Once more it is time to take a deep-dive into a type of rainwear that has a small but dedicated following, a colorful history, and is, luckily for some, still available today for very reasonable prices. In the UK and France people refer to this lightweight type of rainwear as a “cagoule”, while in other places in the world it might be better known as a windbreaker or a Kway where the brand name K-Way has become synonymous with this particular raincoat. A cagoule is basically a weatherproof raincoat (full-zipper), or anorak (half-zip), often made out of nylon, with hood attached, and possibly reaching your knees. A cagoule can normally be rolled up into a very small package meaning it is easy to take along on trips, especially compared to heavy-duty raingear most often discussed on this site, and extremely practical for when travelling. In many cases matching overpants, or waterproof trousers, could be purchased turning it into a complete lightweight rainsuit. Below three Peter Storm cagoules hanging, and one packed in the hand showing how easy it is to take along.
As this is not about a specific brand but a type of rainwear I will be going over my regular parts: history, fashion, fetish, and current day. If you are only interested in a certain part you can skip the rest, but I would always recommend reading it start to finish for a more complete understanding. For those mostly interested in the fetish part I would recommend reading about Mackintosh raincoats, Wellington rubber boots, and Sou’wester rain hats also to get a complete background. There will certainly be some overlap between that chapter in this writing and previous writings, but I will have to be repetitive since not everyone will read everything on this site.
The general focus of this article will be on the British market; in case other markets are being discussed it will be mentioned specifically.
While the very first cagoule was produced in the early 1960s, the story of this peculiar type of rainwear actually starts decades earlier with the invention of its main component: nylon. It was at the DuPont laboratory in Delaware where brilliant scientist Wallace Hume Carothers discovered a silky thermoplastic polymer that was soon used for making… toothbrushes. Below an advertisement dating back to 1938 trying to sell you Dr. West’s nylon toothbrushes for 25 dollar cents apiece.
Only a year later the production of nylon had made great leaps forward already and the stretchy, durable, washable, and dryable material was now available in large rolls as fabric. It was introduced in the 1939 New York World’s Fair and almost immediately became the most sought-after material for women’s stockings as the advantages over silk stockings were numerous. Below a DuPont advertisement for nylon stockings explaining why they are a superior choice over silk stockings.
Nylon was a great source of income for DuPont and interest in the material started to increase around the world. In the UK it was ICI that acquired a license to start manufacturing nylon, but they soon realized that expertize in both production of the fabric as well as manufacturing of clothing items was lacking. A partnership with Courtaulds was set up in 1940 and production started with American-imported machines under the name British Nylon Spinners. The timing could not have been better: Britain had already declared war on Nazi Germany and the supply of silk disappeared when Japan started an aggressive expansion in the Pacific. Access to nylon was quickly limited as all supplies were needed for the war effort. Parachutes, airplane cords and ropes are made of nylon and barely any of the production reached the civilian markets anymore. A similar thing happened in the USA, right after Pearl Harbour took place in 1941 and America declared war on the Axis powers. After only a short period of access to the far-superior material for stockings, British and American women would have to sit out the war before they can give up their old stockings that did not stretch, were a challenge to clean and ripped easily. Below women working on the production of nylon parachutes during the Second World War.
When the war was over and rations were eased, the production of nylon stockings quickly picked up and stores received their first batches of new supplies. It only took days, or sometimes hours, for the total stock to be sold out again. The situation sometimes became so dare that “nylon riots” broke out in the queues for shops where thousands of women were waiting to purchase new stockings. In Pittsburgh the police had to take action when 40,000 people lined up for over a mile trying to get their hands on only 13,000 pairs of nylon stockings just supplied to a shop. The limited supply and high demand quickly resulted in a black-market for stockings, where supplies were held back in factories, or stockings with flaws were not destroyed but repacked and moved out of the back door, only to be sold on the streets for much higher prices. A British Pathé newsreel showing black-market sellers of nylon stockings on the streets of London can be found here. Below a picture of women shopping for nylon stockings.
