Viewport width =
May 28, 2007 | by  | in Features |
Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestTweet about this on Twitter

The Polar Express

Taking on Climate Change in Style

A BRIEF HISTORY OF FLEECE

Pre-1980 was a dark time, warmth-wise.

One had to bulk up under layers of heavy, restricting, natural or woollen fabrics that stunk when wet, and refused to dry in reasonable time.

So, in 1979 Massachusetts Malden Mills hit this problem head on, with the invention of ‘Polarfleece’ – forever changing the world’s snugness in those harsh winter days.

Polar fleece has changed lives since its inception. In 1999, Time magazine named it “One of the hundred great things of the 20th century”.

This fabric Malden Mills invented went on to become a household name, which describes the type of fabric, rather than the brand. Malden Mills have since changed their name to Polartec, and have made all sorts of variations on their original polar fleece.

Polar fleece was a revolutionary invention, as an insulating synthetic wool fabric made from plastic. Its properties have remained fairly stable since its invention – it is light-weight, super warm, made from recycled materials, and picks up less than 1% of its weight in moisture – even when completely wet! Wow!

It is an ideal ‘outdoor’ fabric, as it keeps moisture away from the body. It has some of wool’s best qualities but weighs a fraction of the lightest available woollens, so it’s a great alternative to other fibres.

Its other merits include, according to Polartec, “keeping arctic explorers warm, and marathon runners dry.” And, of course, keeping all the cool kids warm and stylish.

It is made by twisting plastic fibres into yarns which are then knitted into a fabric. The fabric is then brushed vigorously to loosen some of the fibres, which creates a fuzzy, fleecey surface that is then sheared and finished.

After Malden Mills’ great invention, Patagonia – a clothes manufacturer in California – picked up on this new fabric, and developed outdoor sportswear.

Patagonia did extreme field-tests of the new fabric to really find out how awesome it was. Then, at Patagonia’s request, Malden Mills developed Synchilla – a double-faced fabric that had a non-pill texture.

The development of Synchilla set record sales during the 1980s – sales which basically doubled from one year to the next, over a period of two to three years.

GREAT POLAR FLEECE PROPERTIES

The 100% polyester construction creates air pockets that trap air and retain body heat.

Polar fleece is available in different weights to suit whichever occasion you may need it for:

  • 100 weight fabrics are the lightest and are excellent for a warm first layer or lightweight sweater, 200 weight is good for general warmth and versatility, and 300 weight is the heaviest and warmest, best for very cold outdoor activities (like climbing the Himalayas).
  • Provides warmth without the weight and bulk of traditional insulating fabrics, such as wool.
  • Highly breathable to provide comfort in all activities (even partying in Good Luck); does not restrict the movement of moisture vapour.
  • It comes in water-repellent styles, where it sheds rain and snow.
  • Dries quickly to minimize heat loss, so when you go outside for a smoke, you are still warm.
  • It’s super duper durable and will outlast other fleece fabrics.
  • Machine washable, best on cold or warm setting.
  • Versatile – appropriate for a broad range of activities; such as partying, playing, sleeping, swimming, camping or studying.
  • Polyester doesn’t absorb water, break down in appearance, or absorb odours. Thus, polar fleece insulates when wet and provides twice the insulation properties of wool (and four times that of cotton).

Primarily used for exercise wear, blankets and the uniforms of trades-people everywhere, polar fleece is best worn as a middle or outer layer (not so much long johns or skivvies). But, really, its uses are endless!

POLAR FLEECE IN SOCIETY

No longer just the well-treaded territory of soccer mums and plumbing company uniforms, polar fleece has gone mainstream – available in all shapes, sizes, colours and patterns, across the retail spectrum. Glassons’ velcro-neck polar fleeces made the versatile fabric a favourite amongst teenage girls, whilst Kathmandu have transformed polar fleece into the universal choice of campers, trampers and fishermen everywhere. Even local designer Carly Harris has a range of polar fleece winter coats gracing her store windows this season.

Peter Toye, owner and manager of Arthur Toye Fabrics on Willis Street, says polar fleece is definitely a favourite among customers, and a year-round top-seller. He says polar fleece outshines its competition, as it’s “light-weight, warm, doesn’t crush, holds its colour and is durable,” as well as easy to sew (to the extent of the imagination).

