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The North Face

Ask Me About My Weatherproofing

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Ask Me About My Weatherproofing

This week’s featured outfit: layers, coatings, and the Nike x ACRONYM Air Presto. I spent a day last week poking around some underground spots on my campus, then went straight outside into freezing temps without even shedding a layer. Versatile? It’s no Jabrill, but it’s close.

Thrift / Arc'teryx / The North Face / Nike ACG / Nike x ACRNM 

Thrift / Arc'teryx / The North Face / Nike ACG / Nike x ACRNM 

With my techwear wardrobe finally on solid footing, dressing my favorite winter style has never come so easily. When storm clouds gather, I now have an arsenal of pieces ready to mix and match – a veritable technical cocoon, no matter the conditions.

Now if only someone would ask me about my weatherproofing.

Just once. Something simple, like “why is the rain beading up on your pants?” or “are you dressed in all black so snowflakes won’t see you?” Questions like these aren’t just natural human interest – they’re borderline polite.

Imagine the scenario: us at a bus stop. You, dressed reasonably; me, a walking shadow with neon ninja slippers. For our purposes, this bus stop has no cover. It is a pole in the ground.

Nike x ACRNM Air Presto Mid

Nike x ACRNM Air Presto Mid

Also, there’s a blizzard.

In this realistic and easily-envisioned case, I am unfazed by the elements. Behind layers of DWR and down insulation, not even the Lake Effect could – well, faze me. Snow cascades off; water beads up; the wind itself whispers “hard pass.”

Thrift / Arc'teryx / The North Face / Nike ACG / Nike x ACRNM

Thrift / Arc'teryx / The North Face / Nike ACG / Nike x ACRNM

Would you not be even the slightest bit curious?

I like to think we all would be. Next time you’re waiting for public transit (or wading through a Polar Vortex) and see someone dressed in techwear, just ask them one simple question: “How weatherproof are you, bro?”

The answer: never too impermeable for a new friend.  

 

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The Sweatshirt from Planet X

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The Sweatshirt from Planet X

This week's featured outfit: technology meets sportswear for a conventional look that's anything but. As both design geek and novelty-seeking missile, I'm drawn to the quiet brilliance of reworked staple pieces. While cotton and wool on classic shapes certainly look great, a slew of materials science has made old-school materials more anachronism than utility. Now, thanks to some truly-innovative designers in the sportswear and outdoors industries, the silhouettes of the past meet the fabrics of the future in a brilliant, understated way. 

Arc'teryx / DYNE / Uniqlo / Uniqlo / Nike / The North Face (photo:  Christina Oh )

Arc'teryx / DYNE / Uniqlo / Uniqlo / Nike / The North Face (photo: Christina Oh)

Starting from the top, there's the jacket: this Arc'teryx Commuter Hardshell is modeled after the zip-up cotton Harrington jackets of yore, but a GORE-TEX construction (and movement-friendly design) takes the silhouette to a new plane of function. The gorgeous, neutral "Chalk Stone" shown here is from Arc'teryx 24's Spring 2015 collection. Even after a year of use and abuse, the jacket has held up beautifully.

Arc'teryx / DYNE / Uniqlo / Uniqlo / Nike / The North Face (photo:  Christina Oh )

Arc'teryx / DYNE / Uniqlo / Uniqlo / Nike / The North Face (photo: Christina Oh)

For some under-shell insulation, I threw on the DYNE Heritage Mega Crew. Crafted from DYNE's water-resistant "Mega" spacer fabric, the whole package weighs less than half a pound yet keeps you toasty regardless of condition. Think down coat levels of warmth:weight, but without the "puffer" look. Then, there's that electric blue: fluorescent, hi-viz, straight from a Cosmonaut style guide. Package that all in a classic athletic sweatshirt silhouette, and this midlayer becomes borderline space age. 

Arc'teryx / DYNE / Uniqlo / Uniqlo / Nike / The North Face (photo:  Christina Oh )

Arc'teryx / DYNE / Uniqlo / Uniqlo / Nike / The North Face (photo: Christina Oh)

Rounding out this old-meets-new collection are the Nike Lunar Flyknit Chukkas. Lunar Flyknit Chukkas are a heritage desert boot silhouette, built from everything but: Flyknit, Lunar EVA foam, and high-tension Flywire collide to bring performance running features to a distinctly-casual shoe. Draped in this speckled blue/platinum colorway, the Lunar Flyknit Chukkas represent the best that Nike's lifestyle-focused Sportswear division has to offer.

Arc'teryx / DYNE / Uniqlo / Uniqlo / Nike / The North Face (photo:  Christina Oh )

Arc'teryx / DYNE / Uniqlo / Uniqlo / Nike / The North Face (photo: Christina Oh)

Innovation doesn't always mean moonshots - often, true change comes from incremental updates rather than blue-sky daydreams. The Sweatshirt from Planet XCleared for liftoff.