Naturally the managers at DuPont were eager to increase their income from synthetic fibers even further and started producing several other synthetic fabrics like Dacron, Orlon, Bri-Nylon, and Tricel. And while DuPont created multiple high-end fabrics which were used by Coco Chanel and Christian Dior for their exclusive couture, it was the less sophisticated Bri-nylon that stood at the cradle of the cagoule. Below an advertisement for pyjamas made out of Bri-nylon.
Bri-nylon was used for a wide range of fashion, and non-fashion, products from socks, pyjamas, sweaters, and pants, to carpets and car upholsteries. Similar to regular nylon used for stockings, Bri-nylon was durable, comfortable to wear, and a reflection of everything the period of the fifties and sixties stood for: rebuilding the world after the war, new technologies available to many, and general optimism. Nylon clothing was seen as fashionable and new applications were added to the long list of products already containing nylon. Below an advertisement from 1965 showing a carpet which contains Bri-nylon.
Former Royal Marine Noel Bibby was one of those people who found a new application for nylon, or Bri-nylon more specifically, when he created the very first cagoule in the early 1960s under the brand name Peter Storm. The word cagoule was based on the French word for a cowl or monk’s hood, which had similarities with the over-the-head design of the first nylon rainwear he created. The original designs had an integrated hood with drawstrings, were packable, had elastic cuffs, and were only half-zip (over-the-head design). Below a modern Peter Storm cagoule which is, except for the materials used, very close to the vintage cagoules from the sixties.
Improvements to the cagoule were made over time when the potential of the cagoule became evident and several other brands started to produce this nifty piece of rainwear. The Henri Lloyd brand was the first to include non-corrosive zipper made of nylon, they were the first to introduce velcro closures in waterproof garments, and they were the first to use hand taping of seams to increase waterproofness. The range of products also increased over time: besides the over-the-head design also full-zip cagoules came to the market, proofed pants in the same materials were added, and more colours and designs became available. Below a page from a vintage Peter Storm catalogue showing a range of lightweight waterproof articles.
To make the nylon rainwear waterproof different types of proofing agents were used. The Peter Storm brand relied mostly upon PU, or polyurethane, most notably with their “100 series” of sailing smocks and their 101 cagoule which was promoted initially by retailers Brigham and Tiso. Other manufacturers, like Henri Lloyd and G&H, relied upon neoprene coated nylon as the base for their garments which resulted in a quicker build-up of condensation under the rainwear. Below a detail picture of a vintage Henri Lloyd “Viking” smock, from the seventies, showing the still intact rubber lining (photo credit “Anorak”).
The focus of competition quickly moved towards breathability and materials were improved upon and changed for better alternatives. Bri-nylon was changed first for nylon and later for polyamide, the waterproofing materials changed several times to. It was the Peter Storm brand that took the lead here with their 2.8MVT material: in a test setup they were able to transmit 2.8 litre of water vapour through a 1 square metre of fabric in 24 hours, while the fabric was 100% waterproof. Photocredit PeterStormCagoule on Flickr.
Other producers quickly followed and the race continued through the seventies and eighties, till Gore-Tex was introduced which was basically superior to the proofed nylon is almost every way except for the price.
The cagoule was never intended as a fashionable raincoat for the general population. The main target audience for the Peter Storm brand, which invented the cagoule, were mountaineers who were looking for light-weight but waterproof gear to keep them dry during their climbs. The first Peter Storm cagoules were therefore mostly sold at specialist mountaineering stores. Below an old advertisement perfectly summarizing what Peter Storm stood for.
Another brand that became very much sought after for their high-quality cagoules was Henri Lloyd, and their products were mostly aimed at boat owners and hobbyist sailors looking for protective rainwear that was less expensive and oppressive than thick PVC raingear. To buy a Henri Lloyd cagoule you best searched at watersport and boating shops; not the fashion streets in the city centres.
During the early sixties the popularity of outdoor and outward bound activities steadily increased. More and more people ventured outdoors to enjoy the nature and life in general. So far the choice of gear for nature walks and climbing was limited to used cast-off workwear or old army surplus dating from the 1940s to 1950s, but none of these products were designed with the comfort of the wearer in mind: they were crudely made to keep the wearer protected and alive. For leisure activities they were not well fitted, and demand increased for the lightweight waterproof rainwear that could be folded into a tiny package and carried in your backpack. Below a vintage Henri Lloyd mountaineering ad from the seventies.
