16 May 2019
Prehistoric man was the greatest adventurer to ever live. During the great migrations out of Africa around 50,000 years ago, our ancestors became the first explorers, the first mountaineers, the first sailors, even the first barefoot ultra-marathon runners. They did it in the most inhospitable climates – with volcanic winters, mega droughts, dropping sea levels and sheets of ice towering thousands of metres high covering modern day New York and Europe. And they were so successful that their adventures led to the exploration and colonisation of Earth. Having begun to create the future of clothing, we’ve now gone back in time to build gear for prehistoric man.
The Rift Valley was the perfect terrain for the birth of modern man. But as the most extreme part of the last ice age kicked in and Africa dried out, the great migrations began. With the habitat for humans shrinking, we headed North and East out of the valley, following in the footsteps of Neanderthals and Homo Erectus, expanding along the African coasts, migrating up into the Middle East through the savannahs, before hitting a grassland superhighway that stretched from Germany to Korea. Humanity was about to go mainstream.
Of course heading out of Africa was crazier than heading to Mars will be. While Mars has its dangers – from galactic cosmic rays to 20,000km wide dust storms – it remains a known quantity. Manned missions will know their destination actually exists. They’ll know the speed and direction they have to travel to reach it. They’ll know they’re not going to fall off the edge of anything on the way or be hunted down and eaten on arrival. Prehistoric man knew none of this when they headed out of Africa. The great migrations were a journey into uncharted territory. Early man was the probe and the rover.
You wouldn’t create a down jacket to cope with this level of uncertainty. Instead you need the clothing equivalent of a cave – something to shelter you from driving rain, wind, snow, sun and terror. To build a jacket for the colonisation of Earth you have to build for the unknown.
We started the process by looking at the earliest human settlements – from the organic sculptural recesses of caves, to the first tent-like structures made from mammoth bones. While crawling closer to the Earth’s core would have represented state of the art safety 50,000 years ago, the 50,000BC Jacket is designed to combine physical protection from the elements with the feeling of psychological protection.
Part coat, part cave, the 50,000BC Jacket borrows as much from architecture as it does from material science. Waterproof, windproof, highly durable, and with wool insulation, it’s a bonded, 4 layer, ice-age-proof jacket. Built for a truly nomadic lifestyle in ever changing weather conditions it turns the clothes on your back into your sanctuary from the world. The jacket is shaped to feel like a portable shelter. Three outer panels form a sculpted, triangular hood that works like a primitive tent. When the weather turns, you pull it up and around your face just like draping an animal skin over a cave entrance, and it traps a large pocket of warm air around your head.
While Neanderthals had been living in Europe’s freezing climate for 200,000 years, modern man was in for a wake-up call. Neanderthals’ bigger brains and heavier bodies were better adapted to the cold and lost less body heat. Even their vision was better tuned to the low light conditions of glacial Europe. When man turned up, he may as well just have emerged from California. He had more complex social networks, wider trading areas and better technology. He weighed less and liked running. But now he needed clothes to survive.
With clothes soon becoming the ultimate survival tool, the 50,000BC Jacket is cut from a four-layered soft shell that mimics the animal skins and furs adopted by prehistoric man. It’s designed to recreate the feeling and performance of a soft hide stitched with vine and sinew. Made from plants and creatures these early designs would have been strong, warm and waterproof. They’d have worked just like a second, heavy-duty skin, regulating your temperature in the heat and cold, while protecting you from the wind and rain.
With the needs and materials of the Upper Paleolithic in mind, we turned to wool. It’s already soft, elastic, and superb at keeping your temperature stable. We just needed to make it tough and waterproof like a hide. While it looks like it’s been dug up from the stone age, we built the 50,000BC Jacket with a highly advanced, bonded four-layer fabric built in Switzerland and insulated with locally sourced and sustainably produced Swiss wool. The last time wool was this cutting-edge was back in ancient Mesopotamia.
From 50,000BC onwards the ever-changing environment in and outside of Africa led to a series of inventions that looked like a patent race. Inventions evolved from simply ‘bashing stuff with a rock,’ to crafting fish hooks, darts, harpoons, blades, rope, oil lamps, buttons, ivory tools, and needles made from bird bones. The worse the weather we encountered, the more advanced human culture became. So we’ve fitted the 50,000BC Jacket with appropriate hidden technology.
Two sets of internal draw cords let you batten down the hatches when the weather goes ice age. Both are made from high strength military grade paracord that’s filled with over 2 metres of fishing wire and jute – which acts as tinder – that you can extract in case you end up somewhere man hasn’t been for a while. While free-floating buttons anchored on military tapes have been engineered to withstand freezing fingers, sweating hands and hostile vegetation. Every button is carved from corozo nut which is resistant to scratches, extreme temperatures and impact, so won’t crack or splinter.
We might have private jets, autonomous cars, and satellite navigation to ferry us around, but we’re still wired like prehistoric man. We’re at our best when we’re running straight towards the sign marked The Unknown. We seek out the things we’ve never seen, and we cross climates, terrains and land masses to do it. So whether you’re travelling through mountains, cities, or forests, this jacket is designed to work as well today for nomadic adventurers roving across the Earth today as it would have done 50,000 years ago.