Mackintosh drawing patterns

 
How is a Mackintosh made? With an odd, perhaps appealingly simple process: cut out pieces of bonded cotton and stick them together with blobs of glue, using your fingers.

A few weeks ago Luke and I visited one of the two Mackintosh factories. This one, in Cumbernauld, makes the classic Macs in bonded cotton; the other, in Nelson, makes regular coats, usually in wool.
 

Mackintosh bonded rubber

 
The classic Macs use a bonding process originally created by Charles Mackintosh in the nineteenth century. That process uses vulcanised rubber to join two pieces of cotton together – you can see the rubber in between the layers in the image above.

This material isn’t made by Mackintosh, but by a supplier in Oldham. Rather like Globe-Trotter the core material isn’t part of the in-house manufacturing (in Globe-Trotter’s case, its vulcanised board).

There would likely be little of interest in the mass manufacturing of bonded cotton, however. Far more striking is the way it is glued together.
 

Mackintosh factory cumbernauld

 
There are 56 workers in the factory. There are some cutters and some sewers, but most of them work at waist-high workbenches, dipping their fingers into buckets of rubbery glue and smearing it across the edges.

The blobs of glue are tight and rubbery. They can be wiped across a surface, leave sufficient deposit and remain stuck to the workers’ fingers. They can even be used to clean the table afterwards, collecting stray bits of glue in the same way you use Blu-Tack to collect other bits of Blu-Tack.

It is an absorbing and bizarrely manual process. 
 

Mackintosh gluing seams

 
One place you can see its advantage, though, is dealing with curves – around the armhole and the elbow patches, for example. 

Once the pieces are glued together, the insides are taped to make them waterproof, and then pressed. Tape is being applied to the inside of an armhole in the second image below.

The cuffs and bottom hem are the only places that are sewn (apart from the buttonholes of course). They are still glued, and pressed, but a line of stitching provides an extra level of security.
 

Mackintosh taping seams

 
Mackintosh have been in this factory since 1964, and plan to move soon. You can see it’s creaking at the edges, even with the new ventilation funnels on every board, which draw the glue fumes away from the workers and pump them out of the back of the factory.

Although the Mackintosh line doesn’t stray far from its classics, the company does do regular collaborations. Even when the Mac label is not used, you can easily identify the end product by that distinctive material and glued seams. This keeps the factory on its toes, as production director Willie Ross (below) puts it. 
 

Willie Ross Mackintosh

 
When we visited, some of the collaborations involved camouflage materials, bright colours and (oddly, for a waterproof) eyelet holes all over the body.

Finally, as some readers requested video coverage of the factory visits, here is a short clip showing the gluing process. There will be a couple more in the post on Begg scarves.
 

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Anonymous

Are there any tailors that can waterproof a seam?

Anonymous

A recommendation of who would be great. Not bespoke raincoat but shooting gear, useful if lined by gore Rex and then seams are taped, stand up to any weather for the November grouse!

Greg

Hi Simon, sorry on reviving this old thread but what is your rationale with regards to not having a raincoat made bespoke? Thanks.

Oz

Hi Simon
It was great “running into you” in Paris (near Camps de Luca) few months ago =)

I own a Mackintosh rain coat which was their collaboration with Church’s. It is in a nice cream/beige colour and I have carefully worn this a few times over the past year or so.

During your visit there, was the subject of washing/care of their products brought up? I am really not sure how to go about this..

Oz.

rups

hi simon, that’s interesting stuff, that is really bizarre … using a finger exposed to smear glue .. I worry for those workers health with all that exposure to glue!

One concern I have with this sort of Mac is breathability .. my barbour traditional wax coat makes me quite sweaty as not only does it not let water in, but doesn’t let any humid air out either … does a Mac have the same problem? Its a real issue if wearing expensive bespoke suits underneath, as you don’t want them to get sweaty and smelly.

rups

simon, that doesn’t sound great at all … this technique from my understanding differs from the one which raincoat manufacturers like burberry/Aquascutum etc use which I think is to actually waterproof the thread before its woven? Is this technique better for breathability?

Are there any waterproof overcoats which are breathable and don’t make you sweat uncontrollably … I always wondered why old men in the tube in their macs were always so sweaty … I assumed it was there constitution but perhaps it was instead their resolve to wear these things.

BespokeNYC

Agree Rups. I’m no expert, but I can’t helping feeling that, if the glue is noxious enough to require such serious ventilation, it’s probably not a good idea to get it on your skin. Hope they make them wear gloves at the new factory!

Barak Cohen

Simon,

Thanks for the great article. Any opinion on how Grenfell compares to Mackintosh? A piece on rainwear generally would be highly appreciated.

Marc Z

Hi Simon,
I bought a Mackintosh coat from a retailer, but it was a little too boxy and wide around the waist. I can probably fit a family of 5 in there. Do you know if it’s possible to alter a Mackintosh raincoat and take in the back? I see that the seams are glued to make the coat waterproof, so the glue would have to be removed and then reapplied after the alteration.

Thanks -Marc

melanie decourcey

Hi Simon,

I just received a gorgeous Mackintosh raincoat from eBay but I was disappointed because all the glued seams are basically undone. I went inside the pockets and they are open, I looked around the seems, they are coming apart. My question is, can I fix this myself or any way I can send it to the company or is it impossible. Please advise me, I like it to be in good usable condition, as the fabric and label shows its almost unused.

Melanie

Thank you for your response. I somehow have trouble finding a contact or customer service in order to contact Mackintosh directly. Can you please help? email or phone number….

Ayshea

Hello,
I need to repair some of my vintage mackintoshes, the taping is coming undone around the arms/shoulders..
How best to go about this?
Can I buy waterproof taping that is already sticky? also how do you keep the shape of the arm to work around? Thank you 🙂 Ayshea

Valerie

Does anyone offer a repair service for Mackintosh coats?Mine is quite old and needs all of the seams replacing.

Benjamin Coe

Hi Simon,

I’ve been looking for a good quality Mac for quite a while. The closest I can find to what I want is a Mac jacket by Oliver Sweeney (see below link). I’ve tried this on in person and it buries me. I need something around 34-36 inch chest. However the only ones I can find seem to be on the lower end of the price, and therefore quality, scale. Can you recommend something similar to me please? I particularly like the detail under the collar on this one, so anything that had a similar feature would be great.

https://www.oliversweeney.com/trescowe-dark-navy-coat

Thanks
Benjamin Coe