The Mountaineering Anorak

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The weather in the Bay Area has turned a bit drizzly this past week. The best raincoats I’ve come across are made from techy or treated fabrics – such as Gore-Tex or waxed cotton – but I’ve been relying on this 1950s mountaineering anorak instead. It’s a simple piece, made from an untreated, plain weave cotton, but the pullover style gives great protection, while the string-closure at the neckline can be tightened when it’s cold. 

Pullover-style jackets such as this one have been associated with everyone from adventurers to college students. See, for example, old photos of Edmund Hillary and his team as they climbed up Mount Everest, or Kirk Douglas and Richard Harris in the 1965 film The Heroes of Telemark. Theirs were designed for mountaineering, which means they were made from more rugged materials and insulated for warmth. Somewhere along the way, however, the anorak became trimmer and lighter weight. In the mid-century, Belstaff and Barbour made some for less arduous missions, while in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, Peter Storm’s were associated with British casuals. You can also spot the jacket in old Ivy Style photos, such as those in Take Ivy

For the kind of wet, chilly weather we’ve been having, I like to wear mine with jeans, some LL Bean boots, and a chunky turtleneck sweater. The problem with anoraks is that the fronts can sometimes be a bit plain, so turtleneck gives bit of a visual interest at the neckline. This particular jacket also has a few interesting pockets around the body – a big kangaroo pocket at the chest, two pockets at the hips, and two pockets halfway at the back. It’s a more interesting look, I think, than the kind of packable anoraks you see today around college campuses. 

You may be still be able to find vintage military and mountaineering ones on eBay (I would suggest search terms, but I found this one through Jesse at Put This On). For similar styles, try Nigel Cabourn, Battenwear, Fjällräven, and Shades of Grey. If you’re on a budget, MKI and Peter Storm have some affordable options. For something a bit more historic looking, there’s Merrow British Clothing, but be warned – theirs are based on original military specs and thus fit huge. 

Outerwear: vintage mountaineering smock | Knitwear: Vintage Asprey cashmere turtleneck | Jeans: 3sixteen SL-100x | Shoes: 8″ LL Bean Boots with Thinsulate | Umbrella: Custom tartan Fox Umbrella from The Armoury

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