 

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Colors Are For Nerds

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Colors Are For Nerds

This week's featured outfit: a slim fit travel-ready look complete with weekend bag, backpack, and kicks so fresh they're declared to customs. This tailored Uniqlo OCBD is comfortable enough to survive transit while presenting something more than "neck pillow casual" once you arrive. Paired with Uniqlo jeans, a North Face backpack, and Nike Flyknit racers, the end result is a tapered silhouette made of movement-ready casualwear. I chose to dress in stark contrast colors to lend the outfit an aura of sophistication, placing visual emphasis on subtle detailing rather than flashy, surface-level distractions. 

Understated, comfortable, and monochrome stylish: in other words, the perfect look for both journey and destination.

Some may disagree, but between you and me, we're right. If you want to dress well and be a fashion cool kid, black and white outfits aren't just a good thing - they're the only thing. It's just that easy. If anyone gives you a hard time, simply remind them that your tailored monochrome dress makes you automatically more fashionable than they are. Like night following day, it's merely a fact of life: colors are for nerds.

Oh, I'm sorry - was that hard to read? I'll say it again: colors are for nerds.

It's just that simple: if you want to be a cool fashion kid, ditch the hues, and go straight for desaturated neutrals. White? Great. Grey? Getting there. Navy? Game-time decision. 

But the inky dark midnight of a Steve Jobs turtleneck? Now we're talking.

I'll explain.

While Mr. Jobs made his fortune in computing, no living soul would remote consider him a nerd. Therefore, at n=1, there's a direct correlation between not wearing colors and not being a nerd. Even the text I use to emphasize exactly who colors are for (read: nerds) agrees that bold black simply works better.

So, if you're ready to throw off the chains of nerddom and enter the shining monochrome Valhalla that is "cool fashion," here's my advice:

  1. Start small. Burn everything you own that looks out of place at a gallery opening. 
  2. Make a commitment. Take the ashes from the bonfire in Step 1 and smear them on anything you spared from the flames. Fashion demands purity.
  3. Embrace variety. There's a lot you can do between white and black. For example: light grey; dark grey; 48 other shades of grey. 
  4. Seek positive growth. Thanks to your new fashion-forward lifestyle choices, you are now better than most people you meet. Make snide comments about their sweatpants, especially ones that aren't black, white, or grey shade #17.
  5. Never stop learning. Scientists have recently developed a black so black it physically can't reflect light. Just imagine what that'd look like on a wide-brim sun hat. Or a pair of oversized circular sunglasses. OR EVEN A CHOKER GOD FASHION IS SO COOL.

With these 5 steps and the proper thought conditioning, you'll be a cool fashion kid in no time! Isn't self-expression fun? 

 

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Hiking Mt. Washington, NH (5/27-5/29/2016)

Hiking Mt. Washington, NH (5/27-5/29/2016)

This past Memorial Day, I vindicated one of my contradictions and spent the long weekend camping and hiking in New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest. Three days, two mountains, and 6000 vertical feet of climbing: in other words, a perfectly restful vacation.

The drive into White Mountain National Forest, NH 

The drive into White Mountain National Forest, NH 

After a Friday spent cooped up in the car, we took a Saturday warm-up hike to prepare for the 3000’ climb up Mt. Washington the next day. For our climb, we chose Mt. Washington’s smaller neighbor, the 5712’ Mt. Jefferson. If you’re noticing a pattern, this mountain range is named the “Presidential Traverse.” Considering the area was settled as early as 1700, it makes you wonder whose names got bumped to make room for the Founding Fathers. Just imagine cutting the first trail up, declaring your discovery “Mt. Smith”, then bang the American Revolution.

Pros: freedom, liberty, cheaper tea. Cons: a permanent reminder that someone, somewhere will always be better than you. But at least now you can pursue happiness?

Mt. Jefferson would be my first time going after a summit since last year’s Colorado adventures, so I could hardly wait to stretch my legs out and hit the trail. Since it was 80 degrees and humid, I hiked in synthetic base layers only with a 25L daypack and light shell in case of rain. Oh yeah, and like 3 liters of water bottles I had just about drained by the time we started our descent. Did I mention it was hot and that I hadn’t hiked in a year? 80 and humid, indeed.

My party of 7 (me; my friend Nicole; her roommate Abby; and 4 members of Abby’s family who were kind enough to host me at their camp) made good time up Jefferson, hitting the summit in just under 3 hours. After a quick lunch, we slogged through a crawling, rocky descent before finally reaching the trailhead around 4pm. Total climb: 2700 feet. Total time: 7-8 hours including lunch.

