For fall, Hlaska has introduced a special edition of their popular Navigator jacket, cut and sewn here in America from waxed cotton. It's a fitting choice, given that the fabric is an ideal choice for this time of year, when the coated cotton shell provides an equal amount of warmth, breathability and protection from precipitation. A handy cover-up or simply a rugged replacement to a blazer, the Navigator features working buttons on the cuffs along with the label's signature interior pocket, angled for easy placement of your phone or iPod.
A cotton cloth imbibed with a paraffin-based wax.
Invented in a Scottish mill that wove sails for the British clipper fleet back in the 1850s, the fabric was developed to waterproof seamen's clothing. Originally coated in linseed oil, the fabric was heavy and became very stiff in cold weather. Other waxes were experimented with and outdoor outfitters took notice of the weather-resistant fabric. One of the early adopters was Barbour, which began producing waxed jacket for hunters. The Belstaff label launched with a signature waxed motorcycle jacket. The material became standard issue for the British military during WWII.
Steve McQueen in a Barbour International jacket.
Because wax and cotton are both natural products, they deteriorate with use. The beauty of waxed fabric is that it wears similarly to leather or raw denim—showing wear in places and resulting in a softer, more pliable garment. "Something about waxed cotton keeps getting better with age," says style writer Joe Gannon (who shows you how to do it yourself below). "It allows for the preservation of unique wear patterns around the elbows, collars, cuffs of jackets and holds all the grime on the bill of a hat."
"I first started looking into waxed cotton a few years ago when people were rediscovering Barbour. I did some brief online research and talked to an old duck hunter here in Delaware. The fabric runs deep in the water-fowling culture. He walked me through his waxing process and I was surprised to find that there isn't much to it. It's one of those things that only seems like a tremendous, highly skilled task. I started with Filson's waterproofing wax ($9)—probably the best place for a rookie to start. It's a softer wax and doesn't require the addition of a heat source to set the wax into the fibre. Heavier paste waxes will give you a better water protection and more shine, but they are a bit more difficult to deal with for a beginner."
Ensure the fabric is free of any dirt or debris and begin by dabbing on some wax and then working it into the fabric in a circular motion.
Start with hard to reach areas, applying plenty of wax along seams of the garment.
Keep working in 5x5 inch squares until garment is completely covered in wax.
Hang to dry in a clean, moisture-free place.