What exactly have you modified to enhance the original shoe’s functionality?
ABE The thing we started with is this pretty amazing fabric called Supermarine cotton. It’s basically a 21st century version of something called Ventile, which was invented by the British in World War II, primarily because their pilots were getting shot down in the North Sea and they were dying of hypothermia. These guys were guarding ships so even though there would be a rescue boat right there, they were in the water for only 10 minutes but they were freezing to death. It’s highly water-resistant and it breathes incredibly well. We came across this fabric in a history book and tracked it down, luckily it’s still being made for different Air Forces around the world and also for Antarctic expeditions, because it’s incredibly windproof as well.
So 50 years ago they created something that hasn’t really been improved upon since?
ABE From a fabric standpoint it’s the pinnacle of cotton technology. The 19th century was the cotton century and people were making better and better cottons, such as the Burberry cloth which was invented in 1880 or 1890. It’s pretty water-resistant and it’s tough and Burberry still makes their jackets out of it, but Supermarine cotton is two steps along. It uses Egyptian cotton, which makes it really expensive, and it’s incredibly well engineered. During World War II they also invented Nylon and Polyester and all of a sudden attention went to these synthetics and nobody was thinking about cotton any more. It’s not as waterproof as Gore-Tex, but it’s dramatically more breathable which is really important. You don’t want a shoe to turn into a big sweaty box.
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