The name of Charles Macintosh (1766-1843) is forever associated with traditional British rainwear thanks to his patenting of a process for waterproofing fabrics with naphtha-treated rubber way back in 1823. Less well known in the arcane history of waterproof garments is the role of Thomas Hancock (1786-1865), who is credited with founding the rubber industry itself in Great Britain. In 1820 he invented a machine called a “masticator”, the revolving teeth of which ripped up scraps of rubber that were then pressed into solid blocks or rolled into sheets. In the mid-1820s, Hancock joined forces with Macintosh to develop the exciting new product. In 1843 Hancock took out the British patent for the vulcanisation process, which involved heating rubber with sulphur, thereby reducing the chance of the rubber becoming gummy or brittle depending on the temperature (his action blocked Charles Goodyear from extending to the UK his American patent for a similar process).
Hancock’s profile is about to be raised as he has lent his name and his inspiration to a new company founded by Daniel Dunko, a man well known in this sector as he worked at the Mackintosh rainwear company for 28 years, having started as an apprentice coat maker and ending up as chief executive. Based, like Mackintosh, in Cumbernauld, just outside Glasgow, Hancock, as the new company is named, is combining the finest standards of hand-making vulcanised rubber rainwear with a contemporary styling that has been provided by ideas from London bespoke tailor Timothy Everest. The capsule collection for autumn-winter 2012 will comprise only a few styles, which are known as “articles”, as Thomas Hancock referred to all his many rubber products as such. The HVA device on the printed linings stands for “Hand-Vulcanised Articles”.
For the debut, the thin vulcanised rubber sheet will be bonded to a Super 120’s wool flannel (with 3% cashmere) from the Yorkshire mill of John Foster, which was itself founded in 1819. The key item will be a single-breasted town coat, available in charcoal or navy, that will be hand-made with rubber-bonded taped seams to render it 100% waterproof. The rubber solution used in the process is applied by that most precise of instruments, the human finger. It takes three years’ training to perfect the spreading or “smearing” on all the seams and hem lines.
Simple tools do essential jobs in the process. The tape that covers the interior seams is pressed down by a rolling hardened steel cylinder, the same width as the tape, which is attached to a wooden handle. A rubber wheel attached to a wooden handle is used by the coat-maker to remove any excess glue that may have spread outside of the tape.
Confirmed London retailers for Hancock are Cordings on Piccadilly and Timothy Everest in Bruton Place. In Tokyo, Vulcanize, Aoyama and United Arrows’ Harajuku branch will also have the initial offering. American buyers will see the line at Pitti Uomo in Florence this month.