Friday, 14 January 2011


For some reason lost in the mists of time, I'm on Laura Ashley's electronic mailing list. Their latest communication alerted me to their new line in... Pacamacs. Pacamacs! There's a name to send any child of the Fifties/Sixties spinning back into the past. These Laura Ashley so-called Pacamacs were of course funky, rather chic affairs. The Pacamacs of my formative years were anything but. Quite possibly the ugliest garment ever designed by man (at least until the coming of the shell suit), the Pacamac was a shapeless approximation to a macintosh, made of a peculiarly unpleasant kind of rubber, strangely textured and vaguely slimy to the touch - available in every colour so long as it was grey. With nasty cartilaginous buttons, also of rubber, welded on to the 'coat', buttoning up was a grim experience (it probably sparked koumpounophobia in many a sensitive soul, not to mention various forms of fetishism). Intended principally as a protective against summer showers, the Pacamac was indeed waterproof (leaving aside what got down your neck) but made up for it by generating quantities of sweat if worn for any length of time. It folded up into a heavy rubber roll that, if you followed the foldlines accurately, could just about be fitted into a large pocket until required again, at which point it had to be laboriously shaken out. This distinctive action inspired a line of poetry that has stuck in my mind for years, though I have no idea who wrote it and have never come across it again: 'The heron unfolds his pacamac of wings.' This seems to me a perfect description of a heron's laborious take off, shaking out that improbable quantity of folded wing. Does anyone recognise the line?


  1. What a marvellous line - don't know it though. Worse than the pacamac were those clear plastic head-gear things that girls had to wear in the 60's - do they have a name I wonder? They folded up like a fan and could probably fit into a thimble. There was a librarian in My Town who wore one over her perfectly designed black hair before venturing out on a windy day. She was a curious sight at the bus stop.

  2. Roger Garfitt

  3. as pomposa says!

    Roger Garfitt

    Bablock Hythe

    Out of hours, the road is warm stone,
    a basking place beside the stream.

    Cock pheasant promenades a hen,
    their long toes sip the morning sun.

    Stiffly the heron strolls, rolling
    avenues of warmth underfoot.

    My car rounds the corner early,
    and the brace steer for the verge. They

    smoulder through the grass. The heron
    shakes out his pac-a-mac of wings

    and hangs like rain above the stream.

  4. The association with the Heron is apt, that most pterodactyl like bird, an accusation that could have been levelled at many a Pacamac wearer. Vile piece of scmutter, portable sauna and the subject of many a scathing remark, fertile ground for the nineteen sixties amateur sociologists.
    Seen in the most unlikely places, one warm autumn day, exiting the north wall of Ben Nevis we were greeted by a family snapping away at us, they were all be-Pacamaced, old and young and of course had American accents.
    The garment did apparently have it's uses, cut into small discs and used as patches for the repair of inner tubes, the wearers often objected however.

  5. Thank you so much Pomposa and Worm! I'd almost remembered it right. That last line's good too isn't it...

  6. And thank you for reminding me of the sinister Pacamac. I remember how you'd take one along 'just in case' and how you'd inevitably end up wearing the damned thing as you trudged home in the rain.

  7. :-) Didn't know this one. Thank you.

  8. Were not the late lamented Pete and Dud wearers of pacamacs? No respectability but a certain aura of seediness.

  9. Richard, I think Dud wore a Pacamac while Pete asserted his superior status with a grubby mac.

  10. Enjoyed reading every bit of this post.