“It’s good for blankets, because it doesn’t fray. It sells also very strongly for rugs, etc. for pets, because you can throw it in the washing machine every week and it still performs.”

World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Supporter Relations Manager John Barnett calls himself “a great fan of polar fleece,” and says he wears it whilst out walking, running and cycling to keep warm.

“It’s thick, warm, cheap, readily-available, tough as old boots (so you can put it through the washing machine) and, from a conservation point of view, because it’s using recycled materials, it’s kind to the Earth. It doesn’t use heaps of carbon to make it, ship it around and create it in the first place, so our carbon footprint is much less and we’re therefore doing our best to reduce the amount of climate change going on in the country.”

VUWSA Environmental Officer Tushara Kodikara is also a huge fan of what he calls ‘pofl,’ and says opening a polar fleece factory in New Zealand could be a great step towards a national polar fleece empire – to boost sales of the popular textile further, and to lessen our carbon footprint.

WEAR POLAR FLEECE, SAVE THE POLAR BEARS (AND FRIENDS)

This year is Polar Year, and confronting climate change is an important part of protecting the environment of the polar bears – and their friends – to prevent extinction.

Salient, in conjunction with VUWSA, The VBC and WWF, will host the first Polar Fleece Day – a celebration of the fun, warmth and environmental-friendliness of polar fleece. The idea – the brainchild of Music Editor Stacey Knott and News Editor Laura McQuillan (along with in-house fashionistas Sven and Lance) – originally began as a joke (a fashionable one, of course). Plans for Polar Fleece Day have since expanded to include not only fashion, but to raise awareness of climate change and to assist WWF in their anti-climate change campaign.

A Polar Fleece Day show is set to take place on June 28 at Good Luck Bar on Cuba Street, featuring The Bonnie Scarlets and Tommy Ill, as well as DJs from The VBC and Scandalesque, with all proceeds going to WWF to support their climate change campaign. Check out the Salient website for more information or, to get involved, contact Laura McQuillan at laura@salient.org.nz.

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestTweet about this on Twitter

About the Author ()

Comments (27)

Trackback URL / Comments RSS Feed

  1. stacey says:

    Tommy Ill confirmed to rock the Polar Fleece Party!

  2. Jonno says:

    WTF…polar fleece is G – A – Y!!!

    Polar fleece day should have stayed as a joke – it’s gonna be tragic…All these young Wellingtonian hipsters, thinking that they are beyond cool by wearing something that is square, whilst listening to hip music at a hip bar supporting the hip cause of environmentalism. I’d rather sit at home and masturbate to tush-core.

    All you polar fleece wearing homos just need to get back with reality – if you want truly amazing materials, why don’t you do a little research into ALIEN SPACE FABRIC, huh?

  3. Nicola Kean says:

    Don’t be such a hater.

  4. tush says:

    Yo Jonno.. that’s right.. stay at home and have a wank, cause thats all you will get.. haha.. don’t be a hater loser… Jonno.. you should have stayed a joke!!!!

  5. Jonno says:

    It wouldn’t be a student magazine without assholes like me, bitches

  6. Tristan says:

    ha… weirdly enough Jonno, that is absolutely, one hundred percent true. Funny that.
    I think I shall go hide in me yurt…. chairs dude.

  7. smoked says:

    Polyester is manufactured out of petrochemicals, dumbassess. Fuck recycling, if you really want to do the planet a favour stop buying drinks in PET packaging. The dudes at Dupont must be laughing into their syrofome cups – the alternates are having a a party for the environment for clothing made out of plasitc! They couldn’t have planned it better themselves. And you want to reduce global warming by constructing our own PET manufacturing factory. Good one. Ever heard of wool? Not cool enough this year eh?

    And don’t be such a hater? What is this? Plastic patriots only?

  8. smoked says:

    Polyester is manufactured out of petrochemicals, dumbassess. Fuck recycling, if you really want to do the planet a favour stop buying drinks in PET packaging. The dudes at Dupont must be laughing into their styrofoam cups – the alternates are having a a party for the environment for clothing made out of plasitc! They couldn’t have planned it better themselves. And you want to reduce global warming by constructing our own PET manufacturing factory. Good one. Ever heard of wool? Not cool enough this year eh?

