It has been 9 months since I wrote a post about the Agu Sport rainwear that was introduced in the late 70s in The Netherlands and became extremely popular with over a million rainwear items sold in only a couple of years. Since then I have gotten quite some feedback on this post, but most remarkable was one of my friends pointing out she actually had a rainsuit like that when she was younger. And after some searching through her stuff she came up with an original Agu rainsuit which must have been decades old. This gives me the unique opportunity to review a little piece of Dutch rainwear history.
The rainsuit is solid bright red which was one of the first versions introduced. At a later stage Agu started producing two-tone rainsuit also, including a red and black combination, but the sales numbers of the two-tone rainsuits have never reached the popularity of the original colors. At first glance the rainsuit seems to be in pristine condition, but a look at the inside reveals some quality problems with the taping of the seams. The sheets of fabric were sown together with sowing machines leaving tiny openings from the stitching for water to come in, and this was solved by gluing a tape over the seams. With this tape coming loose the rainsuit basically lost part of its waterproofness which was the reason it ended up in the back of a closet. Below the white rubber lining around the pocket of the jacket with the taping still intact.
The rainsuit is made out of rubberized nylon. The nylon and rubber layer have been welded or glued together and the fabric feels like a single layer. The outside nylon is smooth but that pales in comparison with the inner lining which is completely made out of white rubber. In the picture below you can see the rubber lining with red stitching over 2 panels with the waterproof taping being gone. The red markings (W 41 23) on the white rubber are probably fabric codes indicating the manufactering date or batch number.
The suit feel very light and flexible which makes perfect sense as this rainsuit is intended for cyclists who need freedom of movement when wearing it and a package as small and light as possible when bringing it along. Every rainsuit was sold with a small pouch for storage making it easier to take along. Below a recent internet find, from an Agu rainsuit fanpage on Facebook, of a solid yellow Agu original rainsuit and a two-tone rainsuit which was produced from a later date onwards with a beautiful glistering in the sun.
The outside nylon layer is supposed to be water repellent making the raindrops roll off the rainsuit, but this feature diminishes over time. And while this slightly influences the looks of the rainsuit, it becomes a bit less shiny and might change in color in the rain, it is no real problem as the waterproofness comes from the rubber inner lining. This lining also makes putting the rainsuit on extremely easy as you just slip into the pants and jacket with the rubber barely giving any friction. But all this comes at a price: the rubber lining might keep the rain out, it also keeps the heat and sweat in.
Especially when riding a bicycle you easily get warm in one of these rainsuits and while there are some design features to keep the wearer cool, more about that later, an often heard complaint is that while it keeps the rain out you still end up wet from the body heat condensing against the fabric. I especially noticed this when wearing the rainsuit on a warmer day when you are not completely covered up and your skin is in direct contact with the rubber lining. It won’t take long before you feel the condensation building up. Below a picture of a thin fabric lining placed around the upper back to assist ventilation which is a good idea but it barely helps.
The overall quality of the Agu original rainsuit seems to be excellent, especially for its time. Even though the rainsuit is several decades old the material is still intact and there is basically no wear-and-tear visible besides the tapings coming lose; this seems like a little detail but it is quite important for a rainsuit to stay waterproof. Part of the reason of the almost pristine condition this rainsuit is in is that is has been stored properly in a cool, dark and dry place. Especially the rubber lining of the suit is sensitive to heat and sunlight so if you leave it in a bike storage during the summer the quality will diminish quicker.
This rainsuit has been designed for use on a bicycle so you can expect several design features especially for this purpose. For example the elastic bands that go under your shoes to keep the pants in place when peddling a bike, or the elastic end on the sleeves that need to keep the water out when you hold your steering wheel while riding. The reflective stripes around the arms are to help make you more visible in traffic, something we now take for granted on rainwear but it was a novel idea back in the 70s and 80s.
What is seriously lacking in design is the hood in my opinion. When you use the drawstrings to fasten the hood around your face your vision is serious limited to the sides. And especially for cyclist this is extremely important as you need to look left and right when biking around. Another often heard complaint is the length of the pants. With your legs peddling around, the bottom of your pants would often come out under the rainpants even though the elastic bands were supposed to prevent this. Agu possibly did not make the rainpaints longer as non-cyclists would not appreciate pants touching the ground and wearing down fast.
Finally the ventilation is a real issue. The suit has 2 small holes under the arms to let out warm air and a ventilation flap over the back, but neither helps much to keep the wearer cool. The rubber lining and overall flexibility of the material does not help much either as it starts to stick to your skin as soon as it gets wet and the ventilation features are rendered useless.
The double zipper which was intended to keep the rain out from the jacket’s weakest point does its work excellently though. At no point did I even notice rain passing the first zipper, let alone it would make its way passed both zippers. This double zipper is now also one of the iconic parts of the Agu rainsuit making it stand apart from other rainwear.
There is not much I can tell about the sizing of this rainsuit that I have not told already. The rainsuit I had to review was a size S which is basically a size too small for me and if I had to buy this suit in the store I would certainly take a size M.
PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
The Agu original rainsuit is not for sale anymore in stores as the production must have stopped about 25 years ago. But since rainwear is not worn that often you can still see relatively pristine rainwear from this time period being sold on second-hand websites. Back in the day these rainsuits sold for about 80 guilders which equals around 80 euros now adjusted for inflation, an original rainsuit in good condition and a popular size sells for much more second-hand.
The availability of Agu rainwear was tremendous in the seventies and eighties as this was by far the most popular rainsuit and it was available at almost every bike shop in the country. Needless to say they have been sold out since decades and you need to have some luck to come across one nowadays.
Liking or disliking the overall look of this rainsuit is personal, all I can say is that with the bright colors and overall shine the look of this rainwear is quite vintage. Compare this to the remake that Agu has introduced recently where they basically used the same design but with the adjustment of the colors they created a much more modern looking rainsuit that still relates to the original rainwear of decades ago. The overall popularity of this rainsuit in the past does show that the design was absolutely stunning and marvelous for its time.
This rainsuit is an absolute beauty, especially given how old it is. But while it takes a special place in the “Dutch rainwear history”, it is not of this time anymore. Especially the rubber coating makes this rainsuit very unpractical for daily use. The remake of this rainsuit on the other hand simply solves this by using breathable materials instead. This “minor” change pulls this vintage rainwear to present time again which is confirmed by the test results of an independent Dutch consumer test site which made the remake of the iconic Agu rainsuit the winner of the rainsuit test of 2018.
But all this will not take anything away for the people who have a more nostalgic feeling with this classic rainwear. The small impracticalities are easily compensation for by the overall look and feel for this rainwear. My suspicion is that this has partly to do with the rubber lining of this rainsuit that makes it practically a complete rubber suit, or the ventilation is really so bad that some prefer to wear as little as possible under it.
This rainsuit will go back to its owner soon, but first I will need it for some more pictures the coming period. Hopefully I can update this review a little over time with new pictures and in case you have questions or remarks hit me up with an email or leave a message here. But please no enquiries to purchase this rainsuit as it is not mine and I am not planning to broker a deal. Feedback will be appreciated.