"So we went down to the 'boudoir' and Kirill went for the passes. We showed them to another sergeant, who handed us special outfits. Now they are handy things. Just dye them any other color than their original red, and any stalker would gladly pay 500 for one without blinking an eye. I swore a long time ago that one of these days I would figure out a way to swipe one. At first glance it didn't look like anything special, just an outfit like a diving suit with a bubble-top helmet with a visor. Not really like a diver's--more like a jet pilot's or an astronaut's. It was light, comfortable, without binding anywhere, and you didn't sweat in it. In a little suit like that you could go through fire, and gas couldn't penetrate it. They say even a bullet can't get through. Of course, fire and mustard gases and bullets are all earthly human things. Nothing like that exists in the Zone. And anyway, to tell the truth, people drop like flies in the special suits too. It's another matter that maybe many many more would die without the suits. The suits are 100 percent protection against the burning fluff, for example, and against the spitting devil's cabbage...All right." (16)

Strugatsky, Arkady and Boris, and Antonina W. Bouis, trans. Roadside Picnic. London: Victor Gollancz Ltd., 1978.

What sort of material is this?? I love the idea that it's protective against a million things, but still theoretically dyeable. Certainly no one is wearing a suit in "Zona", the Tarkovsky movie inspired by this book; I would love to see a designer take a crack at them.

I wonder if they would necessarily be informed by space or diving suits, the only other experience we have with unfriendly atmospheres.

This is a smart description of the institutionalization of safety; no one is allowed in the Zone without passes, supervision, etc. To discourage illegal entry to this highly controlled, uncontrollable space, the color is of heightened importance. The opposite of a black-and-white striped prisoner uniform.