    And don’t be such a hater? What is this? Plastic patriots only?

  9. ... too much says:

    The only people I’ve ever known to go on about the “cool crowd” are low self esteemed kids that are intimidated by others’ confidence to do what they want.

    This is simply a fun event and a good laugh.

  10. Laura says:

    Thanks … too much!
    Jonno – Heck, I’m not cool, or a hipster. Polar Fleece Day is simply a celebration of all that is warm, fun and friendly. Hence why you are so opposed to it. But seriously, you should come along, you might even enjoy yourself.

  11. smoked says:

    I have no interest in your social status. The article refers to the environmental freindleness of polar fleece. Cool or not, this event is distracting people from the reality of environmental problems and promoting itself as something it is not. The environment is not a fucking joke. Want to have some fun? Want to enjoy yourself and have a gay old time? Do something else.

  12. Tush says:

    So smoked, what do you do, apart from acting holier than thou? Of course polar fleece is made from petro-chemicals (i.e plastic). Most of the world’s economy is based on the stuff. There is no way it will suddenly move away from it over night. The thing I hate is people like you who have no real idea, or any solutions. I live in the real world mate.

    Before you try to attack me, be warned, I know my stuff, walk the talk, and constantly work on the solutions. My record is good!!!!! Ironically, you will read this and probably write something back.. blabbing on about how much you think you know, while typing on your computer (made out of pertro-cehimcals)

  13. smoked says:

    Then we have a lot in common. Maybe we could even be friends.

    This is not personal. Petrochemicals are an experience of everyday life. But their use and consumption is a choice that can be managed, and NZ’s track record in cleaner production and waste production are embarrassing. My specific objection is to having a plastic polar party under the guise of doing good for the environment. There enough problems trying to articulate the global warming / sustainable consumption issue without further confusing people, mate.

    And my solution – if you want to have a textile party for the global environment -would be to promote wool, as I alluded to earlier.

  14. smoked says:

    Then we have a lot in common. Maybe we could even be friends.

    I agree petrochemicals are an experience of everyday life. But their use and consumption is a choice that can be managed, and NZ’s track record in cleaner production, product life cycle accountability and waste output is embarrassing. My specific objection is to having a Plastic Polar Party under the guise of doing good for the environment. There are enough problems trying to articulate the global warming / sustainable consumption message without further confusing people into thinking they are doing something good when clearly its bullshit.

    And my solution – if you want to have a textile party for the global environment -would be to promote wool, as I alluded to earlier.

  15. Tush says:

    Stoked… maybe we could be friends. However, I think you are missing the point.

    Laura and Stacey are holding a charity gig to raise money for WFF. They are also trying to raise awareness and inform the public about climate change. They are do so by using a gimmick, polar fleece.

    Climate change is the issue here. Recycling plastics into new material is an energy efficient process. In fact, it is very efficient. A tonne of PET made with recycled plastic conserves about 7,200 kWh of electricity. This is an energy saving of 1240 kg of carbon dioxide. One tree, on average, absorbs this much in the its lifetime.

    It is far better to recycle plastic, than it is to let it go into the waste stream. There are many issue here that arise with waste, but I won’t go into them now. The one issue with recycling plastic is that dioxin is produced. This is more a local issue, not a global one, and effects the workers involved. However, dioxin is also produced when you burn wood.

    You mistake petro-chemicals that are used for fuel (emitting greenhouse gaes once burnt) for petro-chemicals that are used for plastics. Plastic can be considered a carbon sink, which is good for climate change. As long as the carbon is stored in a solid form, then it won’t effect the climate.

    You bring up wool. Wool is good, but has its own ecological footprint. To claim wool as the answer is ‘bullshit’. New Zealand (which has to adhere to Kyoto) already has a huge problem with the agriculture industry with the amount GHG’s emitted. Admittedly, this has more to do with the dairy industry, but as I have said before, wool has its own eco-foot print. Have you even considered a life-cycle analysis, when it comes to wool?

