This is going to be a much longer read than normal, partly because the invention of the Mackintosh raincoat can be seen as the invention of the raincoat in general, partly because there is a ton of information available online about the Mackintosh raincoat giving different points of view, and mostly because it is a type of raincoat that has gotten my full attention since I first wrote about it. It was the long Mackintosh raincoat in SBR that really got stuck in the back of my mind, bringing the classical forms of a trench coat together with the intriguing looks of rubber while still being functional as “every-day” raingear. Below a video still from a Fetisheyes production showing the timeless design of a Weathervain raincoat in SBR.
To avoid confusion under the non-British readers: the words “Mackintosh raincoat” do not refer to raincoats produced by the Mackintosh company exclusively. The popularity of raincoats from the Mackintosh company was so high in the early years that the word Mackintosh became synonymous for any type of raincoat in the UK. In this article I will refer to raincoats produced by the Mackintosh company, similar looking rubberized raincoats produced by its competitors, as well as long raincoats made out of vinyl, plastic, or PVC, as Mackintosh raincoats.
Trying to protect oneself from the rain during a downpour is as old as clothing is, and based on the different materials available ancient civilizations opted for coats and umbrellas made from grass in Asia, waterproof suits made from the intestines of whales and seals around the poles, animal furs with their natural oils to shed water in Europe, and fabrics soaked in the saps from rubber trees in South America. All these predecessors of rainwear had their limitations, and it took till 1823 before Charles Macintosh created the first real piece of waterproof rainwear that formed the basis of all rainwear we know today. He is therefore often referred to as the inventor, or father, of modern rainwear.
Charles Macintosh was a Scottish chemist and inventor experimenting with the waste products of black-coal gasification in order to extract ammonium from it. An unintended by-product of this process was coal-tar naphtha which, mixed with rubber, resulted in a sticky, smelly, but waterproof, tar-like substance. He quickly saw potential for this product to waterproof clothing and give rise to the birth of a genuine raincoat. Below you can see the thin rubber layer in modern Mackintosh raincoats – picture from Permanent Style.
After a period of further experimenting he worked out a method of sandwiching the waterproof substance in between layers of fabric making use of its propensity of being extremely sticky, creating a perfect waterproof material. At first he started producing the fabric in large quantities and shipped it out to tailors instructing them the fabric would be perfect for making waterproof circular capes for coach drivers who would sit outside the coach to steer and mend the horses.
Word of the quality of the rubberized fabric spread around like a wildfire and tailors started using the Macintosh fabric for making greatcoats and regular rainwear. But stitching would create holes in the rubber middle layer resulting in rain seeping through the seams. To protect his reputation Charles Macintosh decided to start producing raincoats himself as he could oversee his workers to completely waterproof the material after stitching with glue and waterproof tape, a rather labour intensive work. Below you can see how the glue is still applied manually in modern Mackintosh raincoats, picture from Permanent Style.
Previously people had protected themselves against the rain by either wrapping themselves under a sheet of tarred canvas, or by wearing heavy woollen greatcoats. Sheets of tarred canvas, or tarpaulin, gave little room for movement, and heavy woollen coats would not just be heavy, they would get even heavier when they started to soak up rain. Plus it took a long time for them to dry completely after a good rain shower. The Macintosh raincoats were a vast improvement, but they were still far from perfect. Most of the problems with the new raincoats were related to the rubber middle-layer: it would melt in the summer and crack in the winter, the smell was horrible, while it kept out the rain it would hold body heat underneath the coat resulting in what some doctors referred to as “rubber sickness” when wearers started to overheat, the rubber would start to disintegrate over time as it came in contact with the natural oils from the woollen outer-layers, and finally the coats were hard to clean as stains had to be brushed off making the coats look worn-out quickly. One thing the Mackintosh coats did have going for them, besides keeping rain out, was the stylish design of the raincoats as shown below in the depiction of a 1893 Mac.
