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Stories / November 2018

Mackintosh: For A Rainy Day

Just over 250 years ago, Charles Mackintosh was born in Glasgow, Scotland. Today, his surname is colloquially used to describe a raincoat thanks to his ingenuity. Made in England, Mackintosh’s beauty is in its simplicity.

Mackintosh's rubberised cotton waterproof coat (£645) is proof of the heritage label's outerwear expertise.

The entire world owes a great deal to Charles Mackintosh and his ingenuity. Born in Glasgow in 1766, his life coincided with the early years of the industrial evolution and the young Glaswegian, spurred on by his city’s role in industry, developed a keen interest in the sciences, specifically in Chemistry. As such, he spent the majority of his adult life experimenting, eager to write his name in the history books, however it wasn’t until he was of a mature age in 1823 that his defining moment came to be. Inspired by another fellow inventor James Syme, who profoundly waterproofed woven cotton using naphtha (which is a byproduct of tar) for academic purposes, Mackintosh saw the potential in this material and applied his brain to it with clothing in mind. He patented his creation and in doing so cemented his legend. Today, the simple abbreviation of his name is colloquially used to describe a single-breasted raincoat that has become a sartorial icon and wardrobe staple. However, it would take the most part of two centuries for it to take hold.

From Glasgow, Mackintosh headed south, and took his idea to Manchester — which was at the time one of the most important industrial cities in the world, specifically for being at the forefront of cotton garment making — where Mackintosh met fellow creator Thomas Hancock. Hancock was also at the cutting edge of fabric innovation and the two merged companies. In doing so, they streamlined the way in which woven cottons were waterproofed, using a rubber solution that was spread all over the natural fabric between the two layers. Thanks to the performance benefits of such a fabric, Mackintosh-made wares were common sights on the likes of labourers, who needed clothing to perform their jobs in when the weather was unsightly. It was also worn by officers in both world wars and was once the official British Rail overcoat.

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Benedict Browne

Benedict is The Rake's Associate Style Editor.