Revived: The big mac of the Fifties: Hester Matthewman and Gabrielle Morris on the return of the plucky Pakamac

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Indy Lifestyle Online
THE classic Sixties Pakamac is back - with attitude. 'Everything we wear is a statement about ourselves, and a Pakamac adds to your personality,' explains Ian McCall. He is the managing director of the Manchester firm Casket, which has redesigned, repackaged and relaunched the original foldaway raincoat.

Mr McCall is convinced the Pakamac concept still has wide appeal, 'right across all age ranges, all strata of society'. He sees the Pakamac as a stylish alternative to the ubiquitous umbrella. 'A Pakamac is much lighter - it weighs less than eight ounces,' he says. 'A Pakamac can enhance the complexion, flatter the shape - an umbrella is just an encumbrance.'

The first Pakamacs appeared in the Twenties, but its real heyday was in the Fifties and Sixties. Ads boasted about the mac's hi- tech 'electronically welded seams, pockets, buttons and buttonholes'; it was manufactured in Gabrelene - 'the new wonder synthetic fabric]' At the height of its popularity, 60,000 Pakamaks, available in black or grey, were being produced every week, and exports were fending off rain showers in 62 different countries.

The Nineties Pakamac reincarnation comes in a bewildering variety of different styles. Hoods are optional, and women can choose between swing, cape or trench shapes. The basic model folds down into a pouch measuring eight by five inches. 'We're selling a concept that this is a tiny thing you can put in your handbag; people can say 'My goodness] Is there really a raincoat in there?' ' says Mr McCall.

He has less than fond memories of his own childhood Pakamac experiences. 'The old ones weren't pleasant to wear. There were two problems. First, they got very sweaty inside. Secondly, they smelt terrible when they were drying out, a sort of wet-rubber, musty smell - and if you didn't dry them out properly before putting them away, they would stick together. If you put your Pakamac away in, say, April, and got it out again in September, it would be all stuck together and you'd have to buy a new one.'

Sweaty squelching and sticky disintegration are no longer problems - the modern Pakamacs are made of nylon. With the hood up and all the poppers fastened it is rather like being inside a very large rustly plastic bag. Pakamacs cost from pounds 14.99 to pounds 25.99 - and stockists include Harrods.

Will the Pakamac ever become trendy? 'My dad's got one, a sort of green number. I have worn it a couple of times,' confesses Vogue fashion writer Linda Watson. 'I should imagine it would be quite difficult to make it look brilliant,' she adds dubiously. Does she have any Pakamac style tips? 'Don't wear it with wellies, which would make it look ridiculous.' Perhaps this is underestimating its potential as haute couture. Designer Issey Miyake has produced his own up-market version of the Pakamac - prices start at pounds 200. (Photographs omitted)

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