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History of Oilskin

The origins of oilskin (oilies) or waxed cotton clothing takes you back to the age of the sailing ship when there were no manufacturers of waterproof clothing.  Sailing ships were rigged with linen sails.   Fishermen and sailors found that by applying linseed oil (from flax seed) to the linen made it waterproof and was excellent material for making waterproof capes.  However, the linen was heavy and the linseed oil turned yellow and stiffened over time.  Cotton sails eventually replaced linen.   Cotton was lighter and could be woven into a tighter and stronger fabric.  It also led to lighter and stronger clothing such as oiled cotton jackets, coats and trousers. 

The next major evolution came between World War I and II when linseed oil was replaced by parafin wax.  ; Parafin wax treated garments maintained their flexibility and was also breathable so condensation wouldn't build up.  This led to more sophisticated garments providing the wearer with significantly more movement and utility.  These cotton, or oilskin garments as they were known in Australia and New Zealand, were extremely tough. 

Kakadu Traders introduced the Microwax™ system in 1972, which perfected the water, wind, and storm protection.  Kakadu uses only the finest long fibered cotton, tightly woven and made to last.  These garments have a natural built-in climate control.  The coating is specially prepared to provide an insulating barrier that breathes between the wearer and the elements.  The heat is held inside, which melts the Microwax™ and lets excess heat escape.  This reduces internal heat, which allows the Microwax™ to set again, restoring the integrity of the garment.  Kakadu garments are built for comfort but made to last  Their first drover coat, age 80, is still around after all the abuse from mother nature.

In Australia and New Zealand the history of the oilskin is primarily associated with farmers.  Although you are more likely to die of thirst in most of Australia than find yourself in need of an oilskin coat, the eastern seaboard and the inland mountain ranges see their share of torrential downpours.  The horseman wearing the traditional duster coat used by generations of drovers and farmers is an icon that the mostly urban dwelling population have taken to heart.  The popularity of oilskin has taken off in the years following the release of the movie "The Man From Snowy River".  Australia's best known poet, Banjo Patterson, penned "The Man From Snow River" which was made into a movie which captured the essence and imagery of the drover in his oilskin coat.


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