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Oilskin Clothing - The Best Defense Against Bad Weather

By Lee Siemon

They say that necessity is the mother of invention, I'm not convinced that is the whole story. My curiosity and desire to understand how things came about led me to discover some amazing stories. That need-to-know has convinced me that more than a few times, great things are invented by everyday people who are just looking for a niche to fill that makes them a living. Such is my discovery about oilskin clothing.

I'm sure most of us (I include myself) have never heard of oilskin or never paid attention to its attributes. However, cowboys, range riders, bikers and sailors know all-to-well not to be caught in stormy weather with out it. The simplicity of this invention is amazing considering the speed it became a necessity in certain vocations. Oilskin has the ability to survive rough treatment from work environments that would ruin most other clothing, while being totally waterproof, windproof and warm. Oilskin coats have become the ultimate in harsh weather protection, sailors and bikers alike don't want to be caught without it, but let's get to the story behind this wonderful product. It all began in the late 1800's when a Scottish sailor, Edward Leroy, retired from sailing and settled in Australia. With no means of income and not much chance of finding a job, Edward looked for a way to earn a living.

Many ships were replacing their worn and weathered canvas sails with new ones, and the old canvas were being discarded. Edward discovered that if he soaked this old canvas in linseed oil, it renewed the canvas and made it waterproof and wind-resistant. Edward cut the "oilskin" canvas he had invented and sewed the pieces into capes. He then sold these capes to the sailors that docked at a near-by Australian port. Word spread quickly that Edward's capes could withstand the monsoon rains that wore down every sailor, keeping them warm and dry. Edward had created a lucrative niche business. It did not take long before this "Oilskin" product was shaped into actual coats and sold to Australian outback cowboys in need of the same protection. Tales were added, slits were put in the tails to allow the Long Coat to be comfortable while riding a horse, and tie-downs added to keep the wind from lifting them.

I doubt that Edward ever had a notion that is little invention that simply earned him a living would become sought after throughout the world. Edward's original oil-soaked canvas has gone through many transitions, but the principal is still the same. Newer methods of finishing the material, ways to soften it and make it more attractive, coat designs that have kept up with the ages, but still Edward's principal is the same.

Oilskin Clothing - The Best Defense Against Bad Weather
The Oilskin coat has taken sailors and range riders through the roughest weather for over a century, and Bikers have made it the clothing of choice to carry when they travel light. There are many makers of Oilskin clothing, and a lot of imitations, but Australia still remains the quality producer of the wonderful material.

Lee has been writing ever since his 10th grade Lit teacher challenged him in poetry. Through out the years he has written everything from instruction manuals to poetry, including a dozen short stories and lots of poetry. One day he might just find time to finish the novel he has started.

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