The word Friesennerz became so commonplace in Germany in the sixties and seventies that the word is still used today and can refer to any type of raincoat, even though the word originally referred to a specific style of reversible raincoats introduced in 1965 by the Danish company Jeantex. Ironically the raincoats were first called “oil coats” (Ölzeug), while these raincoats were not made waterproof the old-fashioned way by impregnating them with linseed oil as was common at the start of the 20th century. Below a PVC coated Friesennerz as movie still from a clip on sexyrainwear.
It was Jan E. Ansteen Nielsson who started the Jeantex company (a combination of his initials plus “tex”) in 1958 in the small Danish town of Horve. From there he designed and produced rainwear for mainly the fishing industry; think heavy-duty raincoats, pants, and hats with a wide cut and in bright colours for safety. Over time the focus slowly moved to more general use of the rainwear he produced, partly due to his own enjoyment of cycling and the need to have proper raingear to overcome the local Danish weather. In 1965 he designed and produced the first Friesennerz raincoat. Picture below from Ebay.
The origins in commercial fishing were clearly visible in the design of the raincoat: the straight cut, its length almost reaching the knees, the bright yellow colour which was a safety feature to increase visibility of sailors in case they fell overboard, and an oversized hood giving protection against the rain while not limiting visibility. A unique fashionable feature was added though: the raincoat was reversible meaning the wearer could chose to turn the coat inside out showing the blue viscose lining, practically turning the Friesennerz raincoat into a regular coat. Below a picture by Schneehase17 showing 4 original Jeantex raincoats with the blue viscose lining visible. The most left coat is white with blue which never became as popular as the yellow with blue combination.
The Friesennerz raincoat was weatherproof due to the yellow coating made from synthetic rubber. The choice of using rubber was an obvious one due to the waterproof nature of the material and the fact that the most popular raincoats in Germany at that time, the Klepper raincoat, had a rubber backing as well. The German population was used to rubberized rainwear and associated it with quality and guaranteed waterproofness. And while the Klepper raincoats had added features to keep the wearer from breaking a sweat under all that non-breathable rubber, the Friesennerz had fever innovative options and aimed at the ability of the viscose lining to hold some moist in combination with keeping the raincoats lightweight at under 1000 grams. Detail picture of the beauty of a yellow Friesennerz below from the now defunct Jeantex website.
The newly introduced Friesennerz raincoats would quickly become hugely popular in the sixties, mostly because of the very competitive sales price of around 20 Deutsche Mark, which would now be around 40 euros when corrected for inflation. The increasing demand gave Jeantex reason to expand production capacity, and with their customer base mainly being in Germany they partly moved to Hamburg and soon after to Rellingen, which is also in Germany. The popularity of the Friesennerz is best captured in a comment from Jeantex managing director Wolfgang Linden, who indicated that when you looked into a football stadium in the seventies when it was raining, everything was yellow. Below a model wearing a Friesennerz raincoat.
The Jeantex Friesennerz was quickly copied by other manufacturers who tried to ride the wave of popularity of the reversible yellow rainwear, not the least in East-Germany where the Elpico brand of coats were produced from 1979-1987. At first East-Germany produced for sale abroad, but with popularity growing in other parts of Germany the demand in the communist country increased and the raincoats became available for the local population as well at a hefty price of 120 (East-) German Marks. The raincoats were referred to as “weather reversible jackets” to avoid legal actions from the Jeantex company. Picture below is from the Elpico-friesennerz site which contains a lot of information and pictures of the Elpico raincoat.
In 1985/1986 the Jeantex company changed the shell material used for their Friesennerz raincoats from synthetic rubber to PVC. The main reason was cost efficiency, as PVC had become cheaper and more easily available, but also consumers profited from this upgrade as the synthetic rubber was less durable than PVC. With regular wear and exposure to sunlight the synthetic rubber layer would start to dry out and crack, leaving the wearer exposed to the elements. Below a closeup of a partly disintegrated yellow Friesennerz which was for sale on ebay.
While the overall look of the coats barely changed over the decades, there were several attempts to increase popularity further. At first Jeantex produced the Friesennerz both in yellow and orange, but orange was too closely associated with rainwear worn by health and safety workers making this an unpopular choice to most. Other colour combinations were also made available, but yellow stayed by far the most popular colour. Below several scans from the jeantex catalogue showing the available colours of Friesennerz raincoats around the start of this century, scans made available by Bernard.
It was only a matter of time for the Friesennerz coat to lose the spotlight. The German market was saturated with yellow raincoats which made promoting them further no longer worthwhile. Besides, more modern materials that were also breathable became more widely available and demand shifted towards branded products with status character. Even Jeantex had switched to producing breathable and more fashionable wear, although the original Jeantex Friesennerz stayed available as an ode to the breakthrough product that made the company what it had become. Below a promotional picture of Jeantex showing their last range of updated Friesennerz raincoats. Besides the traditional square cut (in the middle worn by the man) they included a raincoat with a more tapered cut (on the left) to highlight the feminine form and a shorter coat without hood (on the right) for a more modern look. Pictures again from Bernard.
The original cut, backed by its history, is still the most interesting model in my view, with its simplicity and recognizable colour combination, as shown by Agnessedina on instagram below.
Surprisingly the yellow PVC Friesennerz has started a comeback in the past decade, partly due to the popularity of the Stutterheim PVC raincoats worldwide. There are currently several producers in Germany making modern interpretations of the original Jeantex Friesennerz, attracting both older customers longing for their nostalgic yellow rainwear as well as younger people who follow the trend of bright yellow rainwear being popular again or as remembrance to that one historical rubberized raincoat they came across at some point in their youth. Picture below by riddim_of_my_life on instagram.
A wide range of Friesennerz inspired rainwear is currently available with some trying harder than others to actually match the original features of the original raincoat. There are smaller brands that limit their range to Friesennerz products and clearly link their products to the historical raincoat, while some bigger brands regularly have yellow/blue reversible raincoats that clearly match the design of a Friesennerz but not mention the historical link anywhere. Below a Friesennerz raincoat from the Modas brand, which most closely resembles the original Friesennerz.
The Jeantex company was put up for sale in the late 2000s, but with no buyers in sight it ceased operations in 2010, bringing the story of the original Friesennerz to a conclusive end. The Friesennerz inspired raincoat will most likely survive though: even Urbanoutfitters has a friesennerz-inspired raincoat available for the American market as shown below.
The final chance to ever experience an original Jeantex Friesennerz today will require persistence and deep pockets, as they are sometimes offered on second-hand sites in Germany but they will not be cheap due to demand. Getting an older coat made with synthetic rubber will be even harder 35 years after production was switched to PVC, as the rubber would have deteriorated over time limiting supply. From a historical rainwear perspective this would be the ultimate purchase though, especially in combination with Jeantex rubberized rainpants and rubber boots from the same time period.
- Comprehensive site with information about the Elpico Friesennerz
- German Friesennerz information and sells site
- German Jeantex website (now defunct)
- English Jeantex website (now defunct)
- German raincoat advise site
- Stern article about the Friesennerz raincoat
- Wikipedia on the Friesennerz
- Welt article about the Friesennerz
- HNA article about Jeantex and the Friesennerz
- Jeantex is closing down