The people producing the Macintosh raincoats and waterproof fabrics didn’t have a leisure life either. They often worked long hours with flammable and stinky chemicals in unventilated production facilities. Many workers started to developed headaches, skin rashes, and breathing problems from the chemicals they handled on a daily basis. A regular occurrence was employees acting like if they were drunk from the chemicals they inhaled, which was referred to as “naphtha jag”. The lives of the tailors was much better, although the heavy and thick fabric didn’t lend itself to show their craftsmanship and every stitch required extra manual labour to make sure the end product was still waterproof. Below a woman working with the calendaring machine in the Charles Macintosh and Sons factory, Manchester, 1918 (this photo is part of the collections of the Imperial War Museums). Calendaring is a process or sticking a layer of rubber to another fabric with heat and pressure. Once the two materials went throught the heavy rolls the fabric had to be layed out to cool down before it could be handled further.
The biggest improvement to the Macintosh raincoat and fabric came in 1843 when Thomas Hancock patented vulcanization: a chemical process where rubber is heated with sulphur, stabilizing the material and taking away (part of) the problems previously associated with the production and use of the rubber middle-layer. Hancock and Macintosh teamed up and started producing raincoats on a larger scale. Their first big customer was the military, but also the British railroads and police forces ordered large amounts of raincoats to keep their men dry. The coat shown below was produced for the British railways from the 1920s till the 1980s.
In the decades that followed new competitors came along with different approaches to making rainwear. One of the main problems with the Macintosh raincoat was that it trapped body heat under the coat making it rather uncomfortable to wear on warmer days, something that was much less of a problem with Aquascutum coats introduced in 1851 by John Emary. These coats were made from wool, which is much more breathable, that was chemically treated to shed water. The coats were thinner than the Macintosh raincoats with only 1 layer instead of 3, and the absence of rubber meant they did not have a strong smell. Thomas Burberry followed in 1879 with a tightly-woven and water-resistant fabric named gabardine. While neither of these two raincoats was truly waterproof like the Macintosh raincoat, they were water-repellent enough for wear in rainy weather and quickly become the more popular choice under consumers. Below a picture of a London bus driver wearing his shiny raincoat and a female bus conductor with a woollen coat at the start of the 1900s.
With the start of the Great War in 1914 the demand for raincoats drastically increased. Overcoats, or raincoats, were only part of the uniform of officers and unlike today, they were required to buy their own uniform. Tailors around the country started offering military coats for in the trenches, which were adaptations of great overcoats with adjustments like added D-rings, shoulder boards, and they were of shorter length so the coat would not drag in the mud.
During this time the Macintosh raincoat showed clear problems competing with the Aquascutum and Burberry raincoat available. Both the alternatives offer a lighter jacket that is almost comparably waterproof, but offer more opportunities for tailors to show workmanship. For officers this was an important part of the consideration for buying a trench coat, partly because the coats would cost up to 2 months’ salary and with mortality rates high in the trenches it was possibly their last chance to buy and own a nicely made pieces of garment. After the Great War the high purchase price also guaranteed they kept wearing their raincoats as civilians, popularizing the military look and the Burberry/Aquascutum brand and style of raincoats in particular.
With the start of the Second World War the import of rubber came to a halt, as most rubber was produced in Asia where the Japanese took control of countries producing the raw materials. Rubber was used for many products needed for the war industry and non-essential use, like producing raincoats, was lowered in priority. As the import of rubber would be impossible for a time, the use of and research in synthetic rubbers was increased to keep the war machine going. One synthetic rubber, styrene-butadiene rubber, or SBR for short, became an important part of tire production and was also used as the outer-layer of raincoats. Below a group of female despatch motorcyclists in 1941, wearing (synthetic) rubber raincoats. Photo credit Imperial War Museum.
Once the war was over it took some time for the production of rubber to get in full swing again, but by that time rainwear had already evolved and moved to plastics that were produced on large scale during the war. Plastic were cheap to produce, could easily be “melted” or stitched into a coat, were completely waterproof, could be made in many different colours, and quickly won over the hearts of people looking for an affordable raincoat. Even today the majority of mostly cheaper raincoats are made of plastics, with prices going as low as only a few euros/dollars/pounds for the thinnest one-time-use raincoats and ponchos.
