A Dutch company that manufactures cooling vests to be used by “furries” has seen its product gain traction among members of the U.S. military.
The “EZ Cooldown” vest, designed by Dutch inventor and furry Pepeyn Langedijk to help him stay in costume longer, proved popular with military members. Langedijk told the Daily Beast in a report Tuesday that a group of Navy sailors had reached out to ask if his company shipped the vests to military bases.
According to Langedijk, he sold the men 1o vests and later issued another 20 to their sailor friends. He said he has no idea how the service members found out about his product.
Langedijk got the idea for cooling vests from the U.S. Army after seeing soldiers wearing “phase-change cooling vests” in a 2012 CNN segment. Those vests, which are primarily used by soldiers in armored vehicles like tanks, require a portable power source to circulate chilled fluid against the skin, an Army spokesperson told the Daily Beast.
Langedijk ― an active member of furry fandom, which is all about cosplaying as anthropomorphic animals, often in a sexual manner ― said he saw the vests’ potential to keep him cool in costume, but he needed a product that was less heavy and bulky.
The end result was the EZ Cooldown, a slimmer vest that works by placing cooling packs on the small of the back and high up on the chest. He worked with partners to develop a proprietary chemical blend that fills the packs of his vests, eliminating the need for a portable power source.
In 2013, he released the product at “Eurofurence,” a furry convention. Friends told Langedijk the vest was a “game changer,” according to the Daily Beast.
An anonymous fursuit maker told the Daily Beast that Langedijk’s lightweight design, mesh fabric and cooling system make a “huge difference” over bulkier systems like those used by the Army. The source said the improvements justify the vest’s high price tag of $215.
Furry cooling vest spreads through military
Helped along by a small community of “milfurs,” the cooling vest has proved popular for those that live a sort of double life as both a furry and a member of the military.
One Army soldier, identified only as Travis, told the Daily Beast that he has worn the vest both on and off duty since 2014. A veteran of the Iraq War, Travis never got to test the vest in a deployed environment. But he wore it during training exercises at Joint Base Lewis-McChord to help deal with the summer heat and humidity and in costume during a USO show for fellow service members a few years ago.
Off Duty and in his fursuit, Travis is better known as “Stolf,” a fantastical big cat blending the features of a snow leopard, tiger and wolf. Travis told the Daily Beast that he enjoys the occasional motorcycle ride or ski run in his suit, but especially enjoys meeting other “furries.”
Travis isn’t the only furry in the military. Last year, the Daily Mail profiled a 22-year-old furry named Jordan Jones, a U.S. Navy sailor who dresses up like purple husky in her spare time. Another furry, a 22-year-old U.S. Army soldier and furry who runs a YouTube channel called “Mark’s Barks”, was profiled by Metro in 2017.
“I have only met one other [Milfur]… Its a bit difficult to not have anyone else who gets it,” one milfur wrote on Reddit.
“As a lion planning on joining the Air Force, do you think that maned animals will get shaved at basic [training]?” asked another.
Patch O’Furr, the creator of the furry blog Dogpatch Press, told the Daily Beast that furries come from all walks of life.
“Milfurs are a thing, and some of them live with strict regs and uniforms on duty, and then put on a whole other kind of suit to let loose off duty. Culture and subculture do a dance like that,” said O’Furr, who didn’t want to give the Daily Beast his real name for fear of harassment.