I celebrated with a creek swim in the nearby Dry River, then rejoined camp for a well-deserved campfire dinner followed by s’mores. Huddled around dancing flames, our group exchanged stories new and old as twilight crept onto the perimeter of our glowing orange nightlight.

Even better: I saw stars. Not satellites, not helicopters, not pinholes muffled by light pollution – but honest-to-goodness nighttime stars. I could’ve watched the New Hampshire sky all night.

But after mere moments of stargazing, Circadian rhythm (and 3000 feet of vertical climb) took over, and it was time to go to sleep. We were planning on an 8am trailhead at Mt. Washington, and since we were 45 minutes and a full breakfast away from the Tuckerman’s Ravine trail in Glen, NH, tomorrow would be an early morning. The stars may stay out all night, but I couldn’t join them.

I shot awake at 6am to a woodpecker’s punctuated staccato. In the absence of “Radar” alarm tones, this was as good as it gets. I ate a light breakfast of campfire coffee and oats, then packed a daypack full of water, food, and some serious layers. Even in the summer, Mt. Washington is famous for erratic weather and gusting summit winds.

In case of emergency, I packed an Arc’teryx GORE-TEX hardshell and a North Face fleece – my 25L was now bursting at the seams and noticeably heavier, but in a pinch, these extra layers could save my life.

Speaking of lifesaving devices: I also packed Frito’s. Mmmmmmmm.

Our party opted to take the Tuckerman’s Ravine trail up the side of Mt. Washington, criss-crossing a massive glacial bowl that supports year-round snow pack and some truly frightening rock climbs. We spent the better part of two hours ascending up the narrow, unsteady trail, dodging undermined snow patches the whole way.

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Me and a younger member of our party opted for the “lightfoot” approach to an unstable traverse – in other words, we ran most of the way. Thank you, Nike, for producing the running shoe/combat boot Frankenstein known as the SFB. Shia LaBoeuf and I are both fans for a reason.

By the end of the climb out of the Ravine, we were over 1500’ out of the trailhead and a mere 0.6 miles from the summit. The good news: there was little more than half a mile left. The bad news: there were more than 1500 vertical feet to climb in that point six. I relaced my boots, inhaled a few Fritos for good luck, and bounded up the boulder field between me and the summit. Before long, I made it to the top, drenched in sweat but excited to be there. Sharing in my excitement was half the state of New Hampshire.

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Instead of an isolated mountain peak like Jefferson, Mt. Washington swarmed with hundreds of MDW vacationers out seeking accessible thrills. Because Mt. Washington can also be climbed by means of autoroad or tourist-friendly railway, my browsweat and sunburns were the exception, not the rule. As I approached the summit, some *ahem* braver tourists were hiking the 50’ down from the parking lot to join the lip of the boulder field I was just now climbing up.

Any intelligent alien passing over rural New Hampshire would’ve seen a curious sight: humans on vacation slaving away uphill with Sisyphean lunacy, while other humans vacationed by merely observing (then briefly joining) them.

I remember making eye contact with a proud-looking young father as he maneuvered down from his parked car in – wait for it – boat shoes and blue jeans. He seemed satisfied with his exertion for the week; meanwhile, I was sweat my body weight only to do the same on an exposed, sun-bleached descent in less than an hour.

6200’ above the ocean, yet drowning in tourists. Curious, indeed.

After a brief lunch at the top, we began our descent down the Lion’s Head Trail. Lion’s Head is a natural rock shoulder on one tip of the U-shaped bowl traversed by Tuckerman’s Ravine, the route of our ascent. If Tuckerman’s is the parabola of a U, then the Lion’s Head is a massive, craggy point hovering hundreds of feet above that centerline. From there, the trail goes straight down 2000’ down to the base of the ravine before rejoining the dirt path that leads to the parking lot.

While “straight down” sounds like an unpleasant route, it was actually the lesser of two evils. The same factors that made Tuckerman’s a challenging but doable ascent (long uphill slope; unpredictable snowmelt) would make it an impossibly dangerous descent. With knees braced, we bounded down the rocks to reach the Lion’s Head, the rocks a mere 400 feet above a layer of clouds that had settled into the valley below.

Standing on those rocks, staring out into the billowing clouds far below but just out of reach… Caspar David Friedrich would’ve been proud. Thanks to Nicole for capturing my best “Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog.”

The next two hours were a crawl, both literally and figuratively. I spent half my time crouched on all fours, trying to put as much surface area on the rock face as possible to avoid any unintended slips into those hovering clouds. I fell hard once (“did you hit your head?” “…it was a tough graze” ”so, yes”), slipped twice, and used my backpack as an impromptu friction brake more times than I could count. (Big, big shout-out to The North Face for making a schoolbag that’s also a surprisingly functional daypack. My back took a beating clambering down nearly 2000’ of rock face, but the bag held up. Pretty good stuff if you ask me.)

