Return of the Mac

Although I am most certainly a follower of Irving Berlin and his music, I must take issue with him on the absurdity of his lyrics. In a particular number;

“Let the rain pitter patter,
But it really doesn’t matter
If the skies are grey.
Long as I can be with you,
It’s a lovely day.”

Irrespective of the company I am keeping, if it is pouring down with rain relentlessly, there is every possibility that I will be visibly, and sorely, vexed if I am not properly equipped. I am a romantic sort but in my opinion, romance has its place; the quiet, warm candlelight of a corner table, for example. Standing out in the rain without proper attire and accessories deadens any beatific feeling I might have had for the world. To me it really does matter that it pitter patters; on days when there is every chance of being absolutely drenched, I always turn to my long rain trench coat and a large umbrella. I haven’t given in to the practice of wearing galoshes as of yet but as my expenditure on shoes rises, surely, I will be seriously considering the possibility.

There is a curious defiance against rainwear and accessories in some quarters. ‘It’s only a bit of water for crying out loud! You don’t think the same thing when you step in the shower.’ Of course not because I know, as do all those who use showers, that when I step from the cubicle, sloshing wet, I will reach for a warm and dry towel which will prevent me from developing hypothermia. When you waltz through the cold and windy streets of London, laughing at those fidgeting and fussing with the paraphernalia of rain-avoidance, you little realise the danger you place yourself in. Whenever I have been stuck without an umbrella, proper coat and means of transportation I have invariably developed a long lasting cold – the unpleasantness will make you wish you had not forced your poor body into a state of such susceptibility.

Raincoats are often divided into two categories – those that are completely waterproof and those that are merely ‘shower proof.’ Waterproof clothing is not easy to find and does not often appear on the shelves of elegant gentleman’s outfitters. The thinking being that a gentleman of proper means is hardly likely to require the same material as a North Sea fisherman when caught in a Regent Street storm; for both aesthetic and practical reasons. However Mackintosh, the British brand that gave the ‘mac’ its name, claim a patent for rubberised waterproof cloth that goes back to 1823. Despite the early failures of the firm, the technique was perfected and Mackintosh today continue to provide excellent, waterproof rainwear for gentlemen.

They might scoff at Burberry, a brand who can only trace their rainwear heritage to 1880, the year they invented gabardine, but Burberry is better credited with providing raincoats of iconic design; particularly the oft-copied trench coat, worn by officers in the soily tunnels of Northern France during the First World War. The trench became popular and was featured prominently in deliciously designed Hollywood Oscar horses like ‘Casablanca’ with Humphrey Bogart and ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ with Audrey Hepburn, worn appropriately in moments where the vulnerability of humanity was most exposed.

Shower proof clothing is easier to find, particularly on the high street; however, I was particularly nonplussed by the wet patches that appeared after a day out in the rain on the lining of a ‘raincoat’ bought from a high street store. Some rainwear will keep the water off and away from clothing underneath if only it is applied lightly. Some cheaper, fashion rainwear is best described as ‘rain resistant’; in such a case, always take an umbrella in addition. The rich putty coloured double breasted raincoat available at Burberry is certainly the product standard, but it’s rather common place and, in my opinion, when entirely wet looks rather like sodden cardboard. Navy blues and blacks are far less common, but the really dandy version is surely the creamy white – perfect for brightening the most frightening of storms.