The cagoule became the rainwear of choice for almost everybody who had outdoor activities in mind. At affordable prices they became popular with kids and parents alike and sales went through the roof. The French brand K-Way, which was introduced in 1965, sold an amazing 250,000 cagoules in France in 1966 alone indicating how popular the cagoule was around that time. And that was in a time when nylon as high-fashion had lost its popularity already: the artificial and shiny look of nylon fabrics had lost their attractiveness on the runway but the masses took their chance to purchase these modern looking raincoats for affordable prices. Below a curent set of Kway rainwear, picture from the Kway Instagram page.
The popularity of cagoules stayed for the years to come, but with sales staying at roughly the same levels the craze cooled down. The next time the nylon cagoule reached a new impulse of high demand was in the late 70s and early 80s, but not from a demographic that was expected to specifically search for lightweight rainwear. Picture below is from the movie Awaydays (2009).
In the 70s it was Liverpool F.C. that performed extraordinary well on the soccer field and the British fans got a chance to follow their favourite club to Europe where they were exposed to fashions not widely available in Britain. A new youth culture was quickly born where soccer fans combined a taste for fighting while being dressed to impress and dominate the fans of the opposing team with “one-upmanship”. While most football fans dressed in the shirts of their favourite teams and waved flags showing who they supported, the hardcore supporters were often referred to as “casuals” as they avoided gear that gave away which team they supported. Instead they had their own uniform: a cagoule, straight jeans, and white Adidas sport shoes. Especially the green and blue Peter Storms were popular, with occasionally someone wearing a bright colored one to stand out in the crowd. Below a videostill from the movie Awaydays (2009) showing a group of hooligans getting ready to intimidate and fight.
The sudden popularity of especially Peter Storm cagoules with the “Casuals” lead to some situations where specialist mountaineering shops were “invaded” by young and aggressive looking guys who asked for lightweight raincoats which were normally sold to nature hikers and young boys going on camping trips. They would have never understood where the demand came from but were happy to sell everything they had available. Again the movie Awaydays (2009) below.
The cagoule as the standard look for terrace one-upmanship faded out slowly during the eighties, partly due to other brands taking over this role and partly due to the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 where 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death during a FA-cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest, which ushered in the end of terrace culture when the police started to clamp down on soccer related violence.
A fetishist is someone with an erotic or intimate interest in specific non-genital body parts, fabrics, fluids, costumes, or other non-human objects. This can range from very innocent sounding things like piercings, hair, shoes, or lingerie, to the more extreme and sometimes scary items like rubber suits, gasmasks, and items that limit the movement or comfort of the wearer with locks, straps, or ropes. Rainwear might not be regularly mentioned as a common fetish, but it could be classified in the same range as fetishes involving specific materials like leather, rubber, vinyl, and other shiny and mesmerizing materials. The common denominator with these fetishes often involves 4 out of 5 senses: it is a love for the feel, look, smell, and the sound these materials produce. Below a detail picture of 3 Peter Storm cagoules showing both the nylon outside and smooth inside. Picture from the Flickr profile of trackies.co.uk.
It is unclear where a fetish comes from exactly: even the question if a person is born with a fetish or if it develops over time is still unanswered and might be debated for a long time to come. But to me that is not the most interesting question. Compare it to someone’s sexuality: the question is not where it comes from as we should accept it the way it is and not judge someone based on it, the question is much more how it manifests itself over time and how people can best accept and live with a fetish. Below a Kway knee-length cagoule in blue with a matching Kway overall below it: wearing multiple layers might indicate there is more going on than a need to be protected against the rain.
For the next part I will go through the “five phases of kink identity development”, from Samuel Hughes, which he modelled on the Cass model of coming out. I’ve looked at this model previously when writing about sou’wester rain hats but want to use it here again. And instead of just naming and explaining the 5 phases I will try to link them to specific, but anonymous, comments found online about cagoules and the unpublished work of “Anorak”, who has reached out and shared his “Waterproof memoirs”, which describes his development of the love for rainwear in general and cagoules specifically.