After two of the most unnerving hours of my life, we got off the Lion’s Head Trail and rejoined the path for an easy two mile jog back to the parking lot. I let gravity do most of the work, making sure my knees stayed loose as the SFB’s carried my stride up and over New Hampshire river rock. Before we knew it, we were back at the bottom. Tired, sweaty, bruised, but not broken: above everything, we had made it. I dragged myself over the final hundred yards of parking lot (cue “The Longest Yard” theme) before collapsing into the car back to camp.

Sitting down after a full day of hiking was both soporific and the most innately triumphant I’ve felt in ages. I was exhausted, but energized; drained, but dynamic. I couldn’t imagine any motorist or railcar passenger feeling satisfied about their climb up Mt. Washington, let alone chemically enjoying it. And soon, there’d be s’mores. Total climb: ~3500 feet. Total time: 13 hours including lunch.

That night, we clustered around the campfire for a final night’s worth of stories and stargazing. With no 8am trailhead, I could finally stay up to see the heavens for all they were worth. Flames beat back darkness same as before, but now, embers from the last of our wood floated towards the lights in the sky. Lights from above and below converged onto an indigo corner of the New Hampshire wilderness. It was a delightful contradiction, the most appropriate end to a weekend full of others just like it.

I had been tired but never more alive; I had struggled against nature to watch motorists domesticate my climb; and, the grandest paradox of all: after three days, two summits, and thousands of feet of sunbaked exertion, I now found myself completely relaxed.

Tomorrow morning, the real world would start, and by day’s end, I would be moved into my place in New York City. But tonight it was just me, the world, and lovely company to share it with.  

 

WAYWT 5/27/2016

WAYWT 5/27/2016

This week's featured outfit: urban techwear and the latest from DYNE, the revolutionary clothing label I profiled earlier this year. The DYNE Tech Chinos pictured here and my first ever piece from designer Christopher Bevans' new line, and I'm already an addict. Not that I'm ashamed of it - hiding your face is just cool on the internet.

TNF/RSVP/DYNE/Nike

TNF/RSVP/DYNE/Nike

DYNE's "Tech Chinos" (pictured here) are a traditional chino cut made from schoeller waterproof fabrics, Swiss-made textiles that are some of the most weather-proof in the world. DYNE stitches these fabrics into garments, then kits them out with all sorts tech details including waterproof zippers and reflective strips. 

See? Reflective details.  Ooooh. Ahhhh.  (Supreme/TNF/RSVP/DYNE/Nike)

See? Reflective details. Ooooh. Ahhhh. (Supreme/TNF/RSVP/DYNE/Nike)

They're breathable in activity, flexible enough for a run, and best of all, a techwear pant that isn't just tapered black cargos. Despite the "chino" name, however, these are way more streetwear than office wear.

Unless you're RoboCop - and even then, wait for Casual Day. 

I paired the Tech Chinos with a Denali fleece from the North Face, extended length RSVP Gallery tee, and Nike Swoosh Hunter sneakers for a futuristic, urban explorer look. Check out my initial impressions of the Swoosh Hunter on the blog and see tons more photos of one of the most slept on shoes of 2016.

Oh yeah, one final note: shoutout to the homies at instagram.com/redditstreetwear/ for featuring my outfit as one of their top picks of the week. You heard it here first, people - direct correlation between reflective pants and Insta fame. 

A Complete Visual Guide to Spring Jackets

A Complete Visual Guide to Spring Jackets

Flowers are blooming, St. Patrick’s Day is over, and that still-hidden Easter egg is starting to smell. All over the Northern Hemisphere, spring has sprung!

The transition between Winter and Summer is defined by many things: snowmelt, pastel colors, and above all else, irrational weather patterns. Dressing for spring is a delicate act that’s both fun and frustrating. On the positive, once-covered skin gets its first Vitamin D in months! On the negative, wide daily temperature ranges and unpredictable weather means a seemingly-contradictory set of wardrobe traits.

The right spring dress is light, breathable, and ideally bright; however, it must also be weather-proof and versatile. After all, that seersucker shirt won't do much to keep you dry when clouds gather. As for stretching your cold-weather garments, I’d seriously think twice before you don a down parka in May. Asking double-duty from your winter coat will leave you schvitzing on a 60-degree afternoon, or one step from goth ninja when it’s 40 and foggy.

