"Would Bogie Wear Gore-Tex?": Postrel on the Incremental Advances That Lead to Progress


Here's looking at material that both looks good in a variety of settings, is affordable, and actually protects wearers from the elements.

Former Reason editor in chief Virgnina Postrel explains how progress happens in her Wall Street Journal col:

A trench coat, like Humphrey Bogart's in "Casablanca," might look good, but it wouldn't keep you dry for long in a storm. A rubber slicker might hold off the rain, but it lacked style and made you sweat. Either way, you wound up wet. Since Gore-Tex was introduced three decades ago, rain gear has gotten ever more waterproof, breathable and affordable.

Gradual improvements in fabrics and construction, he said, mean that an outdoor jacket that would have cost $250 20 years ago runs just $100 today—and works better. Now fabrics once reserved for athletic apparel are making their way into fashionable garments. Unlike Bogie, said Bill, "you can wear something reminiscent of a classic trench that will actually keep you dry in the rain, instead of just kind of keeping you dry." That's progress, frontier-style.

Read the whole thing here.

Here's a scene from Seinfeld featuring a less-fashionable raincoat known as "The Executive"

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  1. I hate to be anal over a slang term, but shouldn’t it be Bogey?

    1. Mmmmm, anal. My favorite.

      1. Your obsession is boring.

        1. /, another idiot! It is that jackass spoof

          1. Stop spoofing me, I don’t sound like that!

            1. No, you’re spoofing me!

    2. …shouldn’t it be Bogey?

      According to a letter from Bogart to John Huston (displayed in the documentary John Huston: The Man, the Movies, the Maverick (1989)) he himself spelled it Bogie. Bogey is a term from the game of golf, if I am not mistaken.

  2. a coat that costs 250 in 1991 and only costs 100 isn’t such a great deal. if you took your 250 and bought gold in 1991 and then sold it yesterday you could have bought 9 coats today. If you just took your 250 in 1991 put it in your mattress then took it out and bought coats you would only get 2 coats.

  3. Wasn’t gore-tex primarily adopted by the outdoor crowd and producers of outdoor equipment. I can name a million outdoor products from boots to backpacks that use gore-tex, but I can’t really think of anything beyond a raincoat in the regular apparel department. I have more gore-tex tags in my closet than I can name, but it’s all outdoor/camping gear.

    1. “”Wasn’t gore-tex primarily adopted by the outdoor crowd and producers of outdoor equipment”


      My most waterproof “raincoat” (overcoat style you’d wear over a suit in the rain – much like a bogey trench coat) is coated nylon with vents. It is in fact mostly more waterproof than goretex. (depending on the seam construction)… and it looks far more respectable than some plastic-y LL bean anorak.

      Something not mentioned is that its not really the magical fabric that has gotten cheaper – because branded ‘Gore tex’ still aint cheap – its the quality of the garment that ultimately makes it more functional and utilitarian. It has to be well made. and that still costs money to produce. And not everyone making gore tex products makes good ones.

      Also, just about everyone has come up with their own knock-off of gore tex and they are generally par for the course (not significantly better/worse)…maybe the reason they cost $100 now is because of widespread ripoff of gore-tex technology? When it was the only game in town, they could *demand* $250 bucks. Now that there’s similar technology everywhere, not so much.


      And as far as ‘waterproof’ goes, if you’ve ever been camping in Northern Ontario and it starts to rain for 4 days straight… Nothing, nothing, nothing is waterproof. Gore tex will leak after extended exposure.. either boots or jackets – whatever. you soak them for 24 hours straight and the seams will leak. Not just the seams – the fabric simply gets saturated and fails. If you disagree, trust me, you’ve never tested it hard enough. The manufacturer admits as much themselves. Even those riverbags …

      …PVC, with folding sealed seams… yeah, they leak too eventually. or condensation builds, whatever.

      ‘Waterproof’ is a loaded term; just as ‘silencers’ dont silence guns, ‘waterproof’ gear mostly keeps you *less* wet. When I went into heavy wet weather environments, i found the locals often relying on old school ponchos and things like helly-hansen style boating gear. They were like, ‘Fuck goretex. that stuff’s for yuppie hikers’. Breathable? When the ratio of sweat to ‘hundreds of gallons of water falling out of the sky on top of me every second’ reaches a certain point, the breathable part ceases to matter much, unless you’re in freezing conditions – in which case, its probably snow, not rain.

