The Dickies Guide to Waterproof Fabric

The Dickies Guide to Waterproof Fabric

PRODUCTS| 07.05.2021

Waterproof fabric has been around for a long time, and innovation and improvement have never stopped. From the earliest attempts to make clothing that wouldn’t soak up water, to the very latest in weatherproof technology, the quest to stay dry has never ended. Here at Dickies, we pride ourselves on manufacturing quality waterproof workwear and clothing, including overalls, trousers and jackets. 

In this guide, we explore the history and science behind waterproofing and take a look at advanced weatherproof technology in action at Bolton Wanderers FC. We’ve included recommendations from the trusted Dickie’s collection to help you select the best clothing for wet weather.

History of Waterproofing

The first attempts at waterproof clothing were made by the Aleut Native Americans who needed something that would keep them dry whilst out hunting in their kayaks. They used dried seal or whale intestines to create kamleikas, which were semi-transparent raincoats.

By the 15th century, sailors began coating sails with linseed oil to create a barrier to rainwater and sea spray.  Experimentation continued for four hundred years before G. Fox of London manufactured the first raincoat (called Fox’s Aquatic) in 1821.  

As oiled fabrics were heavy and uncomfortable, different combinations of materials were developed. This paved the way for the famous Victorian Mackintosh raincoat in 1836 which was made by squeezing liquid rubber in between two layers of fabric. The Mackintosh - or Mac, as it became commonly known - became highly popular, and was so successful at repelling water that it became the standard-issue uniform for both the police force and the British Army. 

The problem with these coats was that, while they let no water in, they also let none out. The coats were prone to collect sweat and were uncomfortable to wear for extended periods.  The rubberised fabric was also susceptible to melting in hot weather! 

This led to the development of other materials, including oil fabrics with waxed jackets using beeswax and paraffin to coat cotton garments. Brands such as Helly Hanson and Barbour pioneered wax jackets in the late 1800s.


How does waterproof fabric work?

In short: waterproof fabric is treated or coated with substances that repel water molecules. 

Today, the development of water-resistant materials continues to be an area of innovation and development. Waterproof fabrics work by ensuring the pores in the material are so small that water can not penetrate through, something which can be achieved by adding coatings or through weaving methods. 

Making clothes that can handle a rain shower is relatively easy, but making a fabric truly waterproof is more challenging. As the history of waterproofing shows, it’s difficult to make garments that keep water out but let vapour pass through.


How to maximise water resistance?

Water-resistance is measured in millimetres, representing the amount of water that can rest on the material before seeping through. Breathability is a measurement of how quickly water vapour passes through the fabric. A garment is judged to be 100% waterproof if it can withstand 1,500mm of water. The Dickies Generation Waterproof Jacket is water-resistant to 10,000mm and transmits 5000g/m2 of vapour in 24 hours, ensuring high performance in wet conditions.

Tightly-woven fabrics have minuscule pores that make it hard for water to pass through but remain permeable for breathability. They will maximise comfort and can withstand rain but can start to absorb water in prolonged wet weather.

An alternative option is to use microporous polymers, materials that contain billions of tiny holes that link together in complex pathways. Surface tension will cause water droplets to bead on these surfaces and not soak through. Clothing made using this method will have high levels of water resistance but can start to degrade over time.


Waterproof Clothing Quality Checklist

Use this list to help you choose the right clothing:


  • Water resistance: How wet will the conditions be? Look for an appropriate waterproof rating.
  • Breathability: What activities will you be doing? The more likely you are to sweat, the higher level of breathability you need.
  • Durability: Look for items that can handle regular use and are built to last
  • Fit: As well as your size, think about other clothing you will wear. Are you looking for a thick, insulated jacket or a weather-resistant outer layer?
  • Extra features: What else do you need? Consider the range of pockets, padding and high-visibility.
  • Colour and style: Look for something that you will enjoy wearing.


Meet the Dickies waterproof range

Our Advanced Weatherproof Technology (AWT) products are engineered to guard against the elements for optimal weather protection.

Our range of waterproofs includes the Dickies Generation Waterproof Jacket. When the weather turns foul, the water-resistant fabric (10,000mm level) and taped seams ensure you stay dry. It’s designed for comfort and performance, with a peaked hood, drawcord adjustment and chest pockets. Reflective tape aids safety if you’re working outside in the dark. The AWT technology in this jacket is on your side when the weather is against you.

We’ve also utilised Advanced Weatherproof Technology in our Phoenix Safety Boots. These water-resistant, versatile, lightweight boots can handle hard conditions without compromising comfort. A breathable, textile lining prevents overheating and the exclusive Dickies DTC sole unit has SRC rated slip resistance. With non-metallic, anti-penetration underfoot protection, these boots are ready for a day at work or on the trail.

Finally, the Dickies Abbot 3 in 1 Jacket combines an AWT outer layer with inner fleece. They can be used together or separately to provide effective layers when the weather is cold as well as wet. The zipped front and elasticated cuffs on the fleece layer work to hold heat close to the body. The outer jacket is waterproof to 10,000mm and includes a concealed hood and reflective piping.



Dickies teamed up with Bolton Wanderers FC to put our AWT range to the test - and who better to test how waterproof it is than the BWFC ground staff? They need protection from mother nature as they work outside all day, caring for the pitch. 

Dickies AWT garments are the ultimate in waterproof, breathable fabrics. They are engineered to repel rain, sleet and snow without restricting mobility - perfect for preparing, cutting and marking out the pitch in weathers. The heavy-duty, windproof construction is also designed to keep you warm as well as dry, and the AWT jackets and trousers use a water-repellent membrane, allowing water vapour to escape when you start to work up a sweat.

We’re pleased to say that the AWT range stood up to the demands of the BWFC team, and it can for you too. Dickies is proud to supply quality, durable workwear to professional tradesmen and women, as well as DIY enthusiasts and lovers of the great outdoors. Whatever the weather, you can trust that our clothing is up to the job.

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