In this article I will take a closer look at a specific style of Mackintosh raincoat: the riding mac. The historical context of the riding mac is closely related to the Mackintosh raincoat, so it is recommended to read my earlier article covering that subject first. Below an advertisement picture published in a horse-riding magazine, showing a proper classic riding mac in the setting it is originally intended for (source unknown).
It was 1823 when Charles Macintosh, a Scottish chemist who had been experimenting with natural rubber, stumbled upon a way to transform rubber into a tar-like substance that could be sandwiched between 2 layers of fabric. After setting up a company to produce the fabric, he started selling it to tailors who could turn it into raincoats. The initial idea was that it would be used for circular capes that stage-coach drivers could wrap around them when it started to rain, but clients started asking for greatcoats and regular raincoats. With tailors complying complaints started coming about leaking materials, as the stitches needed to create the coats would puncture the rubber layer in the fabric resulting in leaks. To protect his reputation Charles Macintosh decided to create his own coats, using a labor-intensive production method that avoided leakages. Below a riding mac produced by London tailor Cordings, both the design and production method haven’t changed over decades.
Different types of raincoats were produced over time, starting with long greatcoats but later military-style trench coats, horseback riding coats, and even shorter riding coats for use in an automobile were added. Today several different historically inspired raincoats are still available from the Mackintosh brand, as well as from other brands that make use of similar materials and a similar labor-intensive production method. Specific styles and colors have seen huge popularity at certain times, while falling out of grace during other periods of time. One style of raincoat, the riding Mac, or riding Mackintosh, will be the focus of this article.
The riding Mac distinguishes itself from other Mackintosh raincoats by certain specific design features that are uniquely related to horseback riding. At first glance it looks quite similar to the trench coat, mostly due to the belted waist, but upon closer inspection you will easily notice what sets these two types of raincoat apart.
The riding mac became popular prior to World War 2, partly riding the coattails of the popularity of the trench coat which was closely associated with the victory of the Great War, and partly as a status symbol to suggest one belonged to the horse-owning class. The appeal of the traditional riding mac in British fashion only started to diminish near the end of the century, even though the trench coat has never lost its general appeal. Below a page of the British Vogue magazine of 1968, showing a model wearing a riding mac as a fashion item, combined with a pair of high boots. The theme of this issue of Vogue is sports clothing as fashion, which explains the saddle, bridle, and the choice of a riding mac over a regular Mackintosh raincoat.
Both the trench coat and the riding mac have a belted waist, flattering the human form, giving especially women a beautiful silhouette while men mostly decide to wear the belt loosely at best. The main purpose of the belt is to keep the coat away from the hands and reigns while riding the horse, as the fabric would otherwise push out when seated in the saddle. Below a lady showing a riding mac while riding, source fetisheyes.com. Imaging how the coat would shape itself if no belt was in place – the utility of the belted waist must be obvious.
More unique design features that are easily recognizable, and that can’t be found in the trench coat or in regular macs, are the large patch pockets with protective flap, the collar which can be turned up and closed off further with a throat tab, and a long center-split at the back of the coat with a button which can be closed when the coat is not used for riding. Below a picture from Cordings, showing the long center-split at the back of the coat which is intended to cover the saddle while riding in the rain.
And a picture from Gekko Rainwear, taken by Keital, of a lady wearing a riding mac with the collar up and the throat tab, the little triangular piece of cloth under the chin, in place to give full protection in heavy rain.
The throat tab is often stored under a folded-down collar or can be attached on the inside of the coat. Below a detail picture of the Weathervain Suffolk riding mac, showing the throat tab attached with 2 buttons on the inside of the coat.
The picture above partly shows another interesting detail setting the riding mac apart from other raincoats: thigh straps. These straps can be attached around the thighs with the intention of keeping the coat in place while riding. This way the legs will stay protected from the rain, even in a gallop. Below a picture of the backing of a riding mac from Gekko rainwear clearly showing the leg, or thigh, straps.
Traditionally the riding mac is available in the colors navy, khaki, and fawn, but it is very well possible less common colors are offered. Below a picture of a yellow riding mac, showing odd colors are being created and can certainly be an interesting option for purchase. The coat is fully buttoned up here, with the collar up and the throat tab attached. Even the lower front button is fastened, giving extra protection for the legs when walking.
