Project Description

Jackets and Coats – I’m obsessed.

I’ve loads them, theres a full length rack in my garage and a double rack at work. Mixed with all things old, worn out, shabby and interesting that I try to use as much as I can for different occasions.

The oldest coats are my WW2 despatch riders full length waxed rain coats – I have 2 and both were ‘new old stock’ they are massive, Im near 6 foot tall and not fat or a muscle builder and they fit me with plenty of room. Wheres as you look for WW2 dispatch drivers boots, jackets and trousers and they are usually tiny. It’s hard to find size 10 boots, but I found some, NOS as well. Surprises me where all this NOS has been for 70 years! Trousers are also hard to get that fits, I’ve got some over size for me and couldn’t get them passed my knees – so had them altered.

Of course we all have had coats and jackets over time. I still remember getting a snorkel parka which was all the rage when I was 8! Along came the lumber jack fleece jackets in the mid-late 70’s – just fashion of the time as a kid. Two of my favourites was a genuine US Army fishtail parka and a fleece lined Levi jacket both I brought back from the states on a visit to dad in 78-79.

I wore the Parka to death and kept it years, I gave it to my mate Ackers dad and when I found he did the gardening in it, I got it back. My daughter Emma wanted it but it buried her! 30 years later I put it on ebay and my accountant won the bid and he still has it, its 42 years old and still in the family. The Fleece Levi was not in fashion at the time, I wore it to rallies, my club mates all bought the newer version and we all did rallies together – now I see them on rally years after I out grew mine and got rid of it in the early 80’s.

With my interest in outdoor hill climbing, walking and scrambling I went down the Gortex route and got sick of getting wet. I’d get wet and go and buy another coat, then another and then another. Tried Paramo and other major names, Rab, Montane, North Face, Berghaus and other makes and ended up selling most off. Through designing some clothing, we visited Keela in Scotland – If I’m going out in the weather then I think for the price Keela tops the lot, not as refined but totally functionable and do everything they should and you stay dry.

It was the same with motorbike coats, when they say they are waterproof – arghh not in the rain I’ve driven in. Again I tried lots of coats and gave up from wax cotton coats in the 80’s to super bulky guaranteed not to leak coats that did. Even bmw clothes let me down – don’t get me wrong bmw bike gear is fantastic – one of the best I’ve tested.

Through my canoe racing I thought out of the box, I compared motorbiking to canoeing, I compared biking to been at the top of a hill in a force 8 gale! In the end I had my own designed jacket made using a special Swedish materials to keep the weather at bay with a Kevlar built in inner jacket for safety. We added pockets where they were needed and for different jobs and vents everywhere – what a jacket, it’s had a few tweaks and has just got better. It’s a super bright safety jacket that’s never leaked once! I’ve used it for years and the manufacturers have put the ideas into their own production jackets which sell for £1200 a jacket. It’s big and heavy, it ticks all the boxes for most of the year and it’s used on the GSA1200 most trips unless its well over 30 degrees! On the hot dry days I have other air flow jackets chosen for their practicality of comfort, fit, safety, pockets, venting and strapping or just so you can screw it up and shove it in the panniers or bag.

Remember the film ‘heros of Telemark’ where Kirk Douglas wore a Blue snow parka. That got me into snow and army parkas. I’ve a rail full, some new, some old, some fitting better than others. Some more practical for English weather compared to dry snow. Most are pull over types and similar to what Scooterists used in the 50-70’s now fashion item! Some are cheap as chips and some named brands are in the thousands. Lots of designer brands, copy or develop styles based on WW2 Para or SAS smocks or even from ships and planes and tailor them to suit adding more pockets or different draw cords. Some use exotic materials like Ventile – costing a fortune! Some of my Ventile coats are the pride of my collection with a high price tag second hand. Ventile the worlds finest 1% cotton, it breaths in hot weather and closers up in the rain becoming waterproof. Something the boffins designed in WW2 to help save down fighter pilots bobbing around in the North Sea.

Scandinavian companies have specialised in these garments from the 50/60’s. We used to call them Cagoules or Cags, usually a longer coat with big pockets and hoods and usually in Red, I’ve a few of these and are ideally for crap days in the farm, walking the dog and walking to work in the winter. As I’ve so many coats, in winter I try to wear a different one a week just to use them up. I used to walk on the dark road to work and back – its fast and dangerous so I’ve used ex army White snow over parkas so I’m seen at night in the lights. This meant I didn’t get to wear my dark coloured coats and now walk through the woods with a torch with no road so colour of coat doesn’t matter.

As I like my vintage clothes you can’t be without a few wax cotton coats and jackets, these are usually a bit smelly but you can ride your vintage motorbike or scooter and look like you’ve stepped back in time and still wear a safety bike jacket underneath.

Now with my collection of old army bikes and my interest in dispatch riders I’ve got coats and jackets all original from England, France, Russia, Germany and Sweden. Not a trend setter but different wherever I turn up – it’s just about – looking right when people stop to look.

And of course I’ve got special coats, jackets and thick jumpers that I go to the pub in, when Alice usually says ‘you got a new coat, you look a right scruff’ but I don’t care, if a coat is comfortable, practical and I feel good in it I’m happy. And if it rains or snows, Alice won’t take the dog out ‘I might get wet’ she will say – where as I can’t wait the more extreme the better and any excuse to wrap up and brave the elements.