How to dress like a squid
Technical apparel company Vollebak developed a fully waterproof and windproof jacket that mimics the camouflaging abilities of the squid.
Over the past 500 million years or so, squids have evolved their ability to change their colour and appearance at high speed and with almost infinite variety to hide, attack, or communicate, thanks to a complicated network of nerves.
Most colours we see are caused by pigments absorbing or reflecting certain wavelengths of light. Iridescence, on the other hand, is caused by structure on the surface of an object interfering with how the light is reflected off it. This interference causes the light not to be reflected but to be scattered. This results in iridescent colours appearing different depending on the angle you look from.
Inspired by this ability, Vollebak developed a ski- and snowboard jacket with two looks. When exposed to dull light, the jacket looks like metal or oil – grey with a hint of iridescence – but when exposed to bright light, it instantly reflects every colour in the visible spectrum.
The jacket mimics the squid’s ability for hypervisibility, not invisibility. A squid uses microscopic plate-like structures on the surface of its skin to change colour, but the same nerve structure can also make it appear to emit light. With a special layer of cells in its skin acting like a mirror, it can turn iridescent and radiantly bright by reflecting and scattering all visible light, creating mesmerising patterns across its skin. As Vollebak puts it, an “alien-like power [that] is useful whether you want to be seen on the ski slopes or you’re a 20cm sea creature trying to avoid becoming someone’s dinner.”
Unlike the squid, the effect is reached with the jacket by over two billion disruptively-scattered microscopic glass beads embedded in the resin on the jacket’s surface. When light hits the jacket, it travels through the curved surface of the black glass spheres and strikes the back of them, before being reflected back at the original light source, simultaneously being scattered away. This makes it look like the fabric is emitting light.
The shell jacket is also fully waterproof and windproof, featuring a 3-layer fabric made from polyester, resin and glass. Cut for extreme movement, it includes YKK zippers, merino lining on collar & back of neck, and internal zipped phone pocket with headphone loops.