That is not to say the Mackintosh raincoat was completely gone, but the old production methods required lots of manual labour pushing the production costs up and the brand could do nothing else but target their coats to richer people and sell them at a premium.
With the average price of rainwear dropping fast opportunities appeared for manufacturers to produce more fashionable rainwear. In the past the idea was always that durable garments must never be too stylish or they go out of fashion, now consumers could buy new rainwear every year for a fraction of the price of a durable Mackintosh branded raincoat.
Hundreds of years ago rainwear was absolutely not part of fashion. The only people who needed to protect themselves against rain were poor workers who should not have to concern themselves with how they looked and what other would think of them. Fashion was dictated by the rich, who would spend tons of money to look their best in the most uncomfortable outfits you could imagine. They would also spend most of their time indoors, or when they did have to go out and it was raining, they would have their servants covering them from the rain during the short trip from the horse carriage to the front of the shop or house they were going to.
The weather used to dictate where activities would take place for most people. When the sun was smiling the kids played outdoors and the adults were working the field, but when it started to rain the activities moved indoors till it would be dry again. There was no real need for rainwear except for maybe shepherds, farm hands, and fishermen who wrapped themselves in plaids and cloaks, or oilskins, to keep themselves dry.
The industrial revolution changed this: many workers now had to be at factories at a certain time or have no job for that day, and time tables required trains and horse-drawn coaches and carriages to be on time no matter the weather. Still, the focus was purely practical and little thought was put in the overall look of the rainwear used in those times.
This started to change with the Great War when officers were required to buy their own uniform and part of that uniform was a raincoat. These coats were often made of the best available materials and tailored to give a comfortable fit. Prices could reach two full months of salary and for the first time the raincoat was a distinctive piece of fashion. Also away from the front the trench raincoats became popular: having and wearing one was seen as an act of patriotism and even women started buying feminine versions of the trench coats worn by officers. These coats often had to be specially requested from tailors who regularly did not make women’s clothing. After the war the trench coats stayed popular, most of the officers returning from the trenches kept using their coats to hold on to their recently lost status as an officer and the civilians who had bought a trench coat at high cost during the war would use them up to get their money’s worth. Below a Burberry trench coat dated 1918, still looking in good condition today.
In between wars the raincoat remained an afterthought in women’s fashion though. Most of the big fashion brands brought out a raincoat or two every now and then, but it was certainly not a centrepiece in the fashion industry. This can also been seen in advertisement for raincoats: these ads were often relatively small, had tiny thumbnail size depictions of the coat, and the raincoats for females were less prominently depicted.
World War 2 brought some changes, as women started participating in the work force in large numbers and created a demand for more fashionable rainwear to look their best till they got married and would stop working. During the war much time and money was spend on developing plastics and synthetic rubbers as an alternative for natural rubber.
These materials could be produced at relatively low prices in the years after the war and were perfect for post-war rainwear. Low costs meant the raincoats could be sold at lower prices removing the requirements of durability and they could be made more fashionable. Once fashion changed the next season the raincoats could be replaced by new ones in the new trending cut or colour.
But these fashion trends resonated mostly with younger generations and were just temporary. In general rainwear stayed relatively conservative displaying mostly drab colours and all-covering garments. Even the youngest generations, needing raincoats to go with their school uniforms, mostly got conservative looking raincoats instead of nicely bright coloured raincoats better fitting kids.
