Macintosh versus Burberry: Basingstoke’s Greatest Contribution to World Culture?

January 18th, 2011 by admin

Mr Toad models Burberry

The Daily Telegraph has reported (13 January 2011) the ‘Stylish return of the mac’. Apparently, ‘classic Mackintosh (sic) looks from the archives’ are to be re-worked by the Japanese company that has bought the brand, and sold in up-market shops.

However, the true pioneer of the raincoat was not Charles Macintosh but Thomas Burberry, the Basingstoke draper. The rubberised ‘Macs’ were sticky, smelly, easily punctured garments, apt to melt in hot weather and to stiffen in cold – a crude concept compared to Burberry’s silky ‘Gabardine’. Burberry’s ‘Trench Coat’, originally intended for officers in the Great War, came to be considered the height of sophistication and chic, but no person of fashion has ever dreamed of wearing a ‘Mac’.
Burberry modelled his gabardine on the peasant smock, which in the 1870s was still a common sight in Basingstoke. The story of Burberry is told in my new book, Basingstoke and its Contribution to World Culture.