Why City Slickers Should Consider This Classic Rain Gear

FOR TOO LONG, the yellow rain slicker has been neglected at the bottom of the steamer trunk of classic outdoor gear. A heritage style made of rubberized cloth and often worn for maritime work, the jacket has been passed over in fashion circles in favor of trenches and sportier Windbreakers. But the slicker is back, and in streamlined versions that can be worn as coolly in the city as at sea.

The origins of the slicker date to 19th-century Britain, when cloth coats were treated with oils like linseed to resist rain. Bob Melet, owner of New York-based Melet Mercantile, always has a few rare slickers in his by-appointment-only vintage showroom. He cites Barbour and Belstaff as two of the first companies to introduce the garment. It was function first, used by people who worked outside: seamen, constables, anyone that worked in inclement weather.

Two images of the slicker prevail in the collective imagination: the craggy sailor battling the elements, and the five-year-old puddle-jumper. But nostalgia is leading those who are neither sailors nor schoolboys back to the style. Recently, a friend gave me a yellow PVC set of a waist-length jacket and bib pants as a birthday gift, after I admired his. The CLC Work Gear ensemble ($18) shields me from April rain while Im riding my scooter and even musters compliments at bars, where I wear just the jacket (with a black ribbed turtleneck).

The rain slicker is, in sailing slang, yar: shipshape. Its simple construction boasts surprisingly str....

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