Most people know that when you refer to a ballpoint pen as a “biro”, you’re really referring to a brand-name writing device manufactured by the Société Bic (which, although it sound more like a dyslectic cycling club is actually a major maker of ballpoint pens and relatd). There are quite a few products where the brand of the most famous becomes the generic term. Think Xerox, Frisbee, Ping Pong and many more. Maybe less known is that when you decide to wear a “mac” on a rainy day, you are really paying tribute to the Scottish inventor Charles Macintosh who patented the invention for waterproof cloth back in 1823 and made the first Mackintosh raincoats in the family’s textile factory. As history has it, the surgeon James Syme invented the fabric, but as is often the case, the rubberised fabric was only one of Mr Symes many innovations and he went on to other ventures.
The Mackintosh factory produced raincoats for army, police and railway workers and though early variants had issues with smell, stiffness and a tendency to melt in hot weather, innovations such as vulcanising rubber solved many of the problems and helped the company gain success. The company held forth making waterproof clothing until it was taken over by Dunlop Rubber in 1925.
By the mid 90’s, Mackintosh was reduced to a brand and on the verge of closing it’s factory near Glasgow. It was saved when senior staff members organised a buy-out and re-established the the traditional Mackintosh coat as an upmarket brand. Since then there has been new life in the handmade raincoats from Scotland. Pretty cool really, not many brands can claim almost 200 years of history, and being into the brand history thing, I very much enjoy owning a proper “mac”.
So, history lesson out of the way, what fine piece of outerwear am I presenting today? A Mackintosh Clisham, a reworking of the classic “mac” design, but a little different from most of the current jackets on offer in that the fit and styling is more contemporary and modern. Basically we’re looking at a waterproof coat that is truly waterproof, yet it doesn’t look like your typical rubberised coat. Make no mistake, whilst the rubberised Fox Brothers wool will become wet in the rain, the rubberised backing ensures it becomes totally waterproof. And all the seams have been sealed by hand the hems are rubber taped. Add in a pretty decent hood and you are all set to enjoy upper-body dryness.
Feature-wise there isn’t a very long list to mention. Two decently large bellows-style front pockets, with good pop studs to close the corduroy lined flaps. I like that the pop studs are properly branded variants and not cost-cutting generic ones as is more common. A pair of slanted hand pockets, of uncertain utility, to be brutally honest. The inside of the collar is a nice corduroy, while the cuffs have a pop stud on each, so they can be tightened up a bit. Also a double vented rear flap, for the squires comfort. And a cinch for the waist, if you’d like to tighten it up a bit. I prefer the loose, boxy look though.
And all hand made in Scotland, in a factory that no doubt takes pride in what they are making. This is the raincoat I use when cycling, as it is a good mid-length jacket and allows plenty of flexibility. Compared to the more modern “technical” type jackets I’ve used before, I find the waterproofness is much better, plus it has so much style that it works even if the rain stops. Which can’t be said for most all-weather, Gore-Tex type jackets.
While I do in general really like the jacket, being practical, stylish and utterly waterproof, there are a few negative points I feel compelled to mention:
1) While the fabric is 100% waterproof, this works both ways. This is not the jacket you want to work up too much of a sweat in, as the underarm vents don’t do a terrific job of ventilating. In my experience this goes for other jackets that use the Mackintosh fabric as well, such as the Cameraman. The designers should try a little harder to get a little airflow through the jackets.
2) While the hand sealed taped seams are nicely done, I did notice now that one of mine is starting to come undone a bit, and this after only being used a dozen times or less. I’ll need to make sure this doesn’t get any worse.
3) The rubber taped hem is a fine idea, not so much the cuffs. The feel of the rubber on my wrists isn’t very pleasant and would have been much nicer if lined with corduroy, or something soft.
4) While the hood is pretty good, it’s not as good as the Cameraman hood (and Mackintosh are said to be the actual makers of at least some Cameraman jackets for Nigel Cabourn). If the Cameraman hood had been put on this jacket, it would have taken it from good to excellent overall.
So, there you are, a truly classic piece of rain-wear! And as you’ve been really good and made it this far, an extra bonus photo just for you! You can tell all those lessons in posing are really paying off for me now.