Picking the right spring jacket, then, is as much features comparison as it is a personal style choice. Over the next few lines, I’ll walk you through 12 popular jacket archetypes all suited for longer days and sunny afternoons. Each is lightweight and offers varying degrees of weather protection, from “partly cloudy” to “hydrophobic.” Simply read about each, consider your budget, then select the jacket that best fits your needs. Outerwear ahoy.

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Anorak

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In the modern era, “anorak” refers to a lightweight, hooded pullover jacket typically associated with nautical pursuits. Most anorak jackets are made of cotton-nylon blends, then treated with a DWR (“durable water repellent” – think RainX for your jacket) coating to resist weather. This fabric/coating combination will keep you dry during pop-up drizzles, but will quickly “wet out” (or become saturated) in anything longer than 30 minute exposures. I probably wouldn’t pack an anorak for your trip to the Amazon.

As a fashion piece, however, anoraks are second to none. Pullovers provide a visually-interesting silhouette with the added benefit of simpler chest lines than a full-zip alternative. Fjallraven’s High Coast Wind Anorak (above) is my favorite in the segment for its sleek lines and minimal detailing. However, all that sleekness does come with a cost. The traditional pullover anorak sacrifices exterior features for packability. My LL Bean Maritime Anorak, for example, has but three pockets, of which exactly zero are easily-accessible. That being said, it looks phenomenal - which makes it even more tragic that it was discontinued like last year come on L.L Bean take my money.  

My recommendations: Land's End Outrigger Anorak ($), Fjallraven High Coast Wind Anorak ($$), Brattenwear Scout Anorak ($$$)

 

Light Technical Jacket

While anoraks may have been designed for wet climates, these are the first proper rain jackets on our list. “Light technical jackets”, as I’ll refer to them, are defined by a simple formula: nylon exterior fabric, DWR coating, and a 2.5L polyurethane laminate inside to resist whatever water gets through the outside. Whereas the cotton-nylon jackets on this list are potentially compromised by an afternoon shower, light technical jackets are designed for rain exposure. Patagonia’s Torrentshell, for example, will take a full 30-45 minutes of concentrated rain before saturation. Unless you’ve got a reason to be outside and the motivation to stay there, light technical jackets will be more than enough weatherproofing for your daily use.

All this technology doesn’t look half bad, either. Gone are the days of the oversized yellow slicker: modern light tech jackets are trim, athletic, and generally minimal. Streetwear forums gravitate to The North Face’s Venture jacket for its flat front and high-contrast (but unobtrusive) branding. If you have the budget, get the DYNE Life Runner Jacket (above). It was designed by Christopher Bevans, an MIT Media Lab Director’s Fellow, and is as close to “art meets science” as a light jacket will ever get. You can probably tell that I want one.

My recommendations: LL Bean Trail Model ($), The North Face Venture ($), Patagonia Torrentshell ($$), DYNE Runner Jacket ($$$)

 

GORE-TEX Hardshell

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GORE-TEX Hardshells are the Ford Raptor of outerwear: you may never test the full extent of its abilities, and yes, that Honda Fit would’ve been lighter on your wallet… but god damn is this thing fun to own. GORE-TEX is the brand name for a family of textiles imbued with waterproof membranes that are distributed by W.L. Gore & Associates, widely considered the most influential textile innovator of the twentieth century. A GORE-TEX membrane works by exploiting the pressure gradient between you and the inside of your jacket. On the outside of the jacket, a tightly-knit face fabric backed by a PTFE membrane (think 8 billion micropores per square-inch) prevents water from entering. On the inside, the pressure difference between your body’s sweaty microclimate and the outside world pulls your sweat towards – and almost through - the microporous membrane. However, because your sweat droplets are larger than the membrane openings, your sweat is literally vaporized as it’s pulled through the micropores. Science, bitch!

Modern GORE-TEX hardshells look more like body armor than outerwear. While the style isn’t for everyone, GORE-TEX jackets are at home in streetwear, techwear, and even some Americana/outdoors-influenced wardrobes. All that fashion and function does come with a price: GORE-TEX jackets typically start around $300, and climb exponentially from there. Fashion-focused shells from brands like ACRONYM, nanamica, and White Mountaineering can easily hit 4 figures.

Worth noting: the best hardshells in the world are made by Vancouver, BC-based Arc’teryx, the outdoors innovator responsible for the look and fabric behind 99% of the world’s modern technical gear. Arc’teryx is the Blastoise to a light jacket’s Squirtle.    

My recommendations: Patagonia Piolet Jacket ($), Arc’teryx Beta AR ($$), ACRONYM J1A-GT ($$$), nanamica Cruiser ($$$)

 

Mountain Parka

Decades ago, a 60/40 cotton-nylon utility jacket was the peak of mountaineering technology: wind and water-resistant fabrics, heavy duty zippers, and reinforced seams built for trekking. Just the name “Mountain Parka” brings to mind newsreel images of explorers on windswept peaks, conquering the heavens in the name of glory and empire. The traditional Mountain Parka is a zip-front, multi-pocket garment that’s equal parts anorak and military field jacket. In its day, both summit-chasers and weekend hikers alike owned one of these venerable – and functional – jackets.

