Saturated

An abridged history of waterproof-breathable warfare

1938

Insane in the Membrane

Read MIKE KESSLER's account of the battle between the iconic Gore-Tex brand and its waterproof-breathable fabric, and the newcomers who want a piece of the billion-dollar market.

Roy Plunkett, a chemist with Kinetic Chemicals, discovers polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), a fluoropolymer that will later be branded Teflon.

1958
Bill Gore leaves DuPont and launches W.  L. Gore and Associates in the basement of his home in Newark, Delaware. 

1969
Gore’s son, Bob, discovers that rapidly stretching PTFE results in a microporous structure—later dubbed expanded PTFE, or ePTFE. This will become the main ingredient in Gore-Tex fabric.

1976
Seattle outdoor-gear company Early Winters uses Gore-Tex to create and market one of the first waterproof-breathable jackets.

1980
Gore files its patent for ePTFE. Gore-Tex is first used in boots (Danner); two years later, it debuts in gloves (North Face and Marmot).

1991
Future Gore rival Malden Mills introduces Polartec—a performance-fleece brand. The company will later manufacture soft-shell fabrics and, eventually, waterproof-breathable ones.

2000
Jackets made with eVent, an ePTFE membrane similar to Gore-Tex, appear from Salomon, Timberland, and Pearl Izumi

2004
Columbia acquires Mountain Hardwear; GE Energy acquires BHA Group, creators of eVent, for $260 million and mounts the first large-scale effort to compete with Gore-Tex.

2010
Columbia and Italian subsidiary OutDry file a complaint with the Commission of the European Union about Gore’s business practices. A similar complaint is filed with the U.S. Federal Trade Commision. 

2011
Columbia develops its own proprietary waterproof-breathable technology, OmniDry, and starts using it in jackets and gloves, publicly vowing to “take down Gore-Tex.” Polartec launches NeoShell with an aggressive marketing campaign. Mountain Hardwear debuts Dry.Q, its proprietary fabric.

2012
Official investigations by the EU and FTC are ongoing.

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