Over time the Mackintosh raincoat, in all of its forms, was able to grab and hold a piece of the rainwear market through all the decennia of its existence. But even though the Mackintosh raincoat is still available today, it never reached the popularity of older times anymore. To put it in numbers, based on 1952 Draper records covering the sales in the UK, over 20 million Mackintosh raincoats were sold in 1938. This number dropped considerably to just over half that number during the war years, with rations on raw materials and a huge increase in uncertainty, but sales were expected to rebound the years after. They never did. An increase in sales was visible in the 1950s, but pre-war levels were never touched upon anymore and many producers of Mackintosh raincoats had to close their business. Fashion changed the years after, the Mackintosh raincoat had some more and less popular periods, but the years of Macs dominating the public space on a rainy day were long gone. The reason for the sudden fall of popularity of the rubberized Mackintosh is something one can only speculate about, but a possible part could very well be the aversion people had for wearing rubber rainwear that had a distinct smell, was not very comfortable to wear, and became relatively expensive compared to the plastic rainwear that became more and more competitive over time. Below models showing rainwear fashion on the catwalk.
The original Mackintosh raincoats are the epitome of British rainwear, although the brand is not in British hands anymore. In 2000 there was a management buyout, where the management bought the company from the shareholders in order to turn it more profitable, but after continued financial difficulties the brand was sold to a Japanese fashion company: Yagi Tsusho Ltd. The original Mackintosh raincoats are a status symbol in Japan, where young employees with high-potential buy a Mackintosh raincoat as a rite of passage as well as a long-term investment in their career. The Mackintosh brand has several videos on YouTube with longer interviews of some of their customers who explain why they bought a Mackintosh raincoat. Interesting point some of them make is the rubber smell of a brand-new Mackintosh raincoat, something that was a huge problem for the brand in its early years has now become a mark of a genuine Mackintosh raincoat and a selling point.
Raincoats fully made out of rubber, without further lining, never gained much traction in fashion besides certain subgroups that focused on rubber and latex materials, more about that next.
With rubber reaching Europe soon after it was first discovered in Latin America, it was only a matter of time for people to explore and experiment with this new material. Due to the work of Charles Macintosh it quickly found its way in garments, and although sandwiched between two layers of fabric, the layer of rubber had a noticeable presence due to its distinct smell. It was only a matter of time for people to discover the unique look, smell, taste, sound, and feel of what is sometimes referred to as the “most sensual fabric there is”.
A fetish is normally referred to as experiencing arousal from objects or a specific part or a specific part of the body which is not typically regarded as erotic (DSM-5). To this you can add specific materials, like rubber, or clothing items like a Mackintosh raincoat. Picture below by rubbergirl666.
One of the first references to a Mackintosh fetish was found by author Valerie Steele, and described in her 1996 book “Fetish – Fashion, Sex & Power”. She mentions a letter sent in to, and published by, the periodical “London Life” where one writer’s husband enjoyed the “lovely rustling swish of rubber” her Mackintosh raincoat made. She wrote: “I could see how he enjoyed every movement I made, so you can guess that I was very happy, too, as long as I gave him so simple a pleasure”. The act of wearing a Mackintosh raincoat for pleasure was often referred to as “Maccing” (or Macking).
While it is unclear where a fetish comes from, the common denominator with many fetishists is that they have had a personal experience which awakened, or possibly created, a special connection to a specific material or feeling. This can be a positive experience of security, pleasure, or strength, or a negative experience like shame, submission, or helplessness. Especially during times of great distress, like a war, when people regularly experience feelings of helplessness or mentally connect the protective features of rubber gear with security, a fetish for rubber (rain-) gear can easily be formed or discovered. During the Great War many of the front-line soldiers experienced intense stress due to the way of warfare and the use of both explosive shells and gas attacks, of which the last could be countered by the use of a rubber gas mask. Picture below of a gas attack drill in London in 1941 (Eric Harlow/Keystone/Getty Images).
After the war the appeal of rubber protective wear for fetish pleasure increased. In her book Steele mentions an ad in a London newspaper for a “gentleman’s nightshirt” made of rubber, with a “night cap made in macintosh cloth”. These garments were clearly not aimed at the mainstream sleeper looking for comfortable nightwear, as anyone who has worn rubber or rubberized gear for a period of time would know.
