Oilskin jacket and sou'wester

Oilskin can mean:

  • A type of fabric: canvas with a skin of oil applied to it as waterproofing, often linseed oil. Old types of oilskin included:-
  • Oilskins, a garment made of oilskin, or of other heavy waterproof material (but excluding gaberdine and similar). Such garments include:

These days, oilskins or oilies means the foul-weather gear worn by sailors, made of modern synthetic and often quite advanced fabrics. (At sea, wet can come from sea spray as well as from rain.)



Oilskin jacket (left) and high trousers (right). Note the high-visibility hood on the jacket and the shoulder straps on the trousers

Oilskin trousers are very high-cut for a large overlap with the jacket and prevent water entering through the join. Often in moderate weather, however, only the trousers are worn (as in the right of the photo) and their high cut then keeps wind and water off the lower part of the torso. It has shoulder straps to hold the trousers up. Straps around the bottom of the trouser legs let them be tightened around seaboots, providing a semi-watertight join. This does not let them be used like fishing waders, but 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 to keep out spray, and in many cases to warm the ears or 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 is lost overboard. It often has retroreflective patches on the shoulders for the same reason. Its tails are very long to keep water off the legs.

The cuffs of better oilskin jackets include an inner seal, something like that on a scuba diver's drysuit, to stop 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 headwind.

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.


Although a few all-in-one, boilersuit-shaped oilskin suits are available, most sailors prefer the flexibility of a separate jacket and trousers.[citation needed]


Care must be used with traditional oilskins because of the danger of the oil coming off onto other surfaces.


External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • oilskin — ► NOUN 1) heavy cotton cloth waterproofed with oil. 2) (oilskins) a set of garments made of oilskin …   English terms dictionary

  • Oilskin — Oil skin , n. Cloth made waterproof by oil. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • oilskin — [oil′skin΄] n. 1. cloth made waterproof by treatment with oil 2. [often pl.] a garment or outfit made of this, as a coat, or a suit of jacket and trousers …   English World dictionary

  • oilskin — UK [ˈɔɪlˌskɪn] / US noun Word forms oilskin : singular oilskin plural oilskins [uncountable] thick cotton cloth that is treated with oil so that water cannot pass through it an oilskin jacket a) [countable] a coat or jacket made from oilskin b)… …   English dictionary

  • oilskin — oil|skin [ˈɔıl skın] n 1.) [U] special cloth that has had oil put on it so that it has a smooth surface and water cannot go through it oilskin coat/jacket/trousers etc 2.) oilskins [plural] a coat and trousers made of oilskin and worn together… …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • oilskin — oil|skin [ ɔıl,skın ] noun uncount thick cotton cloth that is treated with oil so that water cannot pass through it: an oilskin jacket a. count a coat or jacket made from oilskin b. oilskins plural a coat and pair of pants made from oilskin …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • oilskin — noun Date: 1786 1. an oiled waterproof cloth used for coverings and garments 2. an oilskin raincoat 3. plural an oilskin suit of coat and trousers …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Oilskin — Fischer in Wasserfester Kleidung Ölzeug (engl.: Oilskin) bezeichnet wetterfeste Oberbekleidung in der Seefahrt, die den Träger vor Nässe und Wind schützen soll, sowie die ebenfalls wetterfesten australischen Reitermäntel. Ursprünglich wurde diese …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • oilskin — noun heavy cotton cloth waterproofed with oil. ↘(oilskins) a set of garments made of oilskin …   English new terms dictionary

  • oilskin — noun 1 (U) cloth treated with oil so that water will not pass through it 2 oilskins (plural) a coat and trousers made of oilskin …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English