Technical issues

You have to tread very carefully with “performance” and “function” lest you step into technical territory. Technical territory, see, is all about performance fabrics, zips and poppers; where “high-tech” goes without saying. It is where coats are tested in the field, over marsh, through bramble, trialled by downpour and even, sometimes, by fire.

None of this is a bad thing, but you do have to be on sure footing when stepping into technical, lest you get laughed out of the room. The jacket here is a case in point. It’s a four-button Ventile jacket with detachable hood — thus its “four-button Ventile jacket with detachable hood” moniker. And it knows its station. It is a casual, everyday, coat. Nothing more nothing less. It has no allusions to “technical”, and that is just as well.

Taupe-grey hooded Ventile jacket worn with light grey cotton-oxford Kelly collar shirt and fawn cotton-drill trousers.

But then — it is made from Ventile: the defining invention of the legendary brainboxes of the Shirley Institute in Manchester in the 1930s. Ventile is an invention ingenious in its simplicity: the best of the world’s cotton crop woven so densely (240 threads per inch) that H2O has no way in. Cotton fibres, of course, swell naturally on contact with water — ergo, weave them tightly enough, and this behaviour leaves water with nothing to do but roll clean off. No coatings, no wax, and no materials with names out of sci-fi; just cotton.

And another thing: the coat is finished in a highly technical way. Certain individuals at the outerwear factory have been around as long as Ventile itself; they used it for military outfitting soon after its invention. They are thus experts of using it to make garments — knowing the correct seams, thread composition, tension of said thread, and the exact diameter of needle needed to impinge as little as possible on the Ventile’s hydrophobia.

Crucial too is the best way to seal the seams of a Ventile garment. Before making, several seam-taping solutions were put to the test. The test was straightforward: a hammock of Ventile — with a seam down the middle — and a bucket of water. The conclusion: nothing keeps water out better than seams bound with plain old cotton. Just as the fibres of Ventile swell up against water, so the fibres of the seam-binding cotton swell up, too.

One final aspect of the jacket that nods to the performance fraternity, but stays at reasonable distance, is the element of disguise. The jacket has a detachable hood, see, which buttons to the back and sides of the collar. No bog-standard hood this; it has been carefully shaped and sculpted to curve around the head, and is built with a sturdiness that ensures it holds its shape at all times, rather than flapping around apologetically.

The jacket, then, with its use of Ventile, its construction, peaked hood, and other assorted features, performs in a technical way. If, that is, that’s what you need it for. If you don’t, it’s a casual, everyday, coat, which, with its weatherproof qualities and breathable nature — as well as its pared-down, deceptively simple appearance, dual-access pockets, and sizable collar with button-up chin-guard for windy times — performs commendably well in rain and shine both. It is online and in the workshop now, in navy, taupe, and stone.