In this day and age of the Prosmart jacket, we enjoy adjustable heated body panels, ultra-light weight construction, as well as synthetic fibers that are resilient, waterproof and weatherproof. It’s easy to forget that it is not always this way. Winter clothing has its own illustrious history, spotted with highlights and winning moments, as well as fascinating facts.
The first parkas were made from whale, seal or caribou.
The Inuits of the Canadian Arctic dealt with the harsh climate by creating the very first versions of the parka. The Inuit (Eskimo) women used the intestines of seals and whales, as well as layers of caribou skin to create insulated and waterproof coats. These were then coated with fish oil to make them more water resistant. The women sewed in drawstring hoods to the parkas. These parkas (which were called amauti) had built-in baby pouches below the hood. These allowed the sharing of heat from the mother and the child. The mother can also easily move the child to the front to breastfeed the baby without having to expose him to the cold.
The Greek himation did double duty as blankets.
The himation is very similar to the Roman toga. On cold winter nights, soldiers staying outdoors use the himation as a blanket. This outer garment is made of a warm and heavy material, rectangular in shape. This is worn by passing one corner under the left arm and then draped over the right shoulder.
The Mayans mastered the art of customized rubber boots.
The Mayans and other cultures in Mesoamerica have perfected the use of rubber. They mixed the latex extracted from the rubber trees with juice from morning glory vines. This made the rubber more flexible. The Mayans would dip their feet in a tub filled with the heated mixture several times until the layers would harden into their very own “bespoke rubber boots.”
British soldiers sported “stinkers” during the winter of 1914/15.
To keep warm, members of the British army started wearing goatskins and sheepskins over their tunics. These fluffy jackets were nicknamed “Teddy Bears” or “Wooly Bears” because of their appearance. However, the poor soldiers eventually dubbed these “Stinkers” because of the foul smell they had to live with when the fleece jackets got damp. These wooly warmers were issued well through World War II.
Eddie Bauer’s near-death experience gave birth to the down puffer jacket.
Necessity is the mother of invention and all that. Eddie Bauer nearly died from severe hypothermia while he was on a fishing trip in January 1935. He and his friend, Red Carlson, decided to carry their 100-pound haul in only their long underwear and wool shirts, as their wet Mackinaw jackets proved too cumbersome for their climb a hill on their way to their car. Bauer remembers feeling weak and sleepy. He survived the experience and vowed to make the best winter coat. Bauer created “The Skyliner,” the first-ever down jacket.