Threads of History is a series that aims to give a historical context to the many technical fabrics we use here at Aether Apparel.
“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few” These are the famous words spoken by Winston Churchill describing the heroic pilots of the Royal Air Force, who, despite being out-gunned and out-numbered, boldly took to the skies in the summer of 1940 to defend England against an impending Nazi invasion. Known as the Battle of Britain, it was the first major military conflict to be fought entirely by air forces. Londoners needed only look up to see the tides of war churning in the skies above them. As the German war-machine barred down on them, the fate of England rested in the hands of a few brave men.
With waves of German bombers streaming over the channel at all hours of the day, RAF pilots had to be ready to take off on a moments notice. Once in the air they not only had to contend with German fighters but had to battle the raw elements as well. Pilots frequently had to bail out of their aircraft by parachute or ditch their planes in the icy waters of the Atlantic. In would be many years before England developed a proper Air-Sea rescue outfit, so downed pilots had no guarantee of any type of rescue at all and were effectively left on their own to survive.
To offer some form of protection against these harsh conditions, the British military developed a special immersion suit made from EtaProof fabric. This densely woven cotton was waterproof and thermally insulating, but comfortable enough to be worn in the cockpit and during the countless hours spent waiting to take-off. These suits gave downed pilots a genuine chance at survival during emergency situations, and there are many stories of pilots that were pulled from the waters of the English Channel only to be rushed back to the airfield to fly another mission.
After four months of fierce and intense aerial combat, the RAF pilots were eventually able to push back the tides of war. Through a combination of superior intelligence and absolute determination, they were able to ward off the looming Nazi invasion. It was a stunning defeat for Germany, from which they never fully recovered, and turned out to be a failure that would lead to their ultimate demise.
As for EtaProof, it is still in use by RAF and USAF pilots to this day. After hearing about the venerable history of the fabric, we were excited to use it for our new Military Jacket. The military style has been co-opted by many in the fashion industry for aesthetic purposes, but we wanted our Military Jacket to get back to the performance-driven functionality that it was originally designed for. Unlike a lot of the cotton/nylon blends that are used, EtaProof has proven itself to be one of the most versatile and durable fabrics available and we feel honored to be able to share it with you.