During the Second World War the use of rubber protective gear reached the general population as gasmasks were distributed under the people for in case a city got bombed or attacked with gases like what happened regularly in the Great War. Below a picture from 1939 of British nurses in decontamination suits. The outfit closely resembles a long raincoat with matching southwester rain hat, combined with gasmask, rubber gloves, and rubber boots. Take the gasmask and gloves away and you could wear this outfit on a rainy day in the London of today.
Below a female in a different style of British decontamination suit closer matching heavy-duty raingear, combined with thick rubber gloves and rubber boots. This outfit looks much less comfortable and is probably intended for more dangerous work compared to the more casual looking outfit above (Image: Herbert Gehr / The Life Images Collection / Getty Images).
Finally a full gas protection suit as used by the police. Compared to the suit in previous picture this suit is clearly thinner and of better fit, probably to make it more comfortable to wear as police officers might had to wear it outdoors for longer periods of time. This picture is part of the collection of the Greater Manchester Police Museum (www.gmp.police.uk).
After the Second World War the appeal of rubber garments under the general population must have been increased since more people had direct contact with rubber gear and its protective features, but due to a wave of conservatisms the love for latex and rubber was forced underground.
During the 60s and 70s, in a period of sexual revolution and freedom, the fetish rubber and rainwear enthusiasts were able to find each other through gathering and meetings. The Mackintosh Society was one of the first British fetish societies, started in 1969 by six men who enjoyed rubber and Mackintosh rainwear. The unique focus of this club resulted in a quick increase in members coming from all over the world, and the name was changed to the International Mackintosh Society. Many couples attended the regular meetings and the Society started published a magazine mostly showing pictures from members. Below the cover of the Mackintosh Society Magazine from April 1979:
Membership numbers of the Mackintosh Society hoovered around the 300 active people who attended meetings and events during the year, while there were another hundred plus people who just joined the Society to receive the quarterly magazine. On a yearly basis about 50 to 100 new members joined the Society, while a similar number left leaving the total number of members relatively stable. The reason for joining the MacSoc differed per person: you can see the Society as the hub of a wheel with every spoke representing a different group of people who joined for their love of swinging, BDSM, dressing up in rubber gear, bondage, or crossdressing. With every member joining for their unique tastes and with their own motivations, they were unified by their passion for the (rubberized) Mackintosh raincoat. Below a picture of a gathering at the MacSoc where two model show SBR rainwear to potential buyers.
Interesting detail about the Mackintosh Magazine is that it was devoid of nudity and focused on Mackintosh rainwear as a fashion item. The main reason for this was the British laws and regulations where publishing nudity and sexually loaded content was punishable by law; by avoiding this altogether the magazine could continue for a long period of time. The official meetings of the society were therefore also very “clean” and mostly intended for members to meet like-minded people with whom they could meet up at other places at their own initiative. Many connections were made these days with some members organizing smaller meetings for more socializing or plainly risqué activities.
Besides the Mackintosh Society Magazine a range of other raincoat focused magazines came around including Girl Mack, Proof, Rain, Rainwear Review, and Weather Vain magazine. These magazines published information about the specific subgroups, letters sent in by readers, stories revolving around raincoats, they gave tips on new products and maintenance of older products, and mostly published tons of photos from readers showing off their outfits. Another famous fetish magazine, AtomAge, published by designer John Sutcliffe, regularly showed people in rubber Mackintosh raincoats in its publications although the target audience was wider than just “maccers” and raincoat enthusiasts. Notice how the SBR Mackintosh raincoats are overrepresented in these magazines, as this material not only had the distinct smell of a rubberized Mac but also the look and feel of rubber. SBR was quickly recognized as an abbreviation for either “Shiny Black Rubber” or “Smooth Black Rubber”. Below some examples of magazines with a focus on rainwear and the Mackintosh raincoat.
