Supermarine Cotton is a World War II fabric, highly water resistant, extremely breathable and made of 100% cotton...
For decades it's been obscured from the public, kept alive mainly by demand from a few Air Force units, Antarctic explorers and funnily enough bird watchers, all who have different understandings of its unique properties. Supermarine Cotton stays comfortable under pressure and there is none of that sweaty/clammy feeling you get with GoreTex, and other synthetic "waterproof-breathable" fabrics. It isn't technically "waterproof" by government standards but you can stay dry for hours in the rain wearing it. It's woven from the longest staple Egyptian cotton so it breaks in beautifully. The dense weave combined with the premium fiber results in a fabric that is simultaneously tough and supple.
Historically this fabric is an updated version of Ventile, a fabric the British invented in World War II to keep their pilots alive in the North Sea if they happened to get shot down. Ventile was later used by the British Navy, in Antarctic exploration and by Edmond Hillary during the first ascent of Mount Everest. It was even used to make firehoses and eventually found its way into high-end hiking gear. Since it requires a very dense weave of the most expensive cotton fibers on the market, it never quite broke through into the mainstream and with the advent of GoreTex it faded from the general marketplace. Bird watchers still sought it out since it's significantly quieter than the loud synthetic fabrics that took over, while Antarctic teams prized it for its amazing windproof quality. The main customer of the past few decades however has been various Air Forces who understood just how superior a fabric it is, and are willing to pay for it.
Sourced from Switzerland it differs from traditional Ventile in one important respect, it is treated with a premium durable water resistance (DWR) that is not wax-based. The water resistance in traditional Ventile comes from two factors, the denseness of the weave and the fact that cotton fibers swell up when exposed to moisture. Adding the DWR treatment into the mix results in a significantly superior rain repellant and breathable fabric that far outclasses both the synthetic "waterproof-breathable" fabrics of the world and the heavy, clammy Barbour-style waxed cotton. It looks better, wears better and is dramatically more comfortable.
Sunday, March 20, 2011
Posted by — Barrie Bloor at 9:38 AM