Forever Dry: The Accidental Origins of Gore-Tex

December’s fast approaching and that means it’s time to gear up for the wettest and wildest that winter has to offer. From top to toe, there’s really only one option if you want to escape unscathed: Gore-Tex. Fortunately, Nike’s got your back this winter with an assortment of fresh Gore-Tex-blessed Air Force 1s. In celebration of this newest Uptown release, we decided to look back at the accidental origins of this miracle material, so rug up and read on.

Gore-Tex

Non-Stick

Before we can talk about Gore-Tex itself, we need to explore the origins of another miraculous discovery: Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). While you’ve probably never heard of PTFE itself before, you’ve likely heard of the popular PTFE-based derivative known as Teflon. In technical speak, PTFE is a hydrophobic synthetic fluoropolymer of tetrafluoroethylene, but all you really need to know is that it can’t get wet – making it the perfect coating to stop food sticking to your frypan.

A Happy Accident (or Two)

So, what does PTFE have to do with Gore-Tex, you might be wondering? Gore-Tex is, in actuality, simply an expanded form of PTFE. Its discovery was purely accidental. Robert W. Gore – the ‘Gore’ behind the name Gore-Tex – had been experimenting with stretching PTFE in 1969, and had endured failed test after failed test. In a moment of frustration, instead of slowly stretching the fluoropolymer, he yanked it hard, creating an expanded form that stretched by almost 800%. Gore, together with his father Wilbur, would go on to trademark the discovery under the name Gore-Tex and file multiple patents.

Interestingly, Gore’s moment of frustration wasn’t the only accident that led to the creation of Gore-Tex. PTFE, of which Gore-Tex is an expanded form, was actually unintentionally discovered during experimentation for a new chlorofluorocarbon refrigerant.

How it Works

We all know that Gore-Tex helps to keep you dry, no matter the weather, but how it works is a little more complicated than just coating a jacket in some expanded Teflon. The genius of Gore-Tex – in its application in outerwear – is achieved through layering, with the most important being the signature Gore-Tex membrane. As you might expect, this layer is coated in Gore-Tex, but what you might not expect is that it is actually full of pores. While this might seem counterproductive for a product intended to keep you dry, it serves a very important function. The pores are microscopic in nature, which are far too small for water droplets to actually penetrate the membrane. By having some degree of perforation, however, the material remains breathable and is large enough to allow any water vapour, produced due to sweat, to pass through the membrane. This ultimately allows Gore-Tex to keep you dry both internally and externally.

Gore-Tex Today

Gore-Tex - Air Force

Every year as the temperature starts to drop, we see a mass of Gore-Tex products hit the shelves. There’s always plenty of waterproof jackets to go around, as to be expected, but Gore-Tex sneakers are a little more uncommon. Thankfully, Nike have come to the rescue with a new collection of Air Force 1 Lows protected by Gore-Tex. Four different colourways are available. Choose from ‘Black’, ‘Medium Olive’, ‘Team Gold’ and, in a nod to the classic rain jacket, ‘Dynamic Yellow’. Cop you pair right now from Foot District, online or in store