THE ORIGIN OF THE ALPINE VEST
Fact. Down-filled outerwear is worn by cold people all over the world. However its history is contested, some believe Eddie Bauer was the man to popularise down-filled outerwear after filing a patent for the ‘Skyliner’ jacket after a hypothermic brush-with-death in Washington state, 1940. However, if you dig a little deeper it appears the down-filled jacket, like wifi, was invented by an Australian.
George Finch was a resident of Orange NSW. He turned his attention to mountaineering after serving in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps in World War One. He was invited to be part of the British Mount Everest Expedition of 1922, the first Mount Everest expedition with the sole intent to summit.
In 1922 the generally accepted climbing attire consisted of wool, wool and more wool. Scarves and jumpers were layered in multiples and always topped with a full suit of Norfolk Tweed. The issue here most faced was the layer of moisture that would freeze on the outside, reducing mobility and ultimately making the wearer eventually colder.
George Finch in his 'Eiderdown' Jacket, 1923.
Before the expedition George commissioned a company in London named S.W. Silver and Co to produce a one-off jacket made from hot air balloon material, stuffed with the insulating downy plumage of ducks. The logic was simple: no air can pass through the cloth of a hot air balloon, and ducks seem just fine in freezing water. George also had this jacket made in rather loud and lurid green.
When he arrived at the Everest base camp wearing his new one of a kind bright green ‘Eiderdown’ jacket, he instantly became the laughing stock of all the British traditionalists who wore Tweed (in fact, one of these men often preferred to climb nude). Wearing anything other than jumpers, scarves and Tweed was seen as unfair and ‘un-British’.
In his Eiderdown jacket George ascended to a higher point on Mount Everest than anyone previously. However he sadly failed to summit due to his partner being too cold in his tweed suit (how un-British of him!).
Geoffrey Bush (in tweed) and George Finch (in down), 1923.
Over the 100 years since George commissioned his one-off jacket, down garments have flourished, becoming the go-to winter garment of people worldwide. There’s one issue with this though - you could argue that pulling the feathers out of ducks and geese is pretty nasty business. So how do you achieve the warmth and performance of bird down in a more ethical way? Synthetic down is one way to go about it but that is made of plastics (polyester) from the fossil fuel industry.
Our Alpine Vest utilises a product out of Italy called Cashball. It may sound like a $2 scratchy from the local newsagent, but Cashball is one of the most sustainable and technologically advanced stuffings available. It is formed by combining recycled cashmere fibres and micro-fibres specially designed to preserve body heat. It is made from 95% pre-consumer recycled cashmere (‘stuff’ from the cashmere refining process). Since cashmere is a more humanely harvested fibre, this makes Cashball the most animal and environmentally friendly bird down alternative.
The outer layer on our vest is a nylon blend from Japan which has the perfect amount of elasticity to permit free movement. Inside you will find four(!) pockets. All of which are lined with our beautifully soft touch ‘Vegan Suede’. Across the inside back waist is an oversized game pocket, perfect for secretly hiding an extra layering piece or some deli meats. available on the market.