Thursday, January 20, 2011

Winter fashion wear, Polar Fleece


Polar fleece is a modern synthetic first developed at Malden Mills in Lawrence Massachusetts in the late seventies. It is really a man made wool. Unlike wool though it is very light and in hydrophobic, that is it doesn't absorb moisture. It washes well and dries quickly. It can be made partially from recycled plastic bottles and can itself be recycled into Polar fleece garments after use.

I wear polar fleece (now marketed under the name (Polartec) every day in the fall and winter, head to toe. When I paint outside in the winter it is the mainstay of my insulation. Polartec is a wonder product. There is an interesting story that goes along with it too.

The third generation owner of Malden Mills Aaron Feurstein developed the fabric and decided not to patent it so that others could make it too. This was an early sign of the kind of guy Mr Feurstein was.

On December 11, 1995, the mill burned down. Aaron then did an heroic thing, cashing the fire insurance check, he used the money not just to rebuild, but to keep all 3,000 workers on the payroll for the six months it took to reopen the factory. That cost him millions. He said that his lifelong study of the Talmud made him believe it was the right thing to do.

Ultimately the action cost him the company in bankruptcy court. The company was bought by another entity though who relieved him of his position as CEO. But the company and its workers still exist making not only Polartec used in many different manufacturers like LL Bean and Northface but producing weird high tech fabrics for the military. He was given the Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award on March 13, 1998 for his commitment to his workers and Lawrence, Massachusetts. Lawrence is a pretty hard bitten town, throwing 3000 workers out of their jobs would have been a catastrophe for Lawrence. It didn't happen because Aaron made sure it didn't happen, and was willing to suffer the consequences. A company formed of former employees still markets the material from Lawrence and their web site is here.

10 comments: said...

My friend worked at the mill on fleece. I wear a fleece vest and jacket into my studio for three seasons.Good stuff and cats love it. It never seems to wear out..notice that?

Deb said...

Ha Marian! I can't ever leave anything polartec out laying around or the cats find it immediately and lay on it!
I've got one polarfleece jacket that is probably at least 15 years old, and still like new. (except for the cat hair)

Lucy said...

What a great story and a lesson to us all.

billspaintingmn said...

Stape! The ingredience of this post tastes great! And is good for you!
My cat loves to curl up on my snowmobile suit, and I thought it was because he likes me.
Seriously thought I think that Aaron Feurstein is a hero. His commitment to his belief, and care
for his nieghbors is one thing, to act on it is applaudable.(is that a word?)
I'd never heard of the Tamud. I googled it and am still abit foggy
about it.
How did they manage to raise blue and pink animals is also amazing.
In Minnesota they are only white.
(we have alot of catching up to do)
Thanks again for another wonderful post. I will remember this when I'm outside painting, and keeping cozy warm!

Steve said...

I'd read Feurstein's story before and it's great to read it again. Thanks for highlighting it. If any snow painters fortify themselves with Bob's Red Mill oatmeal before heading into the cold, there's a related story about that company:

Finally, though I'd seen the movie "It's a Wonderful Life" uncounted times before, it wasn't until this Christmas Eve that I noticed a tiny sign on the wall of the Bailey Bros. Savings and Loan office:
"All you can take with you is that which you've given away."

Stapleton Kearns said...

I hadn't noticed that, but now that you mention it...

Stapleton Kearns said...

My cats like to hang out on it too.I am going to shellac them some day to prevent shedding.

Stapleton Kearns said...


Stapleton Kearns said...

Ply sheep like hydrangea take on different colors depending on the acid content of the soil.

Stapleton Kearns said...

"All you can take with you is that which you've given away." That is a great quote, I have seen that movie every Christmas for years and never noticed that.