50,000BC Jacket. Red Clay edition. We’ve gone back to the Upper Paleolithic to build the future.
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. 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.
We’re going back into history to build the future
There’s an unspoken logic that people only design for the present day or the future. But we wanted to see if designing for the past couldn’t create just as many insane possibilities. Creating clothing for colonising Mars is one thing. But designing clothing for early man and the colonisation of Earth is just as fascinating an engineering challenge. It’s only by asking questions no-one is asking that you can come up with answers no-one has thought of. So we’ve headed back to the age of ice sheets, woolly mammoths, and the birth of design.
The great migrations were a journey into uncharted territory
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.
A jacket built for heading into the unknown
To build a jacket for the colonisation of Earth you have to build for the unknown. Facing a violently changing world, prehistoric man soon had to deal with every terrain and temperature on the planet – from mega droughts to ice ages – in a climate that turned the Sahara from a wetland to a desert, and all while hunting creatures the size of buildings. 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.
The 50,000BC Jacket is part coat, part architecture
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 – so the jacket borrows as much from architecture as it does from material science. 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.
Closing the hood is like closing the entrance to a cave
The jacket is shaped to feel like a portable shelter, so the hood and shoulders are cut differently from any other jacket. 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 if you need to hunker down, two thick Velcro strips under the collar secure everything fast.
The hood traps a giant air pocket around your head
When you pull it shut the hood works just like a miniature cave or primitive dwelling by trapping a large pocket of warm air around your head. It’s this function that dictates the shape of the jacket. We re-engineered the hood to come directly off the shoulders to increase the size of the air pocket. With the hood closed the warm air you breathe out heats up air around your head.
You can wear the hood down, or fold it away
With the hood up you’ll look ready to face down the most prehistoric conditions or creatures. But we designed it so that it can be worn down too, just like a regular hood. Clever engineering gives you a couple of extra options as well. The outer hood is sculpted around an internal collar, so you can fold the hood in on itself, tucking it back into the internal recesses between the two layers to create a sort of prehistoric scarf.
How clothes became the ultimate survival tool
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.
The jacket works like a second heavy-duty skin
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.
We turned to wool and made it tough and waterproof
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.
How the 4 layers are built for adventure
The jacket’s four layers each perform a specific role. On the outside, a hard-wearing nylon that stretches in every direction covers a waterproof membrane, keeping out the elements like an oiled hide. On the inside, insulation made from elasticised wool is covered with a soft and breathable brushed polyester, which traps thousands of tiny air pockets next to your skin to keep you warmer.
The wool layer helps regulate your temperature
Swiss sheep have to survive scorching summers and freezing winters, so their fleece has evolved to help them stay cool in temperatures of over 30°C, while staying warm in -10°C. When you wear wool fibres they respond and adapt to the conditions you find yourself in – either trapping or releasing heat depending on the temperature and humidity of your skin. So unlike a down jacket, the 50,000BC Jacket is thermoregulating, and can cope with rapidly changing conditions – sheltering you from driving rain, wind, snow or sun.
Wool traps millions of warm air pockets
Staying warm is all about trapping as many pockets of air next to your body as possible and that’s what wool is built for. Every fibre is hollow which means you have millions of air pockets inside the jacket. And as the natural curl of wool fibres traps more air than straight fibres, the microscopic texture of the fabric itself retains heat. The way they knit together also means that the wool stays evenly distributed around the jacket, rather than collecting in specific areas and leaving cold spots.
It also helps you stay cool and dry
If you’re working hard and sweating, the jacket will keep you dry at the same time as keeping rain and snow out. This is where wool is completely different to down. It can help regulate your temperature rather than just trying to heat you up. Wool has to keep sheep cool even when the temperature goes over 30°C, so the fibre naturally absorbs the moisture from sweat and disperses it to start releasing heat.
Heading out of Africa was crazier than heading to Mars
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. Every new journey was into uncharted territory. Early man was the probe and the rover.
Necessity was now the mother of all invention
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.
Even the draw cords are built for survival
Two sets of internal draw cords let you batten down the hatches when the weather goes ice age. Inside each front pocket you’ll find a draw cord with stainless steel cord stoppers that let you draw the waist in to retain heat. A second draw cord runs around the bottom hem. 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.
Two large pockets fit flint axes or satellite phones
The jacket has two zipped front pockets large enough to hold a couple of small axes, fire wood and rocks – or satellite phone, maps and supplies if you prefer. The pocket openings are hidden beneath storm flaps, so they work like a recessed cave entrance. And the inside of each pocket is built with the same soft, stretchy, insulated fabric as the jacket, to keep your hands from freezing.
Free-floating buttons anchored on military tapes
The jacket buttons have been engineered to withstand freezing fingers, sweating hands and hostile vegetation. Rather than being sewn on, each button is threaded onto a heavy duty woven polyester tape that runs the jacket’s entire length and around each cuff. The tape is then stitched onto reinforced panels above and below each button. The construction allows the jacket to flex and withstand any tearing forces, as each button is free to slide 2 centimetres up and down its section of military tape. All 9 buttons are attached in the same way.
Impact-resistant buttons made from corozo nuts
Every button starts life as a corozo nut buried inside the spiky fruit of the Tagua Palm trees found on the coastal mountain ranges of South America. Corozo is phenomenally strong so can be carved with stunning precision. It’s highly resistant to scratches, extreme temperatures and impact, so won’t crack or splinter. Made from 100% organic fibre, each button has a unique grain just like a fingerprint, so no two will ever be the same. And all buttons are sculpted with a highly polished 30 degree taper towards the edges to make them easy to slip into place.
Adventure is in our DNA
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 search 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.