In the present, Mountain Parkas have become a rugged style piece, due in no small part to their legendary pedigree. The Mountain Parka is the best fashion-meets-function garment on this list – modern iterations are windproof, lightweight, and remarkably handsome for their age. My current favorite is the Penfield Vassan in Navy pictured above: it’s the perfect complement to neutral chinos and leather boots, with all the tech you’d want without any over-the-top features. If I had to choose a single spring jacket, this would be it. 

My recommendations: Uniqlo Mountain Parka ($), Penfield Vassan ($$), Topo Designs Mountain Jacket ($$$)

 

Retro Pile Fleece

Continuing with our celebration of the great outdoors, the Retro Pile Fleece represents all things warm and good about dressing for spring. The archetypal Retro Pile Fleece is made of polyester fleece and abrasion-resistant nylon paneling, designed to take a beating and smile through it. Polyester fleece is warm, breathable, and altogether durable – what’s more, it’s even eco-friendly. Most modern polyester fleece is made from recycled plastics, meaning your new favorite spring jacket helped save shorebirds from castaway soda bottles. That fuzzy feeling you got from saving the planet? A Retro Pile Fleece keeps you warm, inside and out.

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It’s truly hard to go wrong with a fleece jacket. I own multiple, wear them often, and love the comfort and durability of a well-made piece. Some fleece jackets may be a little toasty for 55 degree Spring picnics, but there’s nothing stopping you from shedding a layer when you get warm. As for style selections, stick to the outdoors brands that made fleece famous. Old school-inspired options from Topo Designs (above), Penfield, and Patagonia round out the package, making the Retro Pile Fleece a solid choice for Main Street and mountain trails alike.

My recommendations: Penfield ($), Topo Designs Fleece ($$), Patagonia Synchilla Jacket ($$$), The North Face Denali ($$$)

 

Mac Coat

Backing away from more technical options, our first “fashion-oriented” entry on this list is the Mac Coat. Also known as the Macintosh Jacket after its inventor, Scottish chemist Charles Macintosh, the first version of this eponymous rain coat was produced in 1823. The traditional Mac Coat is a knee-length rain jacket made from laminated fabrics coated in liquid rubber. The result is chic, waterproof, and loooooong. If your winter coat can be described with the adjectives “parka” or “Expedition”, a Mac Coat will feel right at home.

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I often recommend Mac Coats to my tall friends or those with office jobs. For all intents and purposes, it’s the functional equivalent of a “light topcoat”: Mac Coats retain the uninterrupted lines and tailored silhouette of a wool overcoat, without the heavy wool that would boil you during even the coldest March rain. The Mac Coat is right at home in Northeastern Prep/Trad wardrobes. Nearly every major fashion brand, from Gap to Land’s End to Banana Republic, produces a Mac Coat equivalent (similar styles go by the name of “Commuter Coat”, “Car Coat”, etc – just make sure you’re not buying one with winter insulation). For a particularly stylish take on the heritage design, check out the J. Crew Bonded Mac Jacket (above). It’s surprisingly technical, and handsome to boot.

My recommendations: Gap ($), ASOS ($$), Lands End Canvas ($$), J. Crew Bonded Mac Jacket ($$$), Mackintosh ($$$)      

 

Blazer

A refined jacket for a more civilized age. Internet #menswear writing voice aside, blazers really aren’t bad outerwear. They’re warm for their weight; wool is naturally water-resistant; and they’re tailored to accentuate the male silhouette. It sounds clichéd, but blazers just look put-together. Most American traditional brands will produce an exceptionally elevated piece. Own more hoodies than button-ups? No problem. Thanks to modern trends towards fashion casualization, blazers are available in a wide variety of fabrics and fits – it’s not uncommon to see a cotton blazer worn casually, sometimes even paired with a tee and sneakers. In my opinion, it’s hard to beat the classic navy wool. When it’s time to dress up, a notch-lapel blazer says “I mean business, but casually.” Just don’t touch that bottom button.

Off-the-rack blazers are a difficult game. With 95% confidence, even the jacket that “fits” you in the store won’t actually fit you right. And with anything that leans towards business attire, getting it right becomes invaluable. So, if you have the time, I highly recommend Googling “alterations near me” and stopping into your neighborhood tailor before you go shopping. Get measured, shake their hand, and promise to come back in with the jacket that “fits” once you get back from the mall. For a small price, they’ll give you the best-looking jacket on the block (and make it actually fit right, too).

