The Guy Cotten wax jacket
For more than 50 years the little yellow man with outstretched arms has been watching over sailors. This iconic brand has stayed loyal to the motto of its founding father, Guy Cotten, "Anyone going overboard should be able to find their way back”.
The journey began in the fishing ports of Southwest Brittany in the early 1960s. Faced with the heavy unyielding wax jackets of the time, which were both fragile and uncomfortable, Guy Cotten decided to act. He left his jobs as an overalls salesman and began developing more modern and appropriate clothing. Alongside his wife he launched himself into the clothing business.
His newfound passion took him all over the ports of Brittany where he tested out his revolutionary polyester fabric. As Guy told it, “I took a roll of the wax fabric and I asked them to make a hole in it with a knife. Then I told them, ‘go on rip it up! Obviously, they weren’t able to. This impressed them a lot.”
His innovative marketing strategy had the desired effect and fishermen across the region were soon wearing Cotten’s clothes, which at the time, were made by hand on the floor of the family home. However he was convinced of the potential and Guy borrowed a significant sum of money from a postman friend. This allowed him to open his first workshop in Tregunc to the south of his native Concarneau, and let him hire the necessary hands to really get things going.
In the 1970’s, the explosion of sailing schools all down the French coast provided new opportunities. At the time the choice was between stud button coats or loose fitting overhead jackets both had their drawbacks. At the Rosbras Sea centre, the founder Yvon Hemery mentioned to Guy Cotten, “How come no one has ever thought of creating clothes which combine the waterproof quality of the over-head jacket with the practical advantages of a coat?” A few days later, the interns at the Centre were testing out the first wax-coated jackets with a double Velcro and zip fastener - The legendary Rosbras wax jacket was born!
The reputation of this small family workshop goes from Northwest France has reached far and wide. In 1986 Guy Cotten opened a depot in Massachusetts, not far from Boston. The wax jackets, jumpsuits and bags of the little yellow man, thanks to their high quality and functionality gradually became a core part of any East coast fisherman’s outfit.
Guy Cotten never slowed down and kept striving to innovate and design. In 1992 he produced the ultimate survival jumpsuit the TPS, which four years later would save the lives of Raphael Dinelli and Thierry Dubois after their boats capsized during the Vendée Globe solo, round the world, sailing race.
Sadly in 2013, while the company was getting ready to celebrate its 50th anniversary, Guy Cotten passed away. His daughter has continued his legacy and this family owned and operated business now employs 300 people, including around 200 in the Brittany workshop. Nadine Bertholom-Cotten has managed to pursue her father’s passion to produce high quality sailing clothes and bags that are not only reliable, solid, and durable but also beautiful. Guy Cotten products had never before been offered to the general public on this side of the pond, until now. As of 2015, Port Franc is proud to be the first to stock and sell the little yellow man with the outstretched arms.