Most think of techwear as clothing for the future, but Vollebak is not most people. The label's 50,000BC jacket is a “part coat, part cave” survival garment designed for the greatest adventurer that ever lived: prehistoric man.
“There’s an unspoken logic that we only design for the present day or the future,” explains Vollebak co-founder Steve Tidball. “We wanted to see if designing for the past couldn’t create just as many insane possibilities.”
Famous for its high-tech, near-indestructible graphene jacket, Vollebak’s latest garment was designed with both the needs and materials of the Upper Paleolithic in mind. The 50,000BC jacket is cut from a four-layered soft shell that mimics a heavy-duty animal skin. On the outside, a stretchy nylon face fabric covers a waterproof membrane, keeping out the elements like an oiled hide. On the inside, insulation made from elasticized wool is brushed for supreme next-to-skin comfort.
If the Night’s Watch had Batman’s gadget shop, their cloaks would be made like this.
But the materials are only half the story. “The jacket borrows as much from architecture as it does from material science,” says Tidball. “That’s because we start the process by looking at the earliest human settlements, from the organic sculptural recesses of caves to the earliest tent-like structures made from mammoth bones.”
The 50,000BC jacket is shaped to feel like a portable shelter. The outer panels form a sculpted, triangular hood that works like a primitive tent. When the weather turns nasty, the hood can be pulled shut, just like draping an animal skin over a cave entrance. And if it gets truly frightful, two thick Velcro straps under the collar secure everything, trapping a pocket of warm air inside.
“The idea was to create a garment that combined physical protection from the elements with a feeling of psychological protection,” says Tidball. “It’s this function that dictates the shape of the jacket.”
For bonus paleo points, the jacket’s internal drawcords are filled with more than two meters of fishing wire and tinder. According to the brand, they can be extracted to light a fire should things go really ice age.
While the 50,000BC's design and hardcore origins might not be for everyone, the jacket represents a truly novel approach to technical apparel. This isn't another matte black GORE-TEX shell built for urban exploration, it’s a hunched, robust porta-tent meant for romping through the Earth at its most inhospitable. Some of the jacket’s encapsulating features will perhaps look familiar to Stone Island fans, but Vollebak’s latest is a welcome addition to a crowded category.
By flipping techwear from the future to the past, the UK-based label has created one of the freshest-feeling pieces of the spring. The 50,000BC jacket is due out later this month and will be produced in limited numbers. An advance-access waiting list is available through the brand’s website here.