THE UNAUTHORIZED BIOGRAPHY OF GORE-TEX

Last season, our creative director starting working with a new fabric called Dintex…

When he explained that this technical fabric was built upon all the same properties as GORE-TEX, I nodded along, because I know GORE-TEX. But, to be honest, I don’t really know GORE-TEX, you know? I mean, I know the underground NY rapper Goretext who is probably the 3rd most popular member of the 4-man underground rap group Non Phixion, because I was a massive indie hip-hop head back when that was a thing one could be. And I know my best friend North Face jacket has GORE-TEX in it. But I don’t really understand what the fabric is all about. So I decided to dig in.

The invention of GORE-TEX was a kind of a big deal. To everyone.

In the pre-GORE-TEX era, or the PGT era as nobody every calls or will ever call it, there was no such thing as a lightweight waterproof fabric that was also breathable. That means you could keep the water out but soak yourself on the inside via steam/sweat, or you could do the opposite. Either way, you’re wet. Then, on one fateful night in Delaware - another expression you may never see again - Bob Gore tried to stretch polytetrafluoroethylene (commonly referred to as PTFE and generically known as Teflon) in a way it had never been stretched before. The result was, well, GORE-TEX, or ePTFE if you want to get technical.

When PTFE is heated and quickly stretched, the fabric expands like an imperfect spider web, and the pores within the strands expand to a point where they are small enough to prevent water from entering but large enough to let vapour escape. Size wise, that means every square inch of GORE-TEX contains 9 billion pores, each being approximately 1/20,000 the size of a water droplet. This breakthrough, changed all the things.

But ePTFE is a delicate flower, so it needs some friends.

The fabric tends to get sandwiched between an outer and inner layer. The inner layer is usually a softer highly breathable fabric designed to be in contact with skin. And the outer layer is usually coated with Durable Water Repellent treatment (or DWR) to prevent the soaking up of water. If your GORE-TEX jacket starts letting in more water than it used to, it might just be because the DWR treatment has started to wear off.

So what happened next? Mr. Gore filed a patent in 1976 and started making all the things you wear/use to do all the things you do/enjoy. Jackets and tents were the obvious first beneficiaries of this evolution, but soon socks and underwear and everything else were weaving in this technical fabric. Big brands also started buying in, with names like Patagonia and L.L. Bean and later Arc’teryx advertising the inclusion of this material in their premium products.

As for what followed, here are the highlights…

Let’s review: Bob Gore is now the richest man in Delaware. George Costanza co-signed the brand. And in 1996, Gore’s 20-year patent ran out (in the US, inventors are granted 20 years on a patent before competitors can come in and make their own generic versions). That was over 20 years ago and the GORE-TEX brand is still going strong, but that doesn’t stop competitors from making their own versions of ePTFE, which is exactly what Dintex is.

To sum it up: The reason why we use Dintex is two-fold. First up, we source the fabric from a Canadian company. We love supporting the local economy of makers and that goes for all aspects of our business, from fabrics to photographers. Next up, we believe the product is of equal or greater quality at a lower price-point, which allows us to keep our retail prices in a world that we feel fits right.

Moving towards what’s next…

It’s hard to say where we will go. There is lots of experimentation in the world of super fabrics, but to date, nothing has shaken the basic foundation of what GORE-TEX is, a 3-layer system based on a waterproof and breathable fabric in the middle. That said, when it all changes, you can expect some new goods from us and a new blog post to go with them…