All about the first performance fabric
Junges Paar in Tracht von Adam Brenner, 1840.
What do the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph, Yves Saint Laurent, Nike and Saint Hubertus have in common? If you guessed the Loden, you guessed right!
Maybe you don’t own a Loden coat or cape, but for sure your parents, uncles or grandparent do! The greenish or grey outwear was an absolute must in the ’70s and ’80s, from Rome to London and New York; any truly elegant person would spend winter in these woollen classics.
A sustainable material, the Loden is 100% made-in Tyrol and South-Tyrol from raw wool that is woven into a light but an extremely robust fabric that is long-lasting and water-proof. The very complicated and lengthy process to create this traditional material can take up to 40 steps and includes shrinking with warm water and soap, hammering and brushing the cloth several times.
Loden has been used since the Middle-Age by the peasants and shepherds who spun and weaved the raw wool of their sheep to make coats and trousers to protect the Alpine population against the low temperatures, wind, rain and snow. It is, in fact, the first performance fabric for extreme weather conditions. The Loden is tear-and-water-resistant, which explains why it was famously worn by the Steiner brothers when escalating for the first time the almost vertical cliff on the southern face of the Hoher Dachstein in 1909.
Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria had a grey Loden coat and a white cape especially made for him by Moessmer, a company that had started enriching the sturdy cloth with Merino and Cashmere wool. The aristocrats of the Court of Vienna and soon, of all Europe, followed the Emperor’s sartorial choice and made the Tyrolean fabric extremely popular. As a matter of fact, the Loden became the number one outwear to go hunting. Hence enters Saint Hubertus, the patron saint of the hunters, whose ethical hunting behaviour hunting courses still teach up to today. There is a traditional Loden coat model named after the Saint too.
Over the years the name Loden's become synonym of the clean single-breasted coat made in Loden wool and also the name of a colour: the Loden-Green. The smoother Loden fabric is widely used in fashion by houses like Yves Saint Laurent, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, and sports brands like Nike and Adidas.
Around the Noughties, the Loden lost its popularity to synthetic performance materials and started being considered old-fashioned and boring. Nevertheless, the green outwear has remained a traditional garment, very popular in Bavaria, Tyrol and South Tyrolworn, and mainly worn in the countryside - some find it tacky to wear Loden in the city.
Luckily, some family-owned companies and Loden mills such as Steiner, from the Steiner brothers we mentioned before, still produce the beautiful coats today. Because of the environment-friendly natural materials, the traditional craftsmanship and the fact that a Loden can be passed down from generation to generation, the Tyrolian heritage coat is appealing to the growing number of conscious consumers, so we can expect to see more and more stylish fashionistas jumping on this revival bandwagon.