The wrong trousers

Dave Wilson went shopping with his son and found a lot more about protecting his trousers against the elements than he really wanted to know.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Take last weekend, for example. Riding around in the car with my son, I decided to discuss some of the exciting technology stories that we’d published on e4engineering over the past week, knowing of his interest in ‘All Things Technical’.

In particular, I happened to mention some research that’s going on at MIT. There, as you might have read yourself, researchers have demonstrated a process called hot filament chemical vapour deposition that deposits nanolayers of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) to waterproof ordinary cotton T-shirt fabric. The end result retains its breathability and is indistinguishable in ‘look and feel’ from untreated fabric.

Well, nothing wrong in that, you might think. No, that’s right. Things were just fine until we got the phone call from Mom asking me if I would take him into town to buy him a new pair of trousers. That’s when it all started to go pear shaped.

Because no sooner had we purchased the offending trousers, than my son spotted a label attached to them that was clearly marked ‘PTFE’ and ‘Waterproof.’

‘Look dad,’ he said, ‘those MIT researchers have been beaten to the punch!’

Suddenly, Dad felt like The Idiot, rather than being The Font Of All Technical Knowledge. Lacking the prerequisite post doctorate in Trouser Fabric Technology, I was unable to explain the difference between the process used to manufacture his new school trousers and the MIT procedure.

So come Monday, I hit the Internet. And most likely, I guess the new trousers simply use a well-established Dupont Teflon finish that forms a molecular barrier around the individual fibres in the fabric to lower their surface tension.

But I could be wrong. On one site on the Internet, I found so many different types of waterproofing materials for clothing that I had to give up the research and get back to some real work. (I had felt the piercing eyes of Dan King, our Publisher in my back as I surfed numerous Trouser Sites in search of the truth.)

So despite the numerous pages about trousers and PTFE, I’m still not really sure what the answer is. But along the way, I’ve discovered more than I ever wanted to know about protecting clothing from water.

I’ve also discovered something about those folks that said that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. They were right.