Phase 1 – Early encounters
Many might expect that fetishes develop during later stages of life: especially when you take a peek at what is happening in a certain fetish scenes and all participants fall into certain age groups. It could also make sense if a fetish was a conscious choice: once you have experimented with, and maybe got a bit bored of, vanilla intercourse you move on to spice things up and look for more intense and extreme pleasures.
Reality is completely different though: most people who have a fetish have indicated they felt a fascination to a certain body part or material at a very early age, although they did not understand their fascination back then at that age. These early encounters often take place before the age of 10 and are more often than not without any sexual arousal. Below a simple picture of some latex fabric: even without having special feelings for latex the sight, feel, and smell alone will bring out a reaction for many already.
In the case of rainwear in general or cagoules more specifically, these early encounters can easily take place at any time where someone in the family has purchased some rainwear or you come across other people wearing gear in public. With the invention of the cagoule in the early 1960s its popularity quickly skyrocketed in Britain and chances were that everyone came into contact with this lightweight waterproof material at some point during that time. Below a mesmerizing picture of two ladies in nylon rainwear.
But even in case a person never came across a cagoule or any other item of rainwear, it is still possible to discover a fetish for raingear at a later age that has its roots in their childhood. Here it is important to realize that a fetish often works with several senses: how it looks, smells, feels, and sounds. For example it was pretty common to use rubber mats and sheets around small children to keep them and their mattresses dry in case of accidents a couple of decades ago. This has resulted in many young children having seen, smelled, felt and heard rubber materials which they might explore further, at a later age, in the form of rubberized rainwear or rubber clothing as it can give similar levels of comfort.
Especially the earliest cagoules often left an impression on people as the nylon material was relatively noisy, moving around in it gave a distinctive “swishy” sound, the outer material was shiny and smooth, and the backing often had a distinct smell because of the materials used. For example the Peter Storm cagoules had a PU, or polyurethane, backing to turn them waterproof while Henri Lloyd made use of neoprene rubber which added a bit of thickness to the cagoule and made the material slightly stiffer. Both materials shared several properties, like how silky smooth it felt to the touch and the distinct smell. Above a picture of the label of a Peter Storm cagoule clearly indicating the use of polyurethane to waterproof the raincoat.
Phase 2 – Exploration with self
This phase mostly speaks for itself where kinky people start exploring their interests and fascinations by themselves. This often involves masturbation, fantasizing, and exploring material sensations on their body. Obviously this stage can be experienced more intensely if one has access to the materials of their liking, for example when someone in the same household has a cagoule or when your parents decided to buy one for you as you might need it for a camping trip or the commute to and from school. Having direct access is not necessary though, as one can limit themselves to improvising with similar materials, can make use of their fantasy, or seeks out erotic media. Below a picture of the now defunct website shinynylon.net, showing a shiny nylon Adidas suit. This paysite used to host a wide range of pictures and videos of women showing of nylon gear.
During this phase one often finds out which items work and don’t work for them personally. Many fans of cagoules indicate they like specific brands and certain production years. The brands that produce, or have produced, the most popular cagoules are: K Way, Peter Storm, Regatta, Henri Lloyd, and Adidas. Regarding production years the general rule of thumb is that older, more vintage, gear is preferred over the newer gear. Especially the older cagoules have the softest rubberized backing, the strongest rubber smell, and are the noisiest to wear when the nylon crinkles with every move, especially in the cold. Many other materials, even when they look very similar, are often of no interest as a fetish is very personal, can be very specific, and often involves 4 out of 5 senses instead of just the looks. Below a nylon workout outfit, which is very similar to nylon rainwear but just not the same for some fetishists.
This phase typically happens between the ages 5 and 14 when puberty starts to set in, but it can take place even before that with mostly exploring the material sensations on the body. For most this is a phase with a lot of absolute highs: the first time to experiment with wearing a cagoule against the naked skin, the first time to add a pair of matching waterproof pants, the first time to have the opportunity to try out the outfit in the shower, the first time to be home alone and enjoy their interests more freely. Below a sexy young lady wearing a shiny nylon outfit with little under it.
