This week we visited Sprayway UK's HQ between our native Cheshire and Manchester. I've always had that thing for Goretex coats, no matter where I get too and whatever trends come and go, they always pull me back in.
It's probably a given that we love our outerwear here at CC, old mountaineers are genuine heroes of ours and of course living in such close proximity to the rainiest city in the world, a nice coat has always been an essential wardrobe item. I'm a big fan of pioneering outdoor brands, those from across the Atlantic have been covered an then some, but closer to home there's a real penchant for old Goretex coats in this house. That lovely musty smell they all stench of, regardless of the brand, takes me straight to a hillside, the Lakes, the Roaches, Edale. Reminds me of camping out and fending for oneself against whatever nature throws at you, you know what I mean, the sun setting on a late summer's eve, the sound of raindrops against a tents top, campfires with overly cooked sausages and a Thermos of lip burning Vimto, I'm being romantic, please stop me there.
From humble beginnings out of a garage in Chorlton, Manchester; to kitting out arctic explorers and National Park rangers. Sprayway has been keeping the British public warm, dry and comfortable since 1974.
“John Hunt and Simon Wright initially began making sailing clothing as a natural extension of their passion for competitive dinghy sailing. They were also keen mountaineers and recognised a lack of solid, durable and waterproof climbing clothing at the time. Driven on by the famous Manchester climate surrounding them, the two began manufacturing coated waterproof jackets…”
And the rest as they say, is history.
Of course once upon a time these old coats and brands we love weren't old, they were new and advancing in technological clothing as we knew it. The eighties and nineties were a golden era for this stuff, bright jackets, roomy pockets wired hood, map pocket, wonderful colours, seen on hillwalkers, hikers, country paths and city streets alike, something for everyone from a climber to a casual, ravers to a trendy pensioner and fully fledged explorers. Take me back to school and around '95 a Sprayway Goretex was a must have amongst the cool kids. Bright, garish colours, pulled in dead tight at the waist and folded at the hem. I remember that well, whilst scally chic was in full motion, the real important people were wearing this same kit whilst scaling some of the highest and deadliest mountains this world has to offer such as Kongur and Changabang.
And that's what has always driven my interest in these brands, they are made with the most treacherous weather conditions in mind, built to last, made for specialist climbing expeditions. We're not going up Everest any time soon, Everton away, maybe. That's the appeal, great well made jackets, lasting appeal, a perfect layer come rain or shine. Beg, steal and borrow, adopt and adapt, like certain Royal approved wax jackets, if it's good enough for them, then it's good enough for us. My interest in climbing and mountaineers is fairly keen, I find the likes of Bonington, Whillans et al, total heroes, what they did, what they went through, risked and lived to tell the tale is remarkable, totally inspiring. Without being corny these people also became unlikely style icons to me and many too. Of course not everyone who went on these far flung expeditions lived to tell the tale, they were often tragic, often fatal, the risks were always there. Looking into this subject it sometimes reads like real horror stories, we all know about Captain Scott's fateful expedition and many years on, technology has changed, clothing has advanced, but that unforgiving, unwelcoming icy terrain remains the same terrifying, yet alluring wilderness - where people willingly risk life and limb in the ultimate adrenaline rush. So it was interesting to see the above letters, hand typed and signed off by both Joe Tasker and Stockport's own Peter Boardman, a local lad done good. Both of these had an impressive pedigree in climbing and had joined Chris Bonington's expedition to attempt the likes of Kongur and K2. In 1982 tragedy struck, along with Tasker, Boardman vanished on the North East ridge of Everest. Ten years later his body was discovered but Tasker remains missing amongst the many who didn't return, who still sit in this wilderness.
So, what is this about? why did we go and have a look I hear you ask? grab a seat and I'll tell you. Aside from a keen interest in those old coats, it's long been a dream of ours to make our very own Goretex coat, anyone cannot just go and buy this, it was, is and remains some serious kit with Goretex ensuring only the right people endorse their product. With this in mind I wondered what the chances were of perhaps doing something with someone, someone established who knows the score.
Step forward Sprayway, this brand enjoyed a real buzz in the aforementioned golden era, and that's exactly what we wanted to achieve for today. Everything had to be about the original, original style, original fit, original branding, this was of paramount importance for us. Whilst any modern day stuff is probably just as good, just as technical, better arguably. I've always said the older stuff is cooler, certainly cooler looking that's for sure.
Sprayway are embarking on their 40th Anniversary year, it's a great family brand with amazing heritage and history and that local North West connection we are so very proud of. So, early days right now but if we can work together it's right for us on many levels, we would promise a classic outerwear piece to last for years, the coolest Connoisseur release yet? let's see. All we can say right now is the wheels are in motion, watch this space for developments, stay tuned for a meeting of minds. DC