Rain Magazine March 1969:
Cover of Atomage Magazine No.15 from 1977 showing a rubber mac in combination with high boots and rubber gloves:
Cover of Atomage International Magazine No.3 from 1981 with a Mackintosh raincoat in SBR combined with leather gloves, a gasmask, and heeled rubber boots:
Cover of Atomage Rubberist Magazine No.5 showing a very similar outfit but now combined with riding boots with spurs:
A peak into one of the magazines and the types of pictures readers sent in to be published mostly showcasing their favourite rubber Macs and telling where they got it from:
Against what most would think, the goal of some of these magazines was much more focused on showing rubberized Macs in the best light possible, and much less on sexuality and nudity. This is best shown by the editorial of Rainwear Review magazine of the summer of 1970 as shown below.
This all was not to say these sexual fetishes were now visible in daily life, with people wearing fetish clothing going to the supermarket or speaking openly about it with people they knew. Basically the fetish movement stayed mostly underground as these magazines were distributed through “back channels” and the general population would have no idea of its existence unless they looked for it. Picture below from rubberrainwear.co.uk showing a stylish SBR raincoat which could pass as regular fashion but is aimed at the fetish community.
For producers of Mackintosh raincoats these were difficult times. The demand for their products had diminished tremendously over the past decades but to speak to the fetish community they would have to shift gear and change their products to meet demand. Originally the focus was on stylish rubberized Macs, mostly of double-textured material leaving the layer of rubber hidden between other materials. But demand was much more geared to single-textured materials: showing off the rubber on the outside or giving the wearer the full rubber experience with the rubber layer on the inside. Over time the rubber mac moved more to the extremes – as in becoming less comfortable to wear – to accommodate the fetish community. The outer surface was made of highly polished rubber, buckles were added to the end of the sleeves, and collars were increased in size, making wearing the raincoat more like a punishment. The focus was not so much on keeping the rain out anymore, it was more on keeping the lady in. Below an example of an extreme SBR mackintosh raincoat. The large collar on the coat can be buttoned up to hide almost the complete face which could be handy in extreme weather conditions but is here included to accommodate extreme fetish conditions.
Another way to survive in the market was by reaching a larger audience. Some companies producing rubber wear placed ads in newspapers showing the range of products they had, including a mailing address one could send a letter to for ordering any items. At first glance the products might have looked like regular clothing items made out of rubber, but looking closer one would realize that the use of materials in combination with the described use would not be the first choice of most. For example the dress or nightgown shown below, in combination with hooded cape, is waterproof well beyond the point of necessity.
One of those companies was South Bucks Rainwear selling a range of rubber and rubberized rainwear through their post order address in UK newspapers. For many youngsters this was the first time they were shown the extend of products available and they could even request the company to send some samples of materials normally intended for perspective customers to get a better idea which variety of fabric they preferred. In a time where fetish clothing was still mostly underground this was an opportunity for many to explore their interests.
Below an example of an advertisement as they would be placed in a newspaper. At first glance the company just sells regular clothing, but closer inspection raises the question why someone would want tighty whities in latex, a latex swimsuit, or a rubber sleep suit:
Upon request the South Bucks Rainwear company would send a complete catalogue with all the different products:
When the 80s came around the fetish rubber subculture had gained enough momentum to slightly break out of the social taboos and see a tiny bit of daylight. Or better, the nightlight with clubs aimed at this group of fetishists. By the 90s the Mackintosh society had lost most of its uniqueness, and internal quarrels about the focus of the society meant a diminishing number of members. With more fetish clubs opening up the Mackintosh Society was sometimes described as “rather dull old folks in macs drinking cocktails”, with younger generations having outlandish parties in their favourite rubber gear which were not limited to, but could include, rubber macs.
A unique inside in the Mackintosh Society can be found in the documentary “Dressing for Pleasure” from filmmaker John Samson, released in 1977. While some of the members agreed on being filmed, most still chose anonymity as having a fetish was still heavily covered in stigma. You can find a small part of this documentary here.
