Full Metal Jacket
Built with 11km of copper, and winner of TIME Best Inventions 2020.
- Three layer material built with 65% copper
- Soft and malleable
- Highly waterproof and breathable
With over 11 kilometres of copper in every jacket, the Full Metal Jacket is designed to help us pioneer the future of intelligent and disease resistant clothing. Copper is one of the most advanced materials in our solar system. Thrown out of supernovas billions of years ago, it became central to the rise of civilisation, creating tools and sterilising water, before enabling modern day communication, transport, and electrical power.
Now, as we look for materials that offer us resistance to disease on Earth and up in space, and a base on which to build intelligent clothing, copper is set to be at the centre of innovation again. Its ability to conduct heat and power while killing bacteria and viruses make it a potential first building block for the future of clothing. Used to create the earliest recorded medical tools in ancient Egypt, and the latest medical tools being developed by NASA, we decided to build an entire jacket out of it.
Built with 65% copper, the jacket is soft, malleable, highly waterproof, windproof and breathable, and comes with a fleece lined neck and pockets, making it a perfect everyday technical jacket.
Why we’re looking at disease-resistant clothing
Since starting Vollebak we’ve taken the extreme questions and challenges that adventure poses and tried to solve them with pieces of clothing. One of the challenges we were already exploring when Covid-19 hit was the role clothing can play in protecting against disease in remote environments on Earth as well as up in space where astronauts’ immune systems are already compromised. While we want the first people on Mars to be wearing our clothes, making sure we survive on Earth first, and understand how to avoid taking diseases from one planet to the next, is a good starting point.
Why metal will be part of the future of clothing
Metal may not sound like an obvious candidate to help create the future of clothing. It’s incredibly expensive, has no real precedent in clothing beyond suits of armour, and there’s no established supply chain. But we’re exploring its potential because to make intelligent clothing you need to start with base materials that can do things normal clothing can’t. You can think of copper as a platform on top of which other innovation can be added – a bit like an operating system in a computer. Copper’s ability to resist disease, while also conducting heat and electricity without a power source, make it an obvious contender.
Copper will be a building block for intelligent clothing
Making clothes out of naturally conductive materials is the first stepping stone towards intelligent clothing. Over the next 10 to 10,000 years clothing has the potential to help us become stronger and faster and even live longer. But everything from exoskeletons to integrated monitoring and intelligence will require power distribution. Which is why the ability of copper and graphene to conduct heat and power while killing bacteria and viruses make them the first likely building blocks for the future of clothing. With graphene remaining incredibly expensive to produce at scale, we’re trialling copper at the same time.
Viruses and bacteria can’t live on copper
Disease resistant clothing will become a requirement in the future, which is why we’re starting to work with copper now. It’s biostatic, so bacteria and other life forms can’t grow on it. It also has exceptional antimicrobial properties which means bacteria and viruses die when they make contact with it. The copper releases electrically charged ions which first make it difficult for a microbe to breathe, before punching holes in its outer membrane, moving in and completely wiping out its DNA, preventing it from developing any future resistance.
Turning a theory into a jacket
So as we enter a new era of disease on Earth, and we start to think about preventing Earth’s illnesses being carried up into space, we wanted to see whether it was actually possible to make clothing almost entirely out of copper – because you can’t wear a theory. The Full Metal Jacket is our first move into copper clothing and proof of its viability. It’s built from 65% copper and has over 11 kilometres of copper in every jacket. That’s enough copper to stretch from one side of NYC to the other and back, if you got bored one day.
How we actually make a jacket out of metal
There’s a reason this is the first jacket to be built mostly from copper. And that’s because the process of turning metal into a wearable fabric is highly complex. The first of the jacket’s three layers is made from a lacquered copper yarn which is woven on rapier weaving looms before being scoured, heat-set, dyed and dried. This curing process alone takes six days. The lacquer is completely clear and acts as protection, so the colour of each jacket is the colour of the dyed copper beneath it.
What the jacket looks and feels like
The surface of the jacket looks computer generated when you’re standing in front of it. And that’s because the hundreds of thousands of moving copper parts warp and ripple like water. But while the jacket is made out of metal and looks like it’s come from another planet, you wouldn’t know it just by touching it. It’s designed to be worn as your everyday jacket and it feels like one. The copper is soft and malleable. It’s only under a microscope you can see the individual copper strands running through every jacket.
As the jacket ages the copper colour will come through
In order to simulate what the jacket will look like as it ages over the next decade, we attacked it with highly abrasive sandpaper and gravel. So in many of these shots you can see the raw copper colour coming through. The surface ages like denim, so lighter copper-coloured creases will gather on all points of contact and the parts of the jacket that move the most.
The middle layer keeps out the rain and wind
Creating a jacket from metal is even more challenging when you turn the fabric into a high-performance material as we’ve done here. The copper is laminated with an advanced waterproof and breathable membrane called c_change®. Instead of remaining static, the membrane can open and close to respond to different weather conditions as they happen, while remaining permanently waterproof and windproof. The Full Metal Jacket is waterproof to over 20,000mm and highly breathable with a RET score of 10.
