Helly Hansen Workwear

The history of Helly Hansen Workwear

Arguably the most famous wet weather clothing in the world, the Helly Hansen brand has grown from its humble beginnings back in 1877 on the fjords of Scandinavia, now a global leader in foul weather protection. Norwegian fisherman Helly Juell Hansen was a seasoned seaman having spent much of his life on the ocean, from the age of just fifteen. The now captain saw that traditional fisherman’s hats and clothing where simply not up to the job; he and his wife Maren Margarethe began to develop the very first offerings from the company in the form of oilskin jackets, sou'westers and waterproof trousers.

The coarse linen garments where soaked in linseed oil and left to cure for a period of time before taking-on unprecedented waterproofing properties, the captain knew he was on to a winner. The garments outperformed all that came before them; so much so in fact that within only 5 years the adventurous start-up had recorded sales upwards of 10,000 pieces.

The years that followed saw a rise to prominence for Helly Hansen workwear with them receiving a diploma for excellence at the 1878 Paris Expo. The seven oceans of the world were no longer a barrier to traders, especially to an accomplished fisherman such as the good captain; now the world was open for business with exports of these popular garments going international.

Today of course Helly Hansen is synonymous with high quality & reliability, the tool of choice for the serious tradesman and used globally as survival and rescue gear by emergency services including the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, the world’s oldest lifeboat service.

Helly Hansen in the 20th century

Never one to sit still, the captain aimed to further improve the performance of his wet weather rain wear. The 20th century saw major breakthroughs in the development of its layering principles and applied them in a new way known simply today as the 3-Layer system. The basic principle of the 3-Layer system is used now by many manufacturers and many might even remember your grandma telling you to wear 3 layers in the winter months.

In 1949 the company developed the Helox material; the Helox was a very thin translucent sheet of PVC plastic that was then sewn into the waterproof jackets to produce a hardy and water repellent work wear garment. The days of the oil based curing techniques was now over and a new era of engineered technologies was about to dominate. The new range of coats saw production hit an all time high of 30,000 pieces per month; the demand was now so high it placed HH as the de-facto work clothing choice for wet weather gear, a trend that continues today.

Another major breakthrough was to follow in 1961 with the fibrepile lining, now commonly referred to as fleece. This new coupling of waterproofing and a lined inner made for a spectacular marriage in foul weather protection. The wearer could now be guaranteed warmth, comfort and protection in even the harshest of environments. This same method has continued to be engineered and perfected ever since.

Helly Hansen 1970’s - 1980’s

With more advancements in technology and the companies desire to go further 1970 saw the invention and introduction of LIFA fabric; this new material discovered by Italian researchers later went on to win them the Nobel Prize. The fibre used in LIFA offered truly unique properties in that it kept skin warm & dry whilst capturing sweat and moisture and driving them away from the body. This clever material is still used today and incorporated into various offerings of rainwear from the brand.

As the 1980’s dawned HH launched Helly Tech technology, this research and development aimed at finding a new material that was both waterproof and breathable; using Microporous and Hydrophilic materials this goal was achieved and with much applaud. Helly Tech’s state of the art waterproof and breathable technology is still enjoyed today by mountain guides, sailors & ski instructors around the globe.

Helly Hansen 1990’s - Present Day

The culmination of a century’s hard work had firmly won the hearts and minds of hard working professionals around the world; however HH also caught the eye of the urban youth on both sides of the Atlantic, becoming popular in the hip hop cultures of both Britain & America. This sub culture had elevated that characteristic HH logo into a fashion icon; there was something reassuringly expensive about Helly Hansen a kind of unspoken trust, a status symbol of the era.

In the present day Helly Hansen goes from strength to strength and still continues to be a pioneering force providing much more than just wet weather gear; indeed this iconic symbol now adorns skiers, daring adventurers and world class sailors. Truly a credit to one man with one vision and encompassed in the company slogan for all time.

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