The material is normally double textured, meaning the layer of rubber is hidden between two layers of regular material, but in exceptional cases single texture or even SBR is used as a material. By far the most popular color of a riding Mac is fawn, which is often combined with a sulphur yellow lining. Below a picture of GreyFoxBlog, showing a riding mac worn unbuttoned revealing the sulphur-yellow inside.
A common denominator in people who have a passion or fetish for Mackintosh rainwear is a childhood memory with the garment that has made a lasting impression on them. An often mentioned story is a liking for the smell of rubber coming from the coat, the touch of the rubber lining or even outer layer in case of an SBR raincoat, combined with a form of humiliation and or punishment by being made to wear the Mackintosh raincoat all fastened and buttoned up. A parent, in most cases the mother, would demand the child was properly dressed for the weather and having the raincoat on loosely could decrease the life of the material. While it was not common to dress kids in a riding Mac, the choice of this specific type of Mackintosh raincoat would come out of the desire to dress, or be dressed, as strictly as was common in childhood, for which the riding Mac lends itself perfectly. The picture below is a screenshot of a fetisheyes video, showing an SBR riding mac combined with southwester and rubber gloves on a dry day outdoors.
Two parts of a riding Mac are often mentioned specifically in regards to punishment; the belted waist in combination with the straps around the wrists, and the collar which can be turned up and properly fastened with the throat tab. These features press the coat further against the skin and limit the opportunity to get out of it, adding to the feelings of shame and submission of being forced to dress up in a rubber Mackintosh. It were often the men in the Mackintosh Society forcing their female partners to dress up in a rubber Mac, while they themselves were dressed in normal attire, it now seems more common for men wanting to relive the feelings of submissiveness by being dressed up snugly in the rubberized material.
The riding mac is more versatile than just a raincoat that can be used to humiliate the wearer; it is actually very often used to assert dominance when worn by a woman. In this case the emphasis is no longer on the belt and the cuffs closed tightly, or the lack of comfort of having the throat tab under the chin and limiting the movement of your head, but the natural dominance associated with horseback riding which has three pathways. Below a picture of a lady wearing an SBR riding mac, giving a strict eye to the camera while suggestively holding a riding whip.
First of all horseback riding is a relatively expensive sport strongly associated with the upper class. And while riding is more affordable nowadays, as you do not have to own your own horse to be able to take classes, the association with wealth, and therefore power, is still there. Second, to an outsider it might look the rider dominates the horse, which can easily weight 700kg. And while in reality the rider builds up a bond with the horse and only leads it with the smallest movements of the body, the picture of the relatively tiny woman being in control with her spurs and riding whip are easily made. And finally there is the overall look of the rider: often in spotless tight breeches, polished high riding boots, and a perfectly fitting top breathing sportiness as well as elegance, while showing off a perfect figure, beautiful smile, and an impressive riding whip. At least, this is the picture often shown in the media, even though it is highly unrealistic. Below an example of the perfect way riders are depicted in the media, photo source.
While the association of the riding Mac with the fetish community might run deep, there is little to no chance of people making this association in daily life opening the doors to using riding Mac as a fashionable raincoat in daily life. Riding Macs are still produced today, although the pickings are slimmer than several decades ago when there were advertisements galore for custom made and off-the-rack riding Macs. Below a picture of Weathervain tailoring, showing their Suffolk riding mac.
Similarly as a trench coat, the riding Mac is suitable for both men and women and can be combined with both business as well as country attire. Most the of specific features of the riding Mac would only be needed when on a horse, but the details like the leg straps are an interesting eye-catcher or topic starter. Below a picture from Cordings tailoring showing a riding mac without the belted waist in combination with business casual attire.
When purchasing a riding Mac for regular wear, it is recommended to do a fitting first as this style of Mackintosh raincoat is traditionally cut large. A bad fit could ruin the overall look of the coat, bringing up the association of the American police officer in the seventies or the raincoat pervert hiding in the bushes in the eighties. Also keep in mind that a hand-made Mackintosh riding coat will last you for ages, meaning they are quite the investment. I would love to be able to afford one, or at least experience wearing one someday, but the price makes this hard to realize.