It is also a time of keeping their interests a secret: studying the way a cagoule has been put away so it can be carefully put back after use as to not raise any suspicion. Secretly sneaking out of bed at night to try on a cagoule only to come back under the blanket and being too scared to move for in case someone hears the noises the cold nylon might make. And of course the situations where it is clear a cagoule would be perfectly normal to wear, but trying not to sound too eager when someone suggests you might want to put on your rainwear before going out to stay dry.
Phase 3 – Evaluation
The evaluation phase often takes places around the ages 11 to 14 years old and can overlap with the exploration of self phase. It is a phase of realizing how important rainwear is for you, while at the same time noticing this is not a feeling shared by many others. While before you were mostly focused on your own pleasures, you now start to evaluate how this might affect your further life and relationships. At first you might have had a fear of being caught and being denied pleasurable times with a cagoule, you now start to worry about being outed as someone who is a fetishist and losing all your friends and relationships. Add the normal difficulties of puberty and fluctuations in hormonal levels, and it quickly becomes a rollercoaster of emotions with very pleasurable highs filled with comfort and lust, followed by very deep lows with feelings of awkwardness and shame coupled with guilt and embarrassment. Below two attractive young ladies who were featured on the long gone website newrainwear.de, showing of their Kway nylon gear: they clearly feel comfortable in their gear.
An often described part of this phase are periods of pushing ones feelings away, only to later succumb again and indulge in the fetish. Many fetishists have gone through phases where they decided they wanted to “be normal” and threw away their complete collection of gear, only to start building up again weeks or months later as they failed at not being aroused by it anymore. Below some playing around in nylon rainwear combined with a pair of Hunter rainboots.
Notice that the age range given for this phase more indicated when evaluation starts; in many cases it can continue for years to follow till one completely accepts or denies this fetish.
Phase 4 – Finding others
In phase 4 the kinky person starts to realize there are, or there might be, other people like them, or at least people with similar interests in sort of similar things. In this phase, which often takes place after the age of 11, they will start to actively search for finding others with shared interests to fulfil their very human tendency to find their tribe. The age description of “after the age of 11” is very wide and depends on both how quickly the kinky person develops and how accessible information about certain fetishes is. A few decades ago it would be extremely difficult to find out there are other people interested in rainwear – at best you would come across a small advertisement in a newspaper from which you could purchase some fetish-related items only to be further directed to a magazine covering this specific subject (see my earlier writing about Mackintosh raincoats if you want to read more about rainwear-specific magazines and communities). While today one could easily go to any social media platform and at least get a hint that there are other people interested in the same garments and materials: they might even explicitly mention it or their profile will be filled with pictures and stories about Mackintosh rainwear, rubber boots, or cagoules leaving little doubt it is more than a general interest. Below a cagoule combined with waterproof trousers, rubber boots, rubber gloves, and some mud. It becomes pretty clear this outfit was picked with a purpose.
Part of this stage is also to develop resilience against kink-related stigma. Where you would have felt all alone in the world, you now find out that there are more people sharing your fascinations and there is nothing to be ashamed of. Once you entered a certain sub-culture it becomes very likely your view of what is acceptable starts to shift just because of the reactions to certain behaviours of other members of that same community. See it as a sort of Overton-window: with people pushing the boundaries and not getting negative feedback, the boundaries slowly move outwards. Important here is of course to follow your own interests and explore at your own speed, being a member of a certain group might result in pressure to push your boundaries and go further than you are ready for.
Phase 5 – exploration with others
The final phase of kink identity development is exploration with others. This can either mean that you try finding someone within your sub-culture to meet in real-life, or try to introduce your kink to your existing or future partner. For many this is a difficult step: sharing your fetish makes you extremely vulnerable and opens you up for ridicule. There are several ways to approach this in such a way that it limits the possible negative consequences: for example bringing up your interest in certain rainwear items by indicating you heard other people like it and you might want to explore it. Another way is one specifically related to rainwear that is still being worn in general: just get your partner to wear it to protect against the rain and work from there with attention and slowly escalating physical contact. In that respect it is easier to have a strong liking for rainwear, something that is relatively easily available and innocent to own, than a fetish for more extreme gear like heavy rubber suits combined with an integrated gas mask. Below a picture of a pair of sexy nylon shorts, while this might be heaven for a nylon fetishist, it will be widely accepted as looking attractive meaning breaking to your partner you find this arousing will not come as a huge shock.
