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The History of Helly Hansen

Posted by Cathy Houghton at

140 years of evolving innovation – the Helly Hansen brand is one that has changed the face of workwear across all industries and throughout all sectors. 

Products include footwearindustrial workwear, outerwear, streetwear, survival and rescue gear, fishing equipment, and more! 

But who is Helly Hansen, and where did it all begin? 

Helly Hansen was a Norwegian producer of textiles and in particular functional workwear. 

Starting the brand journey in 1877, Captain Helly Juel Hansen began his search for better protection against the harsh Norwegian elements. 

Particularly looking at how he and others could be better protected when out at sea. 

Working in partnership with his wife Maren Margrethe, the pair soon began soaking coarse linen with linseed oil – a process and technique which resulted in the first water-resistant clothing suitable for those out at sea. 

At this point, the innovation of Helly Hansen and the brand was born. 

Starting in their basement, Captain Hansen and Margrethe worked relentlessly on a range of clothing, and due to their innovative approach, Helly Hansen quickly became a major player in the clothing industry. 

After only 12 months of production and working on water-resistant jackets primarily, the Helly Hansen brand was awarded the first of many awards. 

In a very short space of time, Helly Hansen increased their production, built and bought industrial plants throughout Norway, and most importantly, they increased their product range. 

Manufacturing everything from industry life jackets made of cork to products suited to agriculture and more – nothing could stop the Helly Hansen brand. 

Helly Hansen UK 

When Helly Juel Hansen passed in 1914, company leadership passed to his son, Helly Hansen, carrying on the legacy of innovation and functionality in clothing. 

Today, Helly Hansen is a world-renowned brand. Their adoption and expansions, as well as their exceptional products, has enabled HH to move into new areas and new markets. 

In 2017 Helly Hansen held a total revenue of over $300 million, with 80% of this coming from outside of Norway. 

Very few Norwegian brands have gained such a strong global presence. A global presence that has been held and never faltered for over 140 years! 

HH remains relevant because of the technology they use. Ultimately their tech helps to keep people warm and dry, no matter the work, job, or weather conditions. 

Changing designs, maybe. But functional? Always. 

Clothing for industry and leisure 

By the 1990’s it was found that people had more and more free time on their hands and Helly Hansen capitalised on this and became one of the first brands to design clothes for different purposes. 

Adding to their product line with camping and sailing gear, as well as rainproof clothing for urban use. 

For Helly Hansen workwear was only the beginning. 

Leaders in waterproof clothing 

After WWII, Helly Hansen became the first company to adopt plastic in their clothing production. At this time, this technological innovation revolutionised the clothing industry. 

Using the same techniques as previously, only this time, instead of using linseed oil, the brand moved to PVC. 

From here, Helix was soon developed – a PVC blend rolled out into a thin plastic film. 

It was this particular material that allowed Helly Hansen to develop transparent rain clothes. These rain clothes were then sewn into coats to make them waterproof and more versatile. 

The Helly Hansen Fibrepile range was produced specifically for the workwear market, offering an insulated layer for wearing under waterproofs, providing insulation against the cold, while maintaining good ventilation during hard, physical work. 

In 2012, HH introduced its H2 Flow Technology with the H2 Flow Jacket. This technology allows those wearing HH clothing to regulate their body temperatures, no matter the external conditions. 

Sportswear you can trust 

In 1984, Helly Tech was launched. Offering waterproof, windproof, and breathable technology. 

By the 1970s the Life base layer was invented by Helly Hansen, the first technical base layer and one that is still the marketplace leader today. 

The Helly Hansen range, however, made its epic debut in the 1952 Olympic games, which helped encouraged Olympic sailors from all over the world to adopt their gear. 

In 1981 a custom jacket was designed for the Olympic team on the first-ever Norwegian boat.   And the red, with two white and one blue horizontal stripes across the chest, is still to this day, one of the most iconic Helly Hansen designs. 

Today the Helly Hansen product range is vast and available to everyone across all sectors. Dynamic in its products, HH is a brand that offers complete and practical functionality. 

With new headquarters in Oslo, near the sea, Helly Hansen is never too far away from where it all started. 

At Active Workwear, we’re proud to stock a range of HH workwear and Helly Hansen outlet products. 

All available to order and view online HERE. 


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