Liam Gallagher x Nigel Cabourn – Cut from the Same Cloth
Liam Gallagher and Nigel Cabourn have a fair bit in common. Not only are they both proud Northerners who’ve made their mark on their respective industry by marching to the beat of their own drum (or tambourine, in Liam’s case), but they also both have a well-known penchant for military parkas.
Liam (the notoriously outspoken Mancunian singer/songwriter who first graced eardrums with the band Oasis back in the early 90s, and whose most recent solo album, Why Me? Why Not. was released just a few weeks back) has one of the most envious collections of serious winter jackets and utilitarian outerwear known to man.
From those early black and white 35mm photographs of his old band, shot around the industrial areas of Manchester, to the images from his recent solo tour – it’s rare to see a snap of him where he’s not draped in some form of hooded smock.
As for Nigel, he’s been collecting, designing and generally thinking about parkas and military garb since the late 1970s. In fact, a range based around a vintage British Royal Air Force jacket given to him by Sir Paul Smith was one of his first major successes all the way back in 1979.
In simple terms, when it comes to parkas, Liam wears ‘em, and Nigel makes ‘em – so when Liam, a long-time Cabourn-fan, approached Nigel about making something for his impending tour, getting their heads together to create some new versions of this classic garment made perfect sense.
“The parka has a special place in both our lives,” says Nigel. “I’ve been designing my own take on this great functional piece of clothing for decades now and Liam has been collecting and wearing parkas on stage for a large part of his 28 year music career. It’s definitely something we’re both passionate about and I think this shows in the parka we’ve produced.”
The Long Smock takes design cues from a 1940s over-the-head US Army anorak found in Nigel’s extensive collection. This rugged beauty caught the eye of both Liam and Nigel thanks to that sizeable kangaroo pocket on the front and the off-centre three-button collar. Both highly-distinct, functional details of the day, designed for purpose — that also happen to look really, really good.
To bring things up to date a bit, they added a dipped hem, made the jacket a touch longer and added a few more colour options than the general issue olive drab. There’s also some big zips up the sides for ease of entry — a very useful detail.
And as you’d expect from two people who are particularly particular when it comes to parkas, the attention to detail is second to none, and trimmings come in the shape of waxed cotton drawstrings (three, to be exact) and some nice and chunky wooden stoppers.
Then there’s that Ventile fabric. Ventile is one of those mysterious words which crops up a lot in the world of old military jackets. It’s basically an incredibly densely woven cotton which swells when wet to create a water-resistant barrier and keep you nice and dry. It’s also got a pretty intriguing story…
Designed in the 1930s by the aptly titled British Cotton Industry Research Association at the Shirley Institute in South Manchester (a strong-armed stone’s throw from where Liam grew up in nearby Burnage), it was originally devised as a hard-wearing fabric which could be used to make firehoses. This came in particularly handy during the Blitz, as Germany had control of Europe’s flax production (the traditional fabric for firehoses) and a homegrown alternative was needed.
Meanwhile, RAF pilots forced to eject from their aircraft over the North Sea were being plunged into icy waters and had only a few minutes to live. Something warm and water-resistant was required — and, as you might have predicted considering the subject of this article, Ventile was the solution.
All-in-one water-tight Ventile immersion suits were soon doled out to pilots, extending survival time from two minutes to 20 minutes — saving countless lives in the process.
By the early 50s Ventile’s use had extended out to RAF cold weather smocks and in 1953 Edmund Hillary wore a down-filled Ventile parka on his historic ascent of Everest (providing the inspiration for Cabourn’s very own Everest Parka). At this point it’s probably important to point out that Ventile isn’t some archaic relic of the past — and thanks to its rain-friendly tendencies (and the fact it’s a much quieter fabric than synthetic alternatives) it’s still used for military gear and outdoor garb today.
Good stuff then. We should probably also mention that these jackets were made in England — in the Macintosh factory in Lancashire, to be precise. This place has been making top notch outerwear for the last 20 years, and is the same factory that makes Nigel’s Cameraman Jackets.
The team here are also big fans of Ventile, as Mackintosh’s Garment Technologist Robert Boyce explains, “It’s fantastic to work with a fabric with the heritage and history of Ventile, and I think that the machinists love how easy it is to work with, especially considering some of the more leftfield fabrics they have had to work around!”
As you might expect, a lot of effort goes into getting things just right at a place like this. “We work closely with Nige and the team to ensure that the fit and look of the garment is exactly as they want it. We’ll then produce a prototype sample, which is usually put together by our talented sample machinist Ann, who has successfully turned her hand to all sorts of things working with Nigel. In the case of the Liam Gallagher collection, there’s an extra step here as everything needs to be approved by Liam,” says Robert.
The factory has also made a limited run of reversible smocks for Nigel and Liam. Continuing the theme of military parka perfection, these combine some choice features from a range of vintage designs. On one side you’ve got a big zip pocket, and on the other there’s three button pockets — add some ripstop cotton and a nice big hood into the mix and you’ve got something pretty tasty.
So there you go – the Liam Gallagher x Nigel Cabourn collection. Whether you’re an avid parka hoarder like Nigel and Liam, or you just like good jackets, you should appreciate these beauties. There’s no maybes here – these are definitely something special.
The Ventile Smock will go on pre-sale on the 15th October and both jackets will be on general sale from the 21st of October — the Ventile Parka will be available on this site, from Nigel Cabourn Army Gym stores in London and Japan, and in selected retailers, whilst the Reversible Ripstop Smock is exclusive to our website and Army Gym stores.