      Frankly I think goretex has provided the best benefit for outdoor *sports* – skiing, climbing, hiking, etc – things where you’re actively moving all the time. It’s not an all-purpose material, but something best employed in gear where your probably going to be sweating more than its ‘raining/snowing’; thats kind of its sweet spot.

      Frankly if there were to be a pean made to the wonders of modern fabric technology, it’s not really Gore-Tex, which is not something used all that widely – it would be good old Malden Mills style microfleece/polartech/whatever. That shit kicked wools ass, at least cost-benefit wise (although I prefer wool in some cases). its used in everything… gloves, hats, liners, pullovers… stays warm when wet, compresses well, impossible to tear, doesn’t stain, basically the most utilitarian fabric on the planet.

      And its *cheap as fuck*. If im not mistaken they can make microfleece fabric out of junk like recycled plastics..? Not sure about all the details, but i think one of the amazing things about it is the input/output = the stuff put in is pretty banal, and the stuff coming out is super awesome.

      Fact I’m not 100% on… I *think* both gore and malden mills invented these products in New Hampshire. Big up, NH, if so!

      1. First, having been to field in the Army and been rained on for five straight days, you are right, nothing is “water proof”. It will all leak eventually. And if it rains long enough, you are getting cold and wet and you are not getting dry or warm until you come out of the field.

        And yeah, micro fleece kicks ass. I can wear a mico feece sweater and be warm in about anything above 40 degree provided I am moving and the wind isn’t blowing.

        I like Goretex but it really isn’t very warm. I always found back in the day when I had to go out in the weather, that Goretex was great if it was just cold and shitty like 40 degrees. But if it was no shit cold, you had to have a field jacket.

        1. Personal fave


          I think its the best single article of clothing anyone can own. Aside from undies.

          I think i have the older R4, which is even heavier weight (8.5oz/polartech 300 style), kinda like the discontinued old ‘shaggy’ Patagonia jackets…


          some people argue the heavier weight fleeces (300+) are unnecessary, overkill, and not as useful as the midweight 200 stuff… but dude, you can rock the thing by itself on the slopes (it has windproof layer inside)…basically, down to maybe 20 degrees without crazy wind, the thing is great by itself. And it layers well for colder weather/inclement, no problems with too much bulk or loft. People also bitch that they are expensive ($200+), but Patagonia wins on first and second type-of-cool for me… North Face IMHO fell off hard when they went mass-market, and their quality is no better than LL bean (or any other generic fleece product); when it comes to heavy-use gear, i have no bones with being a quality-snob.

          The quality snob thing is probably inherited from being told to constantly upsell weekend-warriors when they were shopping for gear for a family camping trip. They’d come in looking for a tent and maybe a lantern for a trip to the lake, and would leave with ice-axes and headlamps and sock-liners and survival kits and water purifiers etc etc etc. It was really too easy. Middle aged men are suckers for the ‘Rambo’ sell.

        2. Newer issue stuff is all a GoreTex shell with a zip-in fleece liner.

          Makes a great combination.

  4. Gore-tex and other outdoor stuff like it has made my kids’ lives so much easier.

    When I first started deer hunting in northern MN, I remember sitting in my stand wrapped up like Randy from A Christmas Story and still freezing my nuts off. It was all wool and flannel.

    Now that my kids are starting to hunt, they have boots that really keep your feet warm, high tech long underwear and warm jackets.

    It is so much easier to sit still and see deer when you aren’t dying of the cold.

    1. Damn you, Gore-tex!

    2. Try duck hunting sometimes. It is that cold and you are near a pond. It is just torture.

      1. The ducks aren’t crazy about it, either.

      2. Hunt ducks like a civilized man. Wait for them in the fields and shoot them when they come in to feed. Then you don’t need to muck around in water.

        Better yet, don’t hunt them at all. Ducks aren’t tasty enough to bother plucking. As much as I like shooting, I can’t bring myself to hunt ducks much anymore because I don’t like eating them.

        1. What?

          1. I think you meant, ‘Ques qe se!?’

          2. Michelin Chef don’t know dick about duck. Huge difference between a nice fat domestic duckling, and a mud-tasting mallard.

        2. That is pretty much why i don’t hunt at all.

          I would love to stalk and kill prey.

          but anything you might shoot all tastes terrible and takes way to much work to prepare and cook.

          To bad big macs make terrible game.

    3. Great image from that movie.

      Fragile…must be Italian.

  5. Waxed cotton and oil cloth garments are still around for reasons other than their “retro” look. Natural selection didn’t produce sheep covered in microfiber and gore tex.

