Over the last few months I have seen latex outerwear popping up all over the place from street style, to the runway to even pop stars at award shows. All these awesome coats got me thinking about the original latex coat – The Mackintosh!
The Mackintosh coat is seen by many as the origin of wearable latex clothing. Patented in 1823 by George Macintosh, the coat was designed to be waterproof by sandwiching cloth between two layers of liquid latex. The fabric was then glued together, rather than sewn, to ensure it was completely watertight (very similar to how latex clothing is created today). Although designed to be entirely practical, early versions of the coat faced a wealth of problems; it became stiff when cold, began to melt in heat and often gave off a bad smell. However, improvements soon led it to be adopted as the British Army coat for WWI and WWII as well as being used as the overcoat for British Rail and the Met police. In parallel to its mainstream success the Mackintosh coat was also being welcomed into the fetish sphere, introduced mainly by one of the oldest fetish organisations – England’s Mackintosh Society. The outbreak of WWII led to a huge increase in rubber protective gear, intensifying its fetish appeal. Between 1923 and 1940 London Life famously documented readers love for rubber coats and accessories. In 1960’s punk designers such as Vivienne Westwood began bringing latex fetishism into the fashion world. Check out the 1977 documentary by John Samson, Dressing for Pleasure, which features McLaren and Westwood as well as the Mackintosh Society https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=100&v=csK1bYMaBAA
Fast forward a number of years and the Mackintosh coat is still considered by many as a cornerstone to the latex fetish community that exists and thrives today. As for the Mackintosh brand itself, their mainstream success has not been as easy going. By the 1990s the company was close to bankruptcy, anyone that had previous used their coats for practical reasons had found cheaper alternatives. However, by the mid-90s they had turned it all around. They brought in Daniel Dunko, a sale executive who had worked previously as an apprentice on the Mackintosh factory floor. He rebuilt the brand, focusing on the heritage and quality of the product. Many of the world’s leading fashion houses began to come to Mackintosh to produce their rainwear. They have collaborated with nearly every big premium fashion brand from Gucci and Hermes to Comme des Garcons, while also focusing heavily on their own designs and collections. With only one factory in Cumbernauld they are one of only a few companies that can claim to be a truly British brand and today have worldwide success.
It is hard to deny that the latex overcoats seen on the runway today weren’t in some way inspired by the Mackintosh coat. Most recently, Givenchy got people talking when they included a bright blue latex trench coat into their SS18 women’s collections. For latex outerwear it has been a rocky road to mainstream success and only in recent times has it began to gain popularity. In contrast, the fetish community have been loving and appreciating the rubber overcoat for about as long as the Mackintosh itself has existed! It’s great to see latex outerwear being incorporated into modern fashion but it’s also important to remember the cultural significance it has had for the latex fetish community!