How the membrane works in the cold
The c_change® membrane mimics natural structures like flowers and pinecones, opening and closing in response to changes in temperature, humidity and sweat. It’s designed to keep you at a consistent temperature by combining really high breathability with heat retention. While it can open up like a series of microscopic vents to let heat escape, in the cold it closes itself like a protective barrier to stop heat leaving. So as soon as the temperature drops, or you stop moving, the membrane contracts to insulate you and retain heat close to the body.
How the membrane works in the heat and wet
As the air temperature rises, the membrane opens up so that excess sweat and heat can escape through the jacket. But while the membrane’s polymer structure opens up to become extremely permeable to water vapour leaving the body, it remains completely waterproof on the outside. It means that even if you held a jacket under a downpour in extreme heat, the jacket will only ever let the water through one way, while still letting heat pass through it.
The inside is built for comfort
Once the metal face fabric and advanced membrane have been bonded together, a brushed backing is added on the inside of the jacket to make it soft. The high front collar comes with a fleece lined chinguard, and the side pockets are fleece lined too. The hood and hem both come with elasticated drawcord adjusters. The cuffs fasten tight with metal snap fasteners. And every panel of the jacket is laser cut before being stitched and bonded for waterproofness.
Four large layered front pockets
You’ll find two large side pockets that are lined with fleece on the inside and fasten with waterproof zippers. Two giant bellows pockets are layered over these side pockets. The bellows pockets are protected by angled storm flaps and fasten with metal snap fasteners, and each is large enough to fit an iPad or tools.
Three chest pockets
The jacket is fitted with a heavy-duty two-way waterproof metal front zipper. Either side of the zipper on the upper chest you’ll find two concealed pockets. Both come with waterproof zipper entrances and are hidden behind storm flaps. The two pockets are large enough for your phone. And inside the jacket there’s a third, internal pocket on the right hand side.
Copper has always been central to the history of innovation
Copper created the tools from which entire civilisations were built. It was the first metal to be cast in a mould 6,000 years ago, and the first to be alloyed to make bronze. It provided humans increasingly efficient ways to kill each other – from axes and swords to bullets. But it also gave us increasingly efficient ways to spread information – from the Gutenberg printing press, telegraph and telephone, to circuit boards, computer chips, broadband and telecommunications cables. The first clock, watch, telescope, microscope and battery all relied on copper. And if you’re reading this on your phone, 12% of that is copper too.
The Egyptians were using copper medical tools in 2200BC
Copper has been used to combat disease for thousands of years. The oldest medical tools ever discovered were made from copper 4,000 years ago, and were found entombed with the remains of Qar, a royal physician from the Sixth Dynasty in ancient Egypt. The Smith Papyrus shows that 1,000 years earlier the Egyptians were using copper to sterilise wounds and transport clean drinking water. And they weren’t alone. The Babylonians would sharpen their swords and put the copper alloy filings into cuts sustained in battle, to reduce infection and speed healing.
Copper’s halo effect
During the 19th century Paris was one of many cities worldwide struck by a series of devastating cholera outbreaks which killed tens of thousands of people. In 1852 a physician called Victor Burq found that the disease wasn’t killing anyone who worked in the copper smelting plants around the city. Not knowing about the ancient Egyptians, he dubbed it “the antidote to cholera.” Recent research in the US suggests that copper may produce a halo effect, potentially reducing bacteria by 70% up to 50 centimetres away from the copper itself and reducing it on surfaces not made out of copper.
Copper can be recycled without any loss in quality
Copper is one of the few materials that can be recycled infinitely without losing any of its chemical properties. Recycled copper, or secondary copper as it’s known, is completely indistinguishable from primary copper, and it can be recycled from its raw state as well as from manufactured products. Copper recycling can be traced back over 2,000 years to when the Romans were recasting weapons and armour using scrap metal from foundries.
Copper is everywhere, from supernovas to your body
Astronomers believe copper was first forged inside massive stars as they grew into supergiants, and that later, when they exploded as supernovas, the copper was thrown through space to help form our planet. As well as finding copper in space, you’ll also find it as a trace element in all living organisms, including you. The average adult body contains 50-120mg of copper, which works with iron to form our red blood cells. You’ll find it mostly in our bones, muscles and liver, maintaining healthy blood vessels, nerves and immune function.
Now it’s NASA experimenting with copper medical devices
4,000 years after the Egyptians, NASA is exploring the use of 3D-printed copper medical instruments on long-duration space missions. One of the issues with longer missions is that astronauts can experience an altered immune response, known as Immune System Dysregulation. It’s a condition that can leave them more susceptible to infectious diseases, which can harm their performance and in turn limit human space exploration. So NASA is now testing medical instruments built from copper for use onboard the International Space Station, to help reduce the risk of infection in space.
Copper’s future role on Mars
As Matt Damon demonstrated in The Martian, we’re going to have to be highly resourceful when we do get to Mars. Survival is going to hinge on making the most of every resource available, and Rover missions have already been able to find copper ore deposits on Mars. Even rocket parts are now being built with copper. Researchers at the Marshall Space Flight Center have recently developed and 3D-printed a new copper-based alloy known as GRCop-42. It’s incredibly strong, highly conductive and will be used to line rocket’s propulsion engines.
SIze + Fit
The Full Metal Jacket is designed with a loose fit, with plenty of room for other layers underneath. If you prefer a closer fit, we recommend you go for the size down.
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