The Mackintosh Society has done a try of gaining momentum at a later stage again with a website (now defunct), as shown below, but by then there were enough alternatives for Mackintosh and rubber raincoat enthusiasts to meet each other and share pictures and information. Even today there is still a range of websites, some with exclusive membership access, for sharing photos and videos of rubber raincoats. Besides that, many people interested in these items are able to arrange meetings through specific fetish oriented dating sites where rubber and latex is an often mentioned category of interest.
Below the “About us” section of the Mackintosh Society website:
One will notice that the interest in raincoats often goes together with other, mostly, rubber clothing items often offering complete protection to the wearer. Long raincoats and rainsuits are regularly combined with rubber rainboots, a rather logical and practical combination, as well as thick rubber gloves, high rubber waders, and gasmasks, all much less common and easily explainable.
Especially rubber raincoats, without any lining on the inside or outside, are strongly associated with the fetish subculture, although this perspective is slowly being adjusted by more and more celebrities adding rubber to their wardrobe and thereby normalizing the material. This popularization of rubber wear, and therefore rubberized rainwear, is maybe best explained this way: “You are like a super-you. (…) It really makes you feel powerful”. Below a lady in SBR riding coat and high rubber boots, holding a riding whip: all items associated with power and dominance. This nicely fits with what some say: “Some fetishists use latex to feel safe, dangerous or both. Others just love the feeling of a constrictive, second skin”.
Somewhat surprisingly this special interest in rubberized rainwear does not limit itself to Western society, as there seems to be a renewed interest in vintage rubber rainwear in most notably Japan. The rubber scene there has a completely different vibe to it compared to the West, with much less focus on sex and more on dressing up, fashion, and expressing yourself. And while latex and fetish oriented parties are frequented by a wide range of people all over the world, the Japanese scene has a more equal ratio of women to men and seems to be also frequented by younger generations than what you often see in the west. Below two pictures from the twitter profile of hiromi_ohtani showing vintage rubber raincoats as part of a rubber outfit at a rubber focused party.
This rubber rainwear was used in the Japanese fishing industry in the past, and has since been replaced by PVC rainwear. Similar vintage rubberized items are now gaining popularity in the heavy-rubber fetish scene, at least, for as far as they are still available so many years after production stopped. Below a picture of a complete rubber fishing rainsuit, of the brand “Kohshin Rubber“, which was being offered for sale previously on ebay.
The fetish Mackintosh subculture is at this moment as good as non-existent. As shown above there are some people who still revert back to rubberized Mackintosh raincoats, but the general popularity will most likely never reach the levels it had before. As mentioned previously the main reason for this would be that fewer people now have experiences with rubberized rainwear meaning fewer strong positive or negative emotional connections to the material or the wearing of this specific gear. One of the main ways younger people used to get their first contact with rubberized raincoats was through being dressed up in them by their parents when they had to go to school in bad weather, or experiencing the interesting rubberized material at home on a rainy day after their parents had worn their Macs. With fewer people having rubberized Macs, and kids not being dressed for school in them anymore, it is much less likely someone discovers, or develops, their love for this unique garment.
As mentioned previously the Mackintosh brand still exists today and it prides itself on using very similar, labour intensive, manufacturing procedures similar to how the Mackintosh raincoats were produced ages ago. Buyers of the raincoats regularly mention the rich history of the brand and how the distinct rubber smell new Mackintosh raincoats have are a selling point. Due to the production methods and high quality of materials, the original Mackintosh raincoats now sell for prices out of range of most ordinary people looking for a simple way of protecting themselves from the rain. Even when taking the timeless design and decennia of use one can get out of one Mackintosh raincoat, these coats are not for everybody.
Alternatively there are still other manufacturers based in England producing traditional “Mackintosh” raincoats in different materials. These coats can either be single texture or double texture. Single texture refers to the raincoat consisting of an outer layer often available in different materials like satin, cotton or PU, backed by a layer of rubber to make it waterproof. A double texture would closer mimic the original Mackintosh brand raincoats where the layer of rubber is sandwiched in between two layers of fabric giving the wearer no direct contact to the rubber. Let me mention the SBR raincoats separately, as for these coats the outer layer is rubber giving the coats a distinctly different look from regular Mackintosh raincoats. None of these raincoats will be easily linked to completely rubber raincoats more popular in the fetish scene and are therefore perfectly suitable for regular outdoor wear. While SBR raincoats have the rubber visible on the outside, the overall look and texture of the material differs enough from natural rubber coats popular in the fetish scene as you don’t add rubber gloves, thigh-high waders, and a gasmask to complete your outfit.