    1. Things like boot grease and other products for leather are still used a lot because of the functionality of the products they apply to. You won’t find many lineman/timber boots that aren’t all leather. Which means you need something to keep them waterproof (the gators are gore-tex through). Gore-tex is just the shit hands down.

      1. Natural selection didn’t produce sheep covered in microfiber and gore tex.

        the gators are gore-tex through

        They’re usually made of the same material as some fine quality shoes, belts, handbags and luggage.

        1. No clue what my quality leather my line-boots were made of. I know they are tough as nails though and add a ton of shoe grease and they were waterproof. (a ton because I have clown feet)

          As far as upper body goes I don’t think you can beat the new fibers and gore-tex. Things like down for sleeping bags is nice and warm as could be, but get it wet and your screwed, same with cotton. Synthetics will work and retain heat when soaked. Anecdotally being a guy who sweats like whore on nikle night and enjoying running in the freezing cold I can personally attest to newer fibers working. It’s amazing what underarmor tights (yes 6’4″ gorilla in tights) do for keeping you warm.

          1. I will concede some things like mukluks (which my seal clubbing friend needs to ship me a pair of) are outliers that perform as well or better. But those things are few and far between.

    2. In truely extreme cold, you need fur. In the real artic, synthetic fibers lose their ability to insulate. In really extreme conditions you have to have fur. My wife has a fur and it is freaking warm. She looks like a small bear in it. But she is warm she tells me.

      But unless it is 69 below, the sythetic stuff works great and is more comfortable.

      1. John…

        Down? Why should fur be the only game in town?

        That said, anything colder than *-40* is pretty freaking hard to find aside from windswept mountaintops and the polar regions. I think one can probably handle most of the environments on earth without the necessity of fur.

        Also, the Nanooks of the North were hip to caribou hide, which i suppose is ‘fur’ material… but not what one traditionally thinks of as such.

        1. Yes, down to. and you are right, forty below is pretty hard to find. That was my point. For most of us who live in civilization the sythetic stuff works great. And it is not just the Nanooks, the Russians know a bit about cold weather and they use sable.

        2. The only thing is, a real Inuit fur coat has the fur on the inside. Fashioney fur coats with the fur on the outside largely waste the potential warmth. Caribou is better than most, as the hairs are hollow.

          1. Word to that.

            Caribou is better than most, as the hairs are hollow.

            When i workin for REI I vaguely recall some manufacturer giving us a presentation on how the next-gen synthetic insulation systems were going to try and replicate caribou hair with hollow core microfibers that doubled the insulation potential per weight of material; something about how it increased the ratio of insulated air by allowing ‘trapped air’ to warm the untrapped air… never heard what happened with that. Probably turned out to be wicked expensive to manufacture, or just too high-tech to do on any industrial scale. But you’re right… it’s not fur really, its hollow hair, which I guess works on a different principle. Also – much tougher & long-term effective than fur, specially if it gets wet or dirty over time.

          2. Really? Looks like all these eskimos had it wrong then.


            1. No, he’s right. They wear it hide on the outside, hair on the inside. The hoods are where the thing unfolds… sort of the best of all worlds, where they use the hair as windbreak on the face. The pics show exactly that. they’re not rocking it like old rich ladies, fur all over the place. they use it where it works.

              1. Are you blind or just retarded? Those pics CLEARLY show the fur on the outside.

                1. really, arguing about this is stupid.

                  It’s really just the hoods dude. Yeah, some of them are fleecy on the outside. Maybe it was fucking summer and they’re ‘reversible’; but if you want the facts on Eskimo couture, go read about it dickhead, and don’t look at one photo and consider yourself an expert.


                  “”An Eskimo hunter dressed in traditional clothing was completely wrapped in caribou skins. His parka ?a hooded jacket invented by Eskimos?was made of caribou skin and worn with the fur inside. For deep cold and storms, a second parka could be worn over the first, with the fur side out. “”

  6. Who is this “Virgnina Postrel?” Whoever she is, I’m sure Reason was better back when she was editor in chief.

    1. The Virginia Postrel centerfolds were definitely a lot better than the Matt Welch centerfolds.

      1. No, no, Nick is talking about some woman named “Virgnina” not Virginia.

    1. Can we make a new word out of furiosity?

  7. And the video embedding is disabled.

  8. eVent fabric is superior to Gore-Tex.

    It costs more, but my Rab eVent jacket and rain pants keep me bone dry in a downpour, and I don’t sweat at all even when hiking up a hill.