My recommendations: H&M ($), Uniqlo ($) J. Crew ($$), Brooks Brothers ($$$) 

 

 

Denim Jacket

Since Levi Strauss invented the first “Triple Pleat Blouse” sometime in the 1880’s, the riveted indigo jacket has become the unofficial uniform of the frontier. Everyone from Nevada truckers to New York street gangs, Hell’s Angels to fashion designers have adopted the simple garment as a symbol of freedom, self-expression, and power. Punk rockers and auto mechanics don’t agree on much, but this piece of heritage outerwear is as close to universal as it gets. The Denim Jacket is as American as apple pie and counterculture. John Bender, eat your heart out.

Denim Jackets aren’t exactly technical. At its core, it’s simply cotton, metal, and then more cotton. In a world of GORE-TEX and coated nylon, it’s hard to argue that a denim jacket is anything but a fashion piece. That being said, what a piece.

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In my opinion, denim jackets diverge into two distinct genres: workwear and streetwear. The former are heavy, bulky, and generally unadorned. This is where you’ll find names like Levi’s, Naked & Famous, and Double RL (above left). The latter are typically distressed, customized, and designed as statement pieces. Famous examples include jackets by SupremeVisvim, and 424 on Fairfax (above right). Regardless of their expression, the two share a genealogy over 130 years old with one very common result: killer good looks for the Rebel in all of us.

My recommendations: Levi’s Trucker Jacket ($), Naked & Famous ($$), LVC ($$$), Visvim ($$$)

 

 

Leather Jacket

Continuing on our series of “manly coats” is the most testosterone-fueled piece of them all: the Leather Jacket. It would’ve been impossible to write this whole section without the word “badass”, so here goes. Every movie, book, and cultural badass owns a leather jacket. If you too would like to be badass, invest in a leather jacket. As a monument to our evolutionary prowess as a species, wearing the skin of our food is forever entwined with being a badass. James Dean. Easy Rider. Arnold in T2. Wolverine. Fighter pilots. The Road Warrior himself. All badass.

Badassery aside, for the better part of human existence, leather jackets made a lot of sense. Leather is natural, durable, wind-resistant, and readily waterproofed. It’s warm, breathable, and even receptive to stitching. Ethical concerns aside, animal leather makes sense as material for outerwear. There are too many styles of leather jacket to list here, so instead, I’ll use this space and my recommendations to hopefully point you in the right direction. Many of the brands listed make multiple styles of leather jacket, so shop based on budget/use and make your aesthetic choice at the checkout screen.

For style: Urban Outfitters ($), ASOS ($), Schott ($$), Saint Laurent Paris ($$$)

For function: Orvis ($$), LL Bean ($$), Eddie Bauer ($$), Schott ($$$)

For actual motorsports: Alpinestars ($$), Dainese ($$$)

 

Military Jacket

The more I read, the more fascinated I am with what we take for granted. For instance, the “simple” M65 Field Jacket: this olive green, four pocket utility coat was designed to provide US soldiers with a versatile, durable, and camouflaged garment that would keep them safe in the jungles of Vietnam. The original M65 featured a roll-up hood, detachable inner liner, Velcro cuffs, and a full-front brass zipper, many of which were novel features for 1965. Compared to the heavy M51 “Fishtail” parka, the M65 was a paradigm shift. Today, it’s just a “Military Jacket.”

Well, it’s not just a military jacket. Thanks to years of milsurp purchases and fashion design interpretations, the M65 has joined the ranks of the Denim Jacket and Leather Jacket to become an archetypal “masculine” fashion piece. It’s easy to see why: a utility background, attractive features, and good looks in neutral colors make the Military Jacket a menswear go-to. Like the Mac Coat, nearly every label under the sun makes a military jacket, so buy based on budget and shop with confidence. While Alpha Industries makes the original (and still best on the market) M65 Jacket, I own an American Military Jacket (above) that is easily the highest dollar-per-wear jacket I’ve ever bought.

My recommendations: your local Army/Navy ($), American Eagle Military Jacket ($$), Alpha Industries M-65 Field Jacket ($$$)

 

Coaches Jacket

Coaches Jackets continue to perplex me. I just can’t find much real historical evidence to support their athletic pedigree. In futbol, the coaches wear suits; in football, sponsored sportswear; in baseball, team uniforms. Yet, the archetype of a “coaches jacket” now has an identity all its own. The typical coaches jacket consists of a 100% nylon or polyester shell, a cotton liner, drawstrings to fit, and a simple button-front closure. All in all, a deceivingly simple garment that technically offers wind and water resistance. On function alone, they’re nothing special.

