It’s now 40 years since PolarFleece first came into the world and changed the way people, in the outdoors, think about performance textiles. A decade later, after ten more years of collaboration, innovation, and refinement a higher level was reached. The name of this level? Polartec.
“It was, it’s fair to say, a bit of a game changer”
Polartec, and the people behind them, have been doing good things for a while now. It was, however, in 1981 when the seed of the tree that they’d eventually grow into was first planted. This was the year they created a synthetic fabric technology that was more lightweight, breathable, and faster drying than anything that had ever come before it. It was, it’s fair to say, a bit of a game changer.
Historians of the human race like to split things up into BC and AD. When it comes to documenting the story of outdoor clothing however, for those in the know at least, it’s more about BP and AP – ‘Before Polartec fleece’ and ‘After Polartec fleece’.
“This fabric established itself as the benchmark for insulating materials”
That might sound like hyperbole but, honestly, it can’t be stressed enough just how well this fabric established itself as the benchmark for insulating materials. From the moment it rocked up, the way we started dressing for outside adventures far away from the front door was irreversibly changed. It was like a bolt of lightning, one that would spark life into an industry that had started to go stale.
Established in 1906 as Malden Mills, it wasn’t until 1991 that Polartec – the brand – was introduced to the world. The history of this company is one steeped in firsts. In 1993, for example, they served up the first performance fabrics made from post-consumer recycled plastics. Nowadays, it’s common place to find companies thinking about sustainability and environmental impact but back then that really wasn’t the case.
In 2010, Polartec took their commitment to the green cause even further when they started working with Repreve and began creating 100% upscaled polyester fabrics. Dig further into this part of the brand’s story, and you discover that to date they’ve upcycled over 1.8 billion bottles into performance fabrics. Whichever way you spin it, that’s an incredibly impressive number.
“To date they’ve upcycled over 1.8 billion bottles into performance fabrics”
Another milestone in the story of Polartec was the creation of High Loft in 1998. One of the big selling points of this development was that it had a properly fluffy quality that allowed it to be compressed down into small spaces for travel. From a purely performance point of view, it provided increased warmth through the creation of more air pockets across the fabric. This trapped heat superbly, and provided balanced breathability.
Plushness enhanced how well High Loft performed its primary function while also reducing the weight of the fabric. By cementing their understanding of expanding materials, and the high warmth benefits this can bring, Polartec were able to launch out further and further into the realms of outdoor gear innovation.