The prices of the traditionally produced raincoats are considerable, but often much lower than the raincoats from the original Mackintosh brand making them a great alternative. Unfortunately these traditional coat makers don’t have brick-and-mortar storefronts anymore, meaning you will have to order them online without first being able to fit different sizes and experience different materials. In my view this is a serious risk: ordering an expensive raincoat online without knowing if the end-product will fit you well. Especially for women wanting to accentuate their feminine figure and making a lasting impression with a rubberized Mackintosh it is important to have a good fitting raincoat that is as close to the body as possible without limiting your range of movement. A nice fitting SBR Mackintosh raincoat gives an absolute stunning look of confidence and style as shown in the picture below from the Weathervain website. For me the coat below looks like an absolute dream, nicely combined with rainboots and breaking the synthetic rubber look with a grey hat of regular fabric.
Alternatively you could consider buying a natural rubber raincoat, but the association with the fetish scene will be relatively strong for most people, especially when the coat is black and shiny. At a younger age, combined with the right cut of raincoat and the right weather circumstances, it could work for more special occasions as shown by model and DJ Iori below wearing a beautiful black rubber raincoat fitting her perfectly:
Combining this raincoat with rubber gloves and wearing it in a dry setting, like indoors, will quickly be too overpowering for your overall look and better suited for the nightlife or for behind closed doors.
A natural rubber raincoat in other colors, and much less glossy, will blend in more easily, with prime example the 0.8mm mid blue rubber trench coat by Sebastian Cauchos shown below, picture by Keith Barker with UK model Lucy.
A note of caution is in place here though, while rubberized and SBR raincoats are made for regular use outdoors, natural rubber raincoats are not. The rubber will get damaged under too much direct sunlight, or when stored incorrectly, and will require extra care to keep them shiny. That makes a rubber raincoat rather impractical and maybe more suited for special occasions.
Occasionally some of the big fashion brands come with latex couture creations, mostly aimed at the rich and famous attending red-carpet events, that match closely the long raincoat styles shown so far. In general this is a positive trend, as it shows the versatility and beauty of different styles of raincoats, possibly some of them becoming more popular in the future.
Most important thing when considering buying a rubberized Mackintosh raincoat is if it fits your style and personality. It makes a huge difference how people perceive you when you wear a raincoat with confidence or not. When the coat is a great fit and you feel invincible, people will pick up on that energy and you will get much more positive feedback and wear the raincoat more often. So look for something that fits your style, be it a long Mac, a shorter one, with single or double texture, made from SBR, or made completely from natural rubber. Be it in black, red, blue, with glossy or matt finish, but let it be you. And even if it doesn’t fit your style, enjoy others wearing it.
As always, leave me a message or email in case you see something wrong, or have more interesting information I might have missed. And feel free to share.
Sources of pictures:
- Permanent style on how a Mackintosh raincoat is made
- How products are made – raincoats
- The origins of the raincoat
- A brief history of rainwear
- A very brief history of staying dry
- The history or rain jacket tech
- History of the trench coat
- History of rainwear
- History of the raincoat
- A brief history of the raincoat
- The history of raincoats
- Rainwear innovations over time
- Mackintosh raincaot: a style icon
- History today on Charles Macintosh
- Inventor of the waterproof cloth
- Atomage article on the history of rainwear
- Mackintoshes and rubberized rainwear
- What we know about fetishes
- Vice with a special about latex
- From fetish to fashion, the BBC on latex
- QZ on latex clothing, from fetish to fashion
- Fetish magazine zeitgeist: skin two magazine