Like Huarache sandals in the recent barefoot running trend, or merino wool in performance outdoor clothing, many primitive technologies and traditions can be challenging to understand in today’s hi-tech world. But there is always something fascinating about primitive technologies that always leave me wondering if we lost some design knowledge, or understanding along the way, and if some of those ancient design details can still be used to improve modern product.
Natural fiber rain capes have probably been used by all cultures in the cold and rainy world at some point in time. The oldest rain cape recorded is likely that of Ötzi ‘the iceman’ who was a shepherd living about 5,300 years ago in Italy/Austria.
Like Ötzi and over 50 centuries later, shepherds in Portugal and people all over the world still wore similarly designed woven rain capes from natural fibers. This is something incredible and almost unimaginable by our modern design standards.
Today woven, or thatched rain capes are still used in small pockets of many Pacific Rim countries. They are all variations on the same them, but all are constructed using different weaves and always made using the local materials available in that country.
In China and Taiwan they are made from rice straw.
As are the Mino from Japan and the Tinggian cape from the Philippines.
In New Zealand the Pake and Hieke are made from New Zealand Flax and in Polynesian Hawaii the Kui la’i or Ahu La`i are made from Ti plant leaves.
For more info on woven rain capes please read my main article at Huarache Blog.