A poncho is a simple garment designed to keep the body warm, or if made from a watertight material, to keep dry during
Types of Ponchos
The poncho is essentially a single large sheet of fabric with an opening in the center for the head. Rainproof ponchos normally are fitted with fasteners to close the sides once the poncho is draped over the body, with openings provided for the arms; many have hoods attached to ward off wind and rain.
Alternative ponchos are now designed as fashion accessories. They are the same shape but of different material. They are designed to look fashionable and provide warmth while remaining breathable and comfortable, rather than too ward off wind and rain. These are often made out of wool or
yarn, knitted or crocheted. Ponchos with festive designs or colors can be worn at special events as well.
The poncho, commonly associated with the
Americas, has spread worldwide. As traditional clothing, the local names and variants are:
* Paunchu, in
Kashmir, usually made of Cashmere wool
* Poncho, most of
Latin America, Spainand worldwide
Chamanto, Only in central Chile, poncho in the north and south
* Jorongo or
Kotzeor "Wetterfleck" in Austria, Switzerland and Bavaria; a dark green or brown clothing for hunting
Paenula, in ancient Rome; some kind of cape or jacket
* Kasel or Pluviale, Roman
Pelerine, Redingoteand Cape; a weatherjacket without arms
Poncho Chilote, a heavy poncho made of wool
* Gugel, in the Middle Ages; short, sometimes with hood
Ruana, in cold regions of Colombia
The poncho was first used on a regular basis in the 1850s for irregular U.S. military forces operating on the U.S. Western Plains. [ Marcy, Randolph B. (Capt), "The Prairie Traveler", U.S. War Department (1859), reprinted by Applewood Books (1988)] These early military ponchos were made of "
gutta percha" muslin, a latex-coated, waterproof cloth. [Kearny, Cresson H., "Jungle Snafus...And Remedies", Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (1996), pp. 231-236] Ponchos made of gutta-percha or " India rubber" coated cloth were officially adopted during the U.S. Civil War, both as rain clothing and as a ground sheet for sleeping. While originally intended for cavalry forces, they were widely used by infantry as well; General Sherman's Union troops, lightly equipped and living off procurement demand from the local populace, wore ponchos during wet weather encountered during the march through Confederate Georgiato the sea. [Kearny, Cresson H., "Jungle Snafus...And Remedies", Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (1996), pp. 231-236]
Discontinued after the Civil War, the U.S. Army again issued ponchos of waterproof rubberized canvas to its forces during the Spanish-American War of 1898. ["Spanish American War Poncho", Oshkosh Public Museum, http://www.oshkoshmuseum.org/Virtual/exhibit4/e40126a.htm] Two years later, both the Army and the Marines were forced to issue waterproof rubberized cloth ponchos with high neck collars during the
Philippine Insurrectionin 1900. [Kearny, Cresson H., "Jungle Snafus...And Remedies", Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (1996), pp. 231-236] With the entry of the United States into World War I, both doughboysand marines in France wore the poncho; it was preferred over the raincoat for its ability to keep both the wearer and his pack dry, as well as serving as a roof for a makeshift shelter. [Keene, Jennifer D., " World War I", Greenwood Publishing Group (2006), ISBN 0313331812, 9780313331817, p. 130]
Just prior to World War II, ponchos were significantly improved during testing with the U.S. Army Jungle Experimental Platoon in the jungles of
Panama, incorporating new, lighter materials and a drawcord hood that could be closed off to form a rain fly or ground sheet. [Kearny, Cresson H., "Jungle Snafus...And Remedies", Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (1996), pp. 231-236] Ponchos were widely used by United States armed forces during World War II; even lightly-equipped foot-mounted forces such as Merrill's Marauders, forced to discard tentage and all other unnecessary equipment, retained their blanket and poncho. [George, John B. (Lt. Col.), "Shots Fired In Anger", NRA Press (1981), p. 459] During the 1950s, new lightweight coated nylon and other synthetic materials were developed for military ponchos. The poncho has remained in service ever since as a standard piece of U.S. military field equipment. [Kearny, Cresson H., "Jungle Snafus...And Remedies", Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (1996), pp. 231-236] Today, the United States Armed Forcesissue ponchos that may be used as a field expedient shelter. These garments are also used by hunters, campers, and rescueworkers. During the Second World War, the German Army ( Wehrmacht) issued the Zeltbahn, a poncho that could be combined to form tents. A typical four-man tent used four "Zeltbahnen".
infantryof Australiaand the UK, a "poncho" is termed a shelter half, which may serve as a raincoator as an individual shelter. In operations in which ponchos are used, one shelter half is carried by each person as rain gear; when two are combined, they form a two-person tent.
*The poncho has become a fashionable item both in fashion as in pop culture, after being the most notable outtfit, of the
Man with No Name, in Sergio Leone's " Dollars Trilogy", played by Clint Eastwood.
Colombian poncho is a typical item of Colombian coffee recollectors hence it can be seen worn by famous commercial icon Juan Valdez.
Betty Suarezof the American show, Ugly Betty, owns a poncho from Guadalajara which has appeared in several episodes.
Frank Zappasings about a woman and "her rancid poncho" in the song Camarillo Brillo, from the 1973 album Over-Nite Sensation. During the song's fade-out, Zappa inquires, "Is that a real poncho? I mean is that a Mexican poncho or is that a Sears poncho?"
*In the British television series
The Mighty Booshone of the main characters Vince Noirstates "It is impossible to be unhappy in a poncho" and later on in the same episode both Vince Noirand Howard Moonare seen dancing in ponchos and sombreros.
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