One of the best things with our work with Second Sunrise is all the people we get to meet and all the stories they tell us. Karl-Gunnar is one of these persons, a nice chap who turned up to one of our events. We were intrigued by this character who wore his favorite red wing moc toes (which we took a picture of, and their story can be found Here), high waisted corduroys with braces and a canvas shirt that he told us that his favorite tailor in Kairo had sewn for him.
It turned out that Karl-Gunnar is a self-published author who was working on a book about the clothing that the polar explorers wore during the expeditions in the late 1800's and early 1900's. As you can imagine, this made us very happy to hear!
We held a event in the store to celebrate the books release, and I visited K-G the day after to pick up some more books. While I was there I took the time to ask him some questions about his project!
Why did you choose to write about the clothing worn by polar explorers?
"I have always been interested in the subject, and I have visited both the north and south polar regions. I wanted to write something about these expeditions, but I thought that there were already books written on every aspect of them. Then I discovered that there was in fact no publications focusing on these textiles that compared the different expeditions with each other, so I decided that i'd have a go at it!"
How do you choose what to write about?
"I act on pure coincidence! I am specialized in not being specialized!"
What is the most important thing to wear of a polar expedition?
"Thin garments in many layers! This is my suggestion:
- Thin woolen sweater
- Thick woolen sweater
- A blouse of wadmal (thick woolen fabric)
- A windstopper of some kind
It is important to allow the air to move away from the body, so garments that are drawn tightly closed around the neck should be avoided. Scott wore a belt to keep trousers up but I would recommend braces for the purpose, since they allow for better movement of both the air and the wearers body."
What would you advise not to wear?
"Undergarments made of cotton! I would say that if you wear cotton closest to your body that would be a death sentence. Cotton holds the moisture from the body and once it is wet, it becomes like a layer of water. Water does not hold heat very well and especially not in cold weather, so the cotton garment become a cooling layer instead of a warming one.
It was not uncommon for the participants of these expeditions to use their private winter clothes and some of them had equipment that were shockingly simple by their days standards. Yet, they were still reasonably well equipped by todays standards! People generally knew how to dress for the cold better in the 1800's than we do today, and there was no fashion that kept young people from wearing woolen long-johns or good boots."
This book is written in Swedish. Are there any plans for a translation?
"There is! I'm unsure about the technicalities around it but I hope to be able to offer it in English in the future. "
Karl-Gunnar's book Polarfararnas kläder - på liv och död is available Here!