CS95 Fleece

The CS95 clothing system used multiple layers of clothing to allow a soldier to add or decrease clothing to regulate their temperature. It made use of many new fabrics and clothing innovations that had been used on the civilian market for several years, but had not been previously seen in the British Army. One of these layers of clothing introduced for the first time with the CS95 system was a fleece jacket:imageAlthough later produced in DPM, this early version is in olive green. The technical name for the material this jacket is made from is ‘polar fleece’. Polar fleece originated in Massachusetts in 1979 when Malden Mills, (now Polartec LLC), and Patagonia developed Synchilla (synthetic chinchilla). It was a new, light, strong pile fabric meant to mimic—and in some ways surpass—wool. A lightweight, warm and soft fabric, fleece has some of wool’s good qualities but weighs a fraction of the lightest available woolens. Polar fleece garments traditionally come in different thicknesses: micro, 100, 200, and 300, with 300 being the thickest and least flexible.

It is hydrophobic, holding less than 1% of its weight in water. It retains much of its insulating powers even when wet. It is machine washable and dries quickly. It is a good alternative to wool. It can also be made out of recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles, or even recycled fleece. Despite its fuzzy appearance and feel, it is not flammable, but instead melts when exposed to flame.

Regular polar fleece is not windproof and does not absorb moisture (although this is often seen as a benefit, per above). Fleece readily generates static electricity, which causes the accumulation of lint, dust, and pet hair. It is also susceptible to damage from high temperature washing, tumble drying, or ironing.

The official CS95 guidance described the garment as:

A warm long-sleeved, brushed polyester thermal liner with zip fastening front and pockets and thumb holes in the cuffs for extra hand warmth.

Although the fleece is a mid-shade of olive-green, the edging and rounded collar are finished with a darker green tape:imageA pair of diagonal zip pockets are fitted to the lower portion of the fleece:imageThese have a cotton liner to give the ‘bag’ of the pocket:imageNote the manufacturer’s label sewn into the pocket and the little label with a stylised soldier for the research company who designed the CS95 system, DCTA- the Defence Clothing and Textiles Authority. An elasticated drawstring is fitted to the bottom of the garment to help draw it in and keep a pocket of air inside the jacket for warmth:imageWhilst the fleece was generally well liked, one user who was not impressed with the fleece recalls:

I never liked the fleece, I found it too bulky for the extra warmth it provided and continued to use my Helly Hansen field jacket until it was shrunk in the wash by a locally employed civilian on tour. I replaced that with a ‘Softie’ jacket. I was never at a unit that would let you wear the fleece as an outer layer, only under a jacket/smock.

Apparently the reason for banning the fleece as an outer garment was that it was not infra-red resistant like other pieces of uniform so glowed like a Christmas tree on a night scope!

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