My relationship with rainwear has evolved over time. Where it started as a purely innocent experience at a very young age, it turned into a love-hate relationship associated with highs of pleasure as well as moments of self-doubt and shame, to where it is now: a passion that I feel brings so much enjoyment and makes my life so much more interesting.
The earliest memories relating to rainwear mostly involve dressing up with any rainwear I was able to find. These experiences were simple play-pretend of being an adult and enjoying the look and feelings of putting the gear on. There are also snippets of memories of me playing in the sink with a small model of a rubber rain boot, which must have either been a promotional item or part of the outfit of a doll, where I slowly raised the water level till the boot would flood. Nothing more really happened; I just played around and enjoyed it innocently.
Those feelings would become less innocent over time: the smooth feeling of the material against my skin and the tantalizing rustle it made when I moved around in it became more special. It is hard to put a date on it, but I must have been somewhere in my early teens. I remember I had a relatively thin blue rainsuit which, with hindsight, was probably made of some nylon material, with a pleasant, possibly rubberized, backing. It was stored somewhere in the back of my closet and I have no memories of actually wearing it in the rain at any point. It was there for in case I needed it, but I only ever needed it for things it was not made for.
Those feelings for rainwear, and the way I enjoyed it, made it a loaded subject. It even felt unthinkable to consider wearing it out in public; it would be too embarrassing as if somebody would immediately call me out for liking it too much. When it rained, and it regularly does in The Netherlands, I would simply wear my regular coat, which was mildly waterproof at best, and end up with wet jeans at middle school like so many other kids who were all “too cool” for rainwear.
Those years I always had an eye out for rainwear in shops. Bicycle shops would normally have a huge collection of rainwear available with sometimes a mannequin geared up in the window. But the gear that really caught my attention was of a different order: the thick, uncomfortable, bright yellow PVC rainwear sold in hardware stores. The only people wearing such gear would be brick layers and construction people, but every time we visited a hardware store I could not help myself and walk around a few times to run my fingers past the material of the rainwear hanging there.
It took me so long to build up the courage to buy one. Only after having passed the store several times, looking through the window to see if it was not too busy and trying to get my heartrate under control, I stepped in and immediately went to the spot where the suits were racked. I quickly grabbed one in the smaller size and took it to the register trying to keep my cool. As I paid I remember the guy behind the counter folding up the suit mentioning to his colleague that I was not the target audience for the gear, but at that moment I couldn’t care less as the prospect of having this suit outweighed all the temporary discomfort. With the plastic bag in my hand I walked out of the store; blood rushing through my veins hoping I would not come across anybody I knew who would ask what I had just bought. Wearing it felt like heaven. The smooth yellow material, the noises it made when moving around in it, and how I would work up a sweat quickly with the jacket all zipped up while lying under the blankets. I fantasized about joining the youth fire brigade, having to gear up for exercises, and of course being the only girl in the group. The suit was the ultimate rainwear for me at time, but also the gear I was most ashamed of having and enjoying.
Acceptance of my interest in rainwear started developing when I moved to a large city to study. During the introduction week at university the dean gave a short speech pointing out that there were no more classes but only lectures, no more teacher but only professors, and no more homework but only assignments. You were free to skip classes, not hand in assignments, or miss exams completely. That moment it dawned upon me: we were adults now and there was no need to justify myself to anybody, except myself, anymore. If I enjoyed rainwear then that is all on me, and none of your business.
A trip to Iceland sealed that mindset. It was my first international trip without parental supervision, and the perfect circumstances to gear up in rainwear with the treacherous weather there. I purchased a bright orange heavy-duty PVC rainsuit from a local store at the spot and pushed every feeling of shame away. This was what I would wear, no matter the reactions. And to my surprise, and maybe also relief, nobody really seemed to notice or care. The whole experience of enjoying wearing it daily, and not receiving any negative feedback, was a huge confidence builder. From then on I stopped feeling ashamed of wearing rainwear and actually started to enjoy it.
And now I am here, going through my twenties, graduated, and working a regular job. I have a website about rainwear which takes me a lot of time and effort, but has brought me so many interesting contacts, perspectives, and enjoyment. I wear rubber boots daily on hikes through nature, I try to time going out to let it coincide with rain so I can completely gear up, and I am using the internet to explore my own feelings better, see what others are doing, and get inspiration where I want to take my experimenting. My relationship with rainwear has evolved over time, and I am looking forward to discovering where it will lead me next.