There is a knack to making clothes that are timeless yet novel. To resist the temptation to simply recreate that which has gone before, and to look instead at how things were done, and what could be improved or altered for modern needs and lifestyles.
The new Foul Weather Anorak from Bryceland’s is a case in point. The silhouette and basic DNA come from a military garment which was the height of technical achievement on its arrival in the 1940s yet impractical by today's standards.
The US Navy had employed “India Rubber” for its deck jackets and outerwear since the miracle material appeared in the 1830s, although its claims were somewhat overstated; it tended to crack in the cold or melt in the heat. The invention of “Vulcanisation” led to a more stable rubber cloth, but while this was a marked improvement in the waterproofing department, a lack of breathability and ventilation made the material unsuitable in any situation outside of a raging gale.
By the 1940s, the USN had formulated the ’N-2’ system for inclement conditions, and a full on-deck outfit of sou'wester hat, overalls and hooded parka were conceived using a lighterweight cotton treated with a synthetic resin. The N2 was an immediate hit with crews. All Hands magazine, a Naval gazette reported in 1944 in an article entitled "How to Beat Old Man Winter: Tips for Sailors in Cold Climates … How to Avoid Colds, Thaw Out Frozen Fingers.” - “The Navy's wind-and-water-repellent gear, you will find, works out rather well. It consists of trousers of the overall type and a parka-type jacket which are made of very tightly woven material. Both are water repellent. They break the force of the wind and prevent water from saturating the insulative garment layer. Naturally, they are worn over the regular winter clothing issue.”
The jacket was a loosely cut parka originally built with three lobster style throat latches, similar to that icon of “Navyism”, the N1 Deck jacket. They proved fiddly and prone to breakage however, and were soon replaced with a lacing system at the neck that remained in production for the next couple of decades. Similarly to the Royal Navy duffle coat, The N2 kit was never issued individually as part of a sailors personal kit, but remained part of the ship’s inventory to be hauled over uniforms by ground and landing craft crews, where its roomy cut proved invaluable.
While the resin coated cotton was state of the art in the mid 20th century, cloth development has moved on considerably since then, and would be impracticable and sweaty by today’s standards, and in surviving examples the material has often hardened and become stiff . The look of the garment itself however, is peerless, and the practicality of its overall function remains.
This season, its handsome character provides the basis for Bryceland’s brand new Foul Weather Anorak. In keeping with the spirit of the original, Brycelands take is issued in two sizes - Small and Large - providing the same boxy, generous fitting. Innovatively the anorak has been updated with later adaptations in outerwear development, employing a kangaroo pocket from post war hiking parkas and another classic military piece, the British Army Cadet Smock. This season, the fabric chosen is a “60/40” cloth - a light water repellent weave of cotton warp and a nylon weft - another post war development utilised in American “Mountain Parkas”; yet another iconic piece of “Heavy Duty Ivy” history.
The result is an immensely useful piece of kit. Foldable, packable and resolutely modern yet with an undeniable pedigree in military and outdoor design. A perfect illustration of how to make something classic anew.