AskDefine | Define oilskin

Dictionary Definition

oilskin n : a macintosh made from cotton fabric treated with oil and pigment to make it waterproof [syn: slicker]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A raincoat made from cotton fabric treated with oil and pigment to make it waterproof.

Extensive Definition

Oilskin referred originally to a type of fabric - canvas with, literally, a skin of oil applied to it as waterproofing, often linseed oil. They are commonly known as 'oilies' Old types of oilskin included:- These days, oilskins or oilies means the foul-weather gear worn by sailors, made of modern and often quite advanced fabrics. Oilskin is also used to make stockmen's outerwear on the ranches of Australia, being used to make stockmen's coats and chaps.
Although a few all-in-one (boilersuit-shaped)) oilskin suits are available, most sailors prefer the flexibility of a separate jacket and trousers. The trousers are very high-cut to provide a large overlap with the jacket and prevent water entering through the join. It is common in moderate weather, however, to wear only the trousers (as in the right of the photo) and their high cut then provides wind and water protection to the lower part of the torso. Shoulder straps are provided to hold the trousers up. Straps around the bottom of the trouser legs let them be tightened around sea-boots, providing a semi-watertight join. While this does not let them be used like fishing waders, a wave sweeping briefly across the deck will generally not penetrate. All but the cheapest oilskin trousers will be reinforced across the seat and the knees.
Oilskin jackets are similar in many ways to waterproofs used for walking. The most visible difference is that they usually have a much higher collar intended to keep out spray, and in many cases to warm the ears or even the whole head! A fold-away hood will be provided, almost always in a high-visibility colour since the head will be the only part showing above the water if the sailor should be lost overboard. retroreflective patches on the shoulders are often provided for the same reason. The cuffs of better jackets include an inner seal, something like that on a drysuit, to prevent water getting in if a wave is forced up the sleeve. This is less important in walking jackets since in walking on land the arms usually point down away from the rain; but this nuisance can happen in motorcycling where the arms holding the handlebars point forwards into a wet head-wind.
Pockets on trousers and jackets are often lined with a synthetic fleece material designed to be quick-drying and warm even when soaked. Most sailing consists of bursts of hard work between periods of relative inactivity; hunched up with hands in pockets is a common pose in bad weather during the inactive parts, and soft linings help keep the hands warm. A recent innovation is removable soft linings, enabling them to be washed.
Some oilskin jackets include built-in harnesses; typically just a strap around the chest which a lifeline can be clipped to during very bad weather. This avoids the need to wear a separate harness, but may be less safe than a modern separate harness which includes a lifejacket. More expensive oilskin jackets may also act as a lifejacket. A few jackets contain equipment like lights, flares, and an emergency radio beacon.

External links

oilskin in German: Ölzeug
oilskin in French: Toile huilée
oilskin in Italian: Tela cerata
oilskin in Swedish: Oljerock
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