Gore-tex is still the benchmark there are many other fabrics that now really compete both in terms of waterproofing and breathability, which brings us to our next point.
2. Is it breathable?
The importance of this really depends on how you will be using your coat. If you are going to be hill-walking or doing any strenuous activity at all it’s vital, if your coat is simply for city life, less so.
3. Does it look good?
It’s all very well being warm and dry but ideally you want to look good too. Function versus fashion? Well, more function with style. If you’re going for quality you want a look that will last. Fortunately for blokes, decent coats should last for years without looking dated. Just ask an ageing casual who can point you towards garments they wore in the 80s that would still look good now. On the subject of casuals, there are some who may prefer their jackets dark and hoods that conceal the face quite well.
4. Where is it made?
I don’t know about you but if I'm spending over the odds on a quality jacket I want to know that those involved in making it got a decent days wage and a tea break when they needed one. The way the world’s going The West may end up being the sweatshop of China but until then I prefer my costs made in Europe, North America and Japan. The reality is though that sometimes a Made in China garment is difficult to avoid and for all I know some of the workers in the Far East may well be getting a better deal than their comrades in the West.
5. What’s the story?
Clothing brands are built on stories. Real, authentic stories about who designed them, history, heritage and production. Or sometimes there’s a story of adventure involved. Whether the brand story is about where and how the coat is made or what adventures it has been on, a story can excite or inspire us and give us an extra reason to justify spending too much on a jacket.
Price is obviously very important too but that’s quite subjective depending on your circumstances. For what it’s worth I hardly ever pay full price for clothes, preferring to scour the sales or have an occasional rummage in TK Maxx. The jackets featured here all on the pricey side. They’re objects of desire and all outstanding in their own way.
1. 6876 Cashca Brecon - £485
Scotland meets Japan with this fine 100% waterproof coat.
Dundonian Kenneth MacKenzie and Kazuki Kuraishi have created a limited edition collection that is made in Japan, which accounts for the higher price tag we may be used to for 6876, but for a simple, quality coat that will never go out of fashion, it’s worth it.
The Brecon is a modernist take on a traditional parka with large angular front pockets and bellows breast pocket with taped seams to guarantee you stay dry whether you’re in Tayside or Tokyo.
The jackets are available in Japanese XL or XXL, which translates to a UK L and XL. Limited edition and available from the 6876 online shop.
2. Nigel Cabourn Taped Ventile Aircraft - £679
Some may remember Nigel Cabourn from his collections in the 80s, which included his Cricket Club range and great blue camouflage jackets. After what seemed like years out of the limelight he returned with his Authentic Heritage collection 8 years ago and has won over fans all over the world from Jesmond to Japan.
Nigel Cabourn’s Spring / Summer range sees a number of garments, including this navy blue Aircraft jacket, constructed from Ventile. Ventile was invented during WW2 for the RAF as there was a recognised need for a waterproof fabric that would help save the lives of pilots who ended up in the sea. This specially woven British cotton is woven so tight it’s waterproof and is credited for saving the lives of 80% of anti-submarine pilots whose planes went into the sea.
The same manufacturers who produced Ventile during the war now produce this fabric for Nigel Cabourn and, like much of this collection, this jacket is made in England.
Available at End Clothing, Newcastle.
3. Noronna Recon Gore-tex Pro - £495
I was going to put a Berghaus here as really wanted a great Gore-tex coat that’s totally waterproof and totally breathable. However, I found a real gem of a jacket from Norrona, one of the first clothing brands to work with Gore-Tex, since 1979.
This is the Recon jacket and unlike many jackets from outdoor brands, there are no garish flashes of bright colours, which can be off-putting for urban wear. There’s also lots of pockets with watertight zips.
Norrona say it’s their most durable and weather-protective shell jacket yet. It was developed with the help of the Norwegian, Swedish and Danish Special Forces, whilst Ray Mears says he uses this jacket whilst in the Arctic wilderness.
If you’re serious about staying dry, both inside and outside, this is the best of the lot.
4. Monitaly Olive Waxed Mountain Parka - £545
When it comes to waxed coats there’s no denying the allure of Barbour, who have recently been making some lovely garments in collaboration with Japan’s Tokihito Yoshida.
However, it is another Japanese designer, Yuki Matsuda, that brings us this beautiful waxed parka. Yuki is better known for his footwear brand Yuketen and the same quality can be found in Monitaly, a brand named after two of his loves in life, his daughter Monica and Italy.
The result is an aesthetic not unlike Yuketen with a distinct heritage feel and high-quality construction. Made from waxed cotton this jacket features plenty of pockets, satin lined sleeves and has seams taped with chambray. As with Yuketen shoes this Monitaly coat is made with care in the USA.
5. Mackintosh Dunoon - £650
We couldn’t have a top 5 raincoats without featuring the originals. In 1823 Charles MacIntosh (without the ‘k’) developed the process of spreading rubber onto cotton to create the world’s first formal waterproof fabric, signaling the arrival of the original Mackintosh coat and, of course, spawning copycats and the word Mac coming to mean any ‘raincoat’, regardless of brand.
Mackintosh is famous for coats without hoods but here we have a Dunoon in dark blue with a yellow undercollar and detachable hood.
Like other Mackintosh’s it is made from start to finish by a single craftsman (or lady) using methods that have lasted over 150 years.
Made in Scotland, available here.