Almost every one of the Nordic countries has its own brand of rainwear; a brand that finds its heritage in heavy duty rainwear for the fishing industry in which the country can find some national pride. It is like the raingear represents the harsh conditions and the rough work the country is based upon. Iceland is not an exception. In 1926 Hans Kristjansson started producing heavy oil skins for the fishing industry after he studied the production of rainwear in Norway. His company is now known as 66⁰ North and up till today the company still produces heavy rainwear that is suitable for the roughest of seas.
During the past decades the brand has evolved from producing purely functional rainwear for the fishing industry to a brand that also produces more fashionable raincoats (as pictured below with the Esja raincoat), winter coats, summer coats, mid-layer clothing, and base-layers suitable for Icelandic weather. While the production has moved to Eastern Europe to save on costs, the brand is still immensely popular on Iceland where there are 9 dedicated brand stores located around the island.
The colorful line of heavy duty PVC coated raingear from 66 North is not only seen in the fishing industry anymore, as many people have a rainsuit for functional use outside of the city. The waterproofness of the gear, combined with the sturdiness makes it the perfect outfit for working outdoors or exploring the country on a horse, quad, or looking for whales from a boat.
Similar to how Hunter boots became popular functional wear for the British Glastonbury festival, 66 North raingear has become the unofficial uniform to wear during the Iceland music festival of Þjóðhátíð in the Westman Islands. Expect a large part of the younger generation to wear handmade Icelandic woolen sweaters in combination with bright colored fisherman’s raingear. This combination is not only fashionable, it is often highly recommended to dress this way as the terrain can quickly turn into muddy terrain over the course of the festival.
This Icelandic “party-gear” of rainwear and woolen products has become a sort of tourist souvenir to remember the harsh weather most have experienced at least somewhere during their Iceland trip. For me my orange 66N raingear brings back fond memories of the rapidly changing and totally unpredictable weather I experienced during my trip. In case you forgot to buy some handmade original Icelandic woolen items: you are in luck as you can nowadays purchase these online also. As Iceland is not a cheap country, a smaller item like a woolen hat, mittens, or a headband would fit almost everybody’s budget and is highly functional in any colder climate. Picture below is from PureIceland which sells handmade woolen items online and shows how well the smooth orange PVC can be perfectly combined with fuzzy and textured materials.
The orange line of heavy rainwear, as worn at the festival and in the fishing industry, has become sort of iconic for Iceland and the unpredictable and harsh weather. Photographer Benzo ljósmyndun has even produced several photo series featuring this orange gear in original Iceland settings, underlining the heritage of the brand and the representation it is of Iceland (at least picture 1, 4, 6, and 7 shown here as his work – good chance that when you see any beautiful picture of 66North rainwear, that is not an official promotional picture of the brand, that it is his work).
While the general rainwear produced by 66 North seems a bit overpriced in my view, as most Icelandic products, I do see opportunities for the heavy raingear to reach a higher level of popularity outside the festival goers. The white series of raingear, normally used for the fish processing industry, combines excellently for women in combination with jeans and a pair of rain boots, as shown in the picture below from Benzo. It gives a feminine look, and blends in easily as the raincoat does not stick out as industrial or heavy duty. By going for the anorak, which does not have a zipper, it quickly becomes more interesting giving the outfit an extra twist. Wearing a coat like this, without zipper and in white, looks best in case the look is contrasted by a woolen scarf or a fashionable bag.
For men I would recommend avoiding the white raingear altogether and stick with the more manly green or orange color. Combine this coat with almost any outfit and it will look fine, but extra points when you can turn it into a fashionable combination like pictured below.
The heavy duty series of raingear are much lower priced than the more fashionable raingear, but it is unfortunately hard to come by. In the past it was possible to order it online, but the workwear has been removed from the online shop and now you will need to visit either the Faxafen 12 outlet shop or the Midhraun 11 shop in Reykjavik or the 66N shop in Akureyri.
I am curious if some of my readers have rainwear items from 66 North. Leave a comment and let us know what your thoughts are and if you are happy with your products.