Needless to say that the phases above are more a general framework many people will go through, but it does not mean everyone who has a fetish goes to these same phases at the same speed. Especially the last phase, exploration with others, is something that is not always reached: sometimes by choice and sometimes by a lack of finding willing partners.
While the first cagoule dates from the early 1960s, and this piece of lightweight rainwear has gone through up and downs, the cagoule is still available these days. Frankly, the modern cagoule resemble the vintage cagoule pretty accurately, but only now presented in more modern and better breathable materials. The French brand K Way has had a steady demand over the past decades and the overall design of their current range is almost identical to what they produced in 1965.
The features that made the cagoule popular in the sixties and seventies are still relevant today. A cagoule is not only wind and waterproof; it is also very easy to carry around and relatively cheap to purchase. Modern reincarnations of some of the top brands are priced anywhere between 20 UK Pounds up till 99 UKP for the K Way Claude 3.0 breathable tear-proof nylon ones. Below a screenprint of the Peter Storm website showing a cagoule on sale for only 16 GBP.
Below two advertisement pictures of the Claude 3.0 cagoules: they are so thin you can easily wear a bunch of them at the same time.
Besides the practical advantages there is also still the link with street culture which makes a cagoule an interesting piece of rainwear. Its simplicity and the popularity the Peter Storm cagoules had with English soccer hooligans in the late seventies and early eighties brings some history to this rainwear. This was further highlighted in the movie Awaydays, released in 2009 from director Pat Holden, which gives an impression of football violence, one-upmanship, and comradery under young British lads interested in fashion and violence. Warning, the movie might be hard to follow without subtitles. Below two pictures of modern Peter Storm cagoules, introduced shortly after release of the movie Awaydays.
Besides the UK and some other countries in Europe where the cagoule is still relatively popular, like France and Italy, it are some of the richer Asian countries where there is demand for these typical British rainwear items.
Countries like Korea and Japan have brand stores of K Way selling lots of cagoules. The attraction of the cagoule in these regions is probably a combination of the historical popularity of the cagoule in Britain, the possibilities of heavy rain coming up suddenly requiring people to bring their raingear with them on every outing, and the often moist climate that makes wearing thicker rainwear impractical.
In general a cagoule is not only a very practical piece of rainwear, it also has an interesting history, a dedicated fan base, and a beautiful simplistic design making it a timeless piece of rainwear. Below a great looking shiny Nike cagoule followed by two classical looking modern Peter Storm cagoules shown in a very attractive way.
- Shinysports forum
- Smithsonian Magazine about the history of nylon
- Wikipedia page on Peter Storm
- Wikipedia page on Henri Lloyd
- Wikimili page about the cagoule
- Peter Storm official website
- Blog.size on the Peter Storm brand
- Proper Magazine on the 60th anniversary of Peter Storm
- Broadly Boats News on Henri Lloyd
- Kway America website
- Flashbak on the history of Bri-nylon
- One-upmanship blog about Kooligans (cagoule-hooligans)
- Herald Scotland covering the fashion and violence of “Casuals”
- Scottsmenwear blog about Peter Storm cagoules
- Shinynylonarts paysite
- Fetish memoirs paysite
- Rainbound paysite
- A blog dedicated to cagoule fetish
- Outdoorgearcoach about the development of waterproof materials
- Next.liberation about the Kway 3.0
- Development of kink identity
And finally a downloadable copy of “My Waterproof Memoirs” (2010) by “Anorak”, who contacted me with the idea to write about cagoules and basically shared his complete discovery of his fondness of cagoules from age 3 onwards with these memoirs. To whoever is interested, you can download the 51-page memoirs here, and can contact him directly under username “Anorak” on Regnfrakker.dk.