    1. Personally, I avoid hiking up hills in the rain. Which also keeps me bone dry.

      To each his own…

      1. Agreed. I find that a nice stretch of mahogany bar keeps me nice and dry if I belly right up to it in even the hardest of downpours.

        Once during a typhoon in Okinawa I kept 100% dry for 2 straight days by simply staying right next to that mahogany bar.

        1. And sweat isn’t a problem either.

  9. G.M. had its first profitable year in 2010 since 2004.

    “You keep using that word…” et c

    1. Probably belongs in the “Atlas” thread from yesterday, but The Princess Bride was a better film than book.

  10. In my teens I acquired a nice, classic London Fog. Unfortunately, I was unaware that there was a cartoon at the time called Inspector Gadget, so when I showed it off school, well . . . imbeciles. Completely fucking ruined it for me.

    1. Inspector Gadget?

      There are no exceptions (nsfw, obviously)

  11. Also, GoreTex has taken over the bagpipe bag market. The top soloists and bands still use sheepskin, but your avg Joe? GoreTex – easy, no seasoning, doesn’t break down, always ready to go. Especially good for people who don’t play their pipes regiularly (i.e. “bad players”).

    Canmore were the originals, but Ross, Moose and other brands are also now very popular (I have a Ross, myself, for when I’m not using sheepskin – like in the off season).

    Your weekend piping tip, courtesy of Almanian!

    1. Bonus Piping-Related Tip: I picked up a GoreTex Inverness cape a few years back – FAR superior to those shite nylon/plasticky things most people use.

      It cost a bit more, but actually keeps you dry when you’re competing in the rain.

      Highly recommended for the serious competitive piper – GoreTex Inverness Cape…

    2. You know who else blows on tubes all day long?

      1. Dizzy Gillespie?

        1. Eff him.

          1. Terry Schiavo, then?

            1. Total win.

              1. I do it much, much more delicately.

  12. “competitive piper”


    Methinks these comments on bagpiping might be better appreciated on a list where *people play bagpipes* …

    Sorry, quick show of hands on the pipers present?


    1. Use a bagpipe, go to jail.


    Bill Maher doesn’t think Obama is a Christian. WTF?

    1. Bill likes to pretend that Obama is an agnostic, because he likes to paint Obama in a way that makes him feel Obama is better. Maher likes agnosticism and atheism, so he projects that onto obama.

    2. I don’t really know Obama’s personal beliefs, but if Maher believes that then the opposite must be true.

    3. He better pray to all-powerful Atheizmo that it’s not Allah.

    4. Bill Maher also thinks it’s accurate to call himself a libertarian.

  14. I thought this thread was about the 2000 presidential election?!

  15. Nick really missed out on a chance to highlight the GoreTex production and management style. It’s unique, and pretty damn cool. I’d work there in a heartbeat.
    I think the only GoreTex I own is army surplus, so this isn’t a plug.*
    It’s just that that company is a fascinating capitalist experiment…and one of the few (domestic) manufacturing success stories these days.

    “W.L. Gore & Associates has been called the world’s most innovative company.”…..lutionary/ [Worth reading, I promise.]…..ry-part-2/

    * Except to the extent that I exhibit anarcho-syndicalist tendencies.

    1. Fascinating, but creepy. Rule of man, not law. This sounds like participatory planning of the socialist/communist variety.

      Damn commie!


    2. So again, the burden on leaders is different from what you’d find in many other companies, because our leaders have to do an incredible job of internal selling to get the organization to move.

      It’s the Brooklyn music scene?

  16. Hey Reason,

    You sold us a hair with a cake around it!

  17. I’ll take an oilskin duster over gortex any day. It’s just much cooler. Gortex is for brie eating, Pinot Grigio drinking, spinner class taking yuppies. (is there still such a thing as a yuppie?)

  18. I live in the south….I don’t know WTF ya’ll are going on about.

  19. “…Mostly I remember the last one. The wild finish. A guy standing on a station platform in the rain with a comical look in his face because his insides, while still dry thanks to his Gore-Tex jacket, have been kicked out.”

    Nope. Doesn’t work nearly as well.

  20. Thanks for the great comparison of fabrics using Humphrey Bogart’s famous trench coat look. I did not realize his coat was not waterproof in a heavier storm. The advancements of gore-tex fabrics is really cool and the ability to stay dry while not soaking in your own sweat as a side effect like slickers is really nice.

  21. This is an awesome article. I think that Bogart would wear Gor-tex. He would obviously make it stylish–but highly functional as well. I mean, he was wearing the best at that time. Gor-tex wasn’t around at that time. If he was in our time–he would wear Gor-tex.

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