Yet, it’s this simplicity that has turned the coaches jacket into a streetwear staple. That unadorned nylon exterior leaves plenty of room for graphics, applique, and all manner of logos – in essence, turning the coaches jacket into an artist’s canvas, the outerwear equivalent of a graphic tee. Nearly every streetwear label produces a coaches jacket with some combination of the following: their name, their logo, a simple center-back graphic, and a dark neutral color scheme. I personally like overstated printed jackets (ex. the SS14 Supreme x The North Face collaboration "Atlas" jackets), but think they take a specific wardrobe to execute well. If you own Vans Old-Skools and know Thrasher as a magazine (not a sweatshirt), a coaches jacket might just be your new favorite spring piece.  

My recommendations: H&M Coaches Jacket ($), Rothco Lined Coaches Jacket ($), HUF Satin Coaches Jacket ($$), Supreme ($$$)

 

 

MA-1 Bomber Jacket

Last but not least: the simple spring jacket that's taken the fashion world by storm. The original MA-1 Flight Jacket (or “Bomber” jacket, as it’s commonly known) entered Air Force service in the 1950’s. At the time, high-density nylon was as cutting-edge as the automatic transmission: light, waterproof, and snag-resistant, the innovative material was a perfect match for high-altitude conditions. The US military wasted no time in outfitting pilots with this novel take on WWII leather jackets. The most iconic colorways of the MA-1 are its original Air Force “Midnight Blue” and the later Army “Sage Green/Orange” popularized by twentieth century youth culture. The recent reemergence of 1960’s era “Souvenir” jackets display a whole other side of this quintessential milsurp-inspired jacket.

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60 years later, bombers have carved out a niche as the streetwear jacket of choice. Thanks to the influence of designers like Raf Simons, Helmut Lang, and Demna Gvesalia (of Vetements fame), the classic MA-1 bomber is the choice of fashion bloggers and creative types alike. Seriously – I challenge you to scroll through any “Fashion Week Street Style” album from the past 5 years without finding at least one MA-1. When a tour merch stand lists a jacket alongside hats and CD’s (ex. Kanye West’s “Yeezus”Travi$ Scott’s “Rodeo”), you know it’s achieved something great. In 2016, the MA-1 jacket is as ubiquitous as Starbucks and Stan Smiths. There’s no way around it: the MA-1 Bomber Jacket is a legend in the making.

My recommendations: H&M ($), Alpha Industries ($$), Stampd ($$), maharishi ($$$), Dries van Noten ($$$)

(A special note: there are tons of jackets that follow the “bomber” genealogy but couldn’t really be characterized as MA-1’s. Varsity jackets, baseball jackets, and souvenir jackets, for example, all retain the general silhouette and details of the MA-1, but riff on the military detailing to establish their own unique identity. In the interest of brevity, I’ve linked to brands/information for each of the above, but will not devote a whole section to what’s truly a minor variation on a theme.)

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There you have it: 12 popular spring jackets, with links and pictures to boot, all curated to help you find your next favorite jacket. Do you agree with the choices? Did I miss your all-time favorite? Comment below or on Facebook here to start the conversation.

WAYWT 3/25/16

WAYWT 3/25/16

    Raingear, tech shells, and the coolest shoes I've ever set foot in. Today: a decidedly techwear shoot inside one of my favorite spots on campus. Acronym SS16 may have launched yesterday, but barring a lottery win or overnight growth of a third kidney, my Arc'teryx hardshell will do for now. Layered with a cotton fleece zip hoodie and tech fleece sweats, the end result is a surprisingly versatile and weather-ready outfit. Cold? Zip stuff. Overheated? Unzip stuff. Groundbreaking. All jokes aside, this is my wet weather go-to for a reason.  

Arc'teryx/Gap/Brain Dead/Uniqlo/Nike/The North Face

Arc'teryx/Gap/Brain Dead/Uniqlo/Nike/The North Face

photo credit:  Kristen Eisenhauer

photo credit: Kristen Eisenhauer

    So why inside? Because there's a 100% chance of rain, and Swoosh Hunters aren't waterproof. Read my full review of Nike's latest here.

photo credit:  Kristen Eisenhauer

photo credit: Kristen Eisenhauer

Arc'teryx/Gap/Brain Dead/Uniqlo/Nike/The North Face

Arc'teryx/Gap/Brain Dead/Uniqlo/Nike/The North Face

photo credit:  Kristen Eisenhauer

photo credit: Kristen Eisenhauer

9 Canada Goose Alternatives To Fit Every Budget

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9 Canada Goose Alternatives To Fit Every Budget

Ah, Canada Goose: for some reason unknowable, Expedition-style down parkas have become trendy. Due to either heritage or clever marketing, one brand has come