    The reason why I brought up a NZ industry for polar fleece is because NZ”s plastic is shipped overseas to Hong Kong, stripped down, then transported to China, where it is made into such things as polar fleece. This creates an additional amount of GHG’s, in terms of carbon miles. I was just bringing up the carbon mile issue.

    Climate change is not just a complex issue. It is in fact it is a wicked problem. (Google the term if you don’t understand it). There are many contradictory solutions involved. Any solution that reduces the amount of GHG’s emitted is a good one. Polar fleece is one of many.

    Laura and Stacey have good intentions here. What is your problem with that? If you really understood the problem, you would know that neither a Polar Fleece Party or a Wool Party would make that much difference. Informing the public about climate change does not do much, because it is behaviour change that is needed. Behaviour change and information have little link. It is trying to overcome the barriers that are involved with behaviour change that really matters. This is the hardest thing.

    Do you really think that the ‘cool’ people in Wellington will suddenly start buying polar fleece, all due to this concert? I think not. People don’t care that much, however, the money raised will be put to good work by the likes of Mel Hutton (WFF), who working on climate change issues for their job.

  16. Lou says:

    Woah. Smoked got burned!

  17. smoked says:

    A smoking response. Just a couple of things.

    The bulk of the article reads like an advertorial for polyester. The environment comes across as a gimmick to have a party.

    I am not particularly interested in promoting wool to save the world, but you asked for an alternative. If wool has a ecological footprint even close to that of polyester, I would be stunned.

    I wasn’t aware that we are exporting our plastic wastes to China. I can’t see how you can consider this form of recycling justification for its initial consumption. Environmental controls in China are very weak, and the poor disproportionally ‘wear’ the pollution generated from manufacturing. As you point out this includes dioxins. But hey, thats a local issue right? Lets not confuse it with the big picture. We don’t live in China. Consume and recycle onwards.

    Take care when using stats about energy savings. A process engineer can calculate that you will save X amount of energy from recycling, but the actual operating values can be a lot higher, particulalrly when the products are processed in developing or transitional countries. And heavy fuel oil – which I would hazard a guess is being used in the container ships to transport our wastes to China – comes in pretty close to coal on the GHG emission front. And plastic as a carbon sink? You will be well aware of the issues surrounding that statement.

    Finally, good intentions don’t justify bad ideas. WWF does good work. I support efforts to raise awareness about global warming, and understand that you live in a reality where its difficult to get people to engage. Contradictions do exist in working towards a solution. But the authors of this article needed to include more about the environment (perhaps more of what you have written) and less about the amazing wonders of polar fleece.

    Party on.

  18. Tush says:

    Tush responses…

    As I said before climate change is a wicked problem.

    It might be a gimmick to have a party.. so what.. the party is aid of raising money for WWF. That is the point!!! It is a party for charity. What better reason to have a party. :)

    Both wool and polyester have their good and bad. This is a given, however… as I said… any process that helps reduce GHG emissions is a good, i.e. the process (recycling plastic) involved in making polar fleece.

    “I can’t see how you can consider this form of recycling justification for its initial consumption.”… I don’t justify its initial consumption. Reality is, plastics have done a lot of good for civilization, as well as bad for the planet. The truth is they exist, no matter what either of us think. Polar fleece does have its bonuses (as stated in the article), and it does have its disadvantages Although.. you can go ask a vegan which they prefer… wool or polar fleece.

    Of course, reducing consumption and reusing is far more important. I have always believed this. Recycling plastic, as opposed to making it from scratch is a good thing. Recycling plastic, rather than throwing it into the waste stream is a good thing.

    I do justify the energy savings that are made from the recycling process. I am comparing the energy savings of making PET from starch, to making it from recycled plastic. You seem to misunderstand the point here. Both processes (recycled plastics and new plastics) have their operational costs. Both are mainly produced in developing or transitional countries.

    The stats I use are from the NZ Zero Waste website, the energy savings calculation is from the carboNZero website, which I trust. According to the Green Party of Aotearoa/NZ, recycling plastic saves around 30% in energy savings. Stats are not important here, no matter which way you look at it, recycling plastic saves energy.

    Plastics are considered to be a wonder material. You can’t escape this. The fact that you use a computer proves this. Till we find a material that an replace PET, recycling PET is something that needs to be encouraged.

    Similar to, humans should all be vegan/ vegetarian for a whole bunch of reasons (included for climate change), however I support sustainable animal farming practices, as opposed to those which are unsustainable. Sustainable animal farming practices help reduce current GHG emissions from an industry that creates a large proportion of the world’s emissions.

    I agree with you about transport fuels, that was the point of my quote in the article. I don’t want you to think that I don’t regard local issues as unimportant, but in this case (climate change), we are talking about a global issue. There are millions of environmental issues, you have to tackle one at a time.

    The reason why I mention carbon sinks, is because it is better for petro-chemicals to be in the form of plastics, than in the form of fuel. Reality is, the petro-chemical industry rules the world’s economy.. supporting things that help reduce the industry’s carbon-foot print is a good thing.

    Smoked.. You do raise some good points, however…stop hiding behind a fake name… stop acting holier than thou… what do you do to help with the solution? You still haven’t proved a thing, instead you make sweeping statements that don’t apply to the real world. You seem to be confusing issues here.

    I agree than petro-chemicals are not ideal, but, there are many steps to a sustainable planet… We can’t get there in just one step. You have to weigh up the pros and cons. I do know where you are coming from, but I also realise that we can’t just change over night.

  19. Jonno says:

    OK OK I will come to the polar fleece party. I’ll bring some recycled condoms in a polar fleece satchel – I wouldn’t want to get AIDS from bangin’ you hoes in the ass.

  20. Stacey says:

    Well Jonno, that’s pretty spew-riffic. Must you be so crass?

    Come on kids, we just want to help the Polar Bears and thier friends, while having a freaking good time partying. Is that so much to ask?
    BTW, we are promoting Polar fleece more in the terms of pulling out your old 1990’s fleeces and rocking them, quite like it was 1999.

    So, basicailly Laura and I are promoting the concept of reusing that which is recycled.

    aaaand FYI I can assure you I am not a ‘hoe’ and don’t have AIDs, although I can’t vouch for Laura…

    PS See you at Polar Fleece day, we may even give you a pair of your very own PF mittens!

    xx Stacey

  21. Jonno says:

    Finally, Stacey has spoken

    Somehow I feel soothed by her presence.

    Stacey, you really are a darling.

    You make all my anger go away.

    I don’t even care about all those other fucks anymore either.

    I just want to cuddle up warm with my polar fleece and cry a little about what an asshole I am.

    And also about how the polar bears are dying.

  22. Johnny Funtime says:

    Wow. You be illin’.

    I don’t think that polar fleece has caused this much controversy since Tauhara College introduced it in 1997 as part of the school uniform.

  23. you Girls! Swooon!

  24. Joel Cosgrove says:

    //So, basicailly Laura and I are promoting the concept of reusing that which is recycled.//

    How come you MADE one for Bernie (and who knows how many others)?

    Enjoying the forums for once, Smoked for Environmental Officer!

  25. PERSON says:

    STOP OFFENDING THE WELLINGTONIANS

  26. PERSON's_friend says:

    im illergic to polar fleece

Recent posts

  1. Issue 20, Vol 81: CW: Tits & Bits
  2. Food Sex
  3. A (Selective and By No-Means all-Encompassing) Look at Neo-Soul
  4. A Love Song
  5. Doing It
  6. Top 5 Sexiest TV Shows I I Was Too Young to be Watching But I Did Anyway
  7. My Dad Wrote A Porno
  8. NT: Te Ara Tauira
  9. Sexing up the Hub: Condoms, Clits & Suzy Cato
  10. The Lifts Are Always One Step Ahead
Website-Cover-Photo7

Editor's Pick

This Ain’t a Scene it’s a Goddamned Arm Wrestle

: Interior – Industrial Soviet Beerhall – Night It was late November and cold as hell when I stumbled into the Zhiguli Beer Hall. I was in Moscow, about to take the trans-Mongolian rail line to Beijing, and after finding someone in my hostel who could speak English, had decided