Rohan History – Rohan Soft Shell circa 1979

I was asked this question the other day:

Can you name an unsung hero of the early Rohan Clothing Range?

My answer, after a lot of thought, was the Tundra jacket. Those of you that are up to speed on the very early Rohan history will ask which Tundra. The jacket had a number of reincarnations. The Tundra 1979 –  A high stretch jacket made from two way stretch Helanca.

The above illustration of the Rohan Tundra is from the 1979 catalogue.

By the way, this catalogue recorded  the only time , there was a deviation from the Rohan logo we all know and love.

This was the logo on the front of the 1979 catalogue. On the 1980 catalogue the logo had reverted. Phew that was a good move.
Not a lot of people know that.

This was the description of the Tundra Jacket in the 1979 catalogue:

Shower proof windproof jacket. Close fitting and efficient due to the two way stretch. Really comfortable and unrestricting jacket. Terylene/Cotton patches at the point of wear (elbows and shoulders). Storm pockets. With or without hood.

I cannot remember making a hooded version, but who knows Rohantime can surprise us all, and we will track down a perfect example. Talking of perfect examples. Rohan Keswick has just that. A perfect example of a red Tundra Jecket (without hood) on display in the Rohan Keswick shop as part of the Rohan Originals Collection. See the Rohan Originals Photo Gallery.

By 1980 the garment had been refined and the fabric developed from 850gms Helanca 70% length ways and 40% across to 80% length ways and 45% across stretch.

This is the illustration of the Rohan Tundra from the 1980 catalogue:

Rohan Tundra_1980

By 1981 sadly it had gone. The reason without a doubt was cost. It was £60.00 in 1980. To put that in some sort of perspective the first recorded Rohan Bag’s price was £19.00 in 1979, according to the Rohantime Bags Price Index.

The Tundra was a close fitting, high stretch, windproof and highly shower proof. That sounds to me very much like the description of any soft shell garment on the market today. The Tundra came to the market when fleece was in its infancy. Patagonia was pioneering with Synchilla and Helly Hansen with fibrepile. Hamish Hamilton’s range of Buffalo clothing fleece was still to come to the market. Fibrepile and fleece were then, and still are, not windproof. Add the membrane and yes it is a lot nearer to being windproof and water repellent, but all that came decades later – we call it soft shell.

During my detailed look back over these iconic early Rohan garments a number of observations remain with me each time. The garments are cut very close to the body (see the Hyde story), the garment colours and their outright bold and progressive design.

So after answering the question asked at the top of this post, I am now left with the same question as when I finished the Hyde story.

Had the Tundra had the longevity of development that the Bags and Pampas have enjoyed what would we all be wearing over 30 years later?

Sarah Howcroft Co founder Rohan

The 1979 catalogue has just been loaded onto Rohantime Photo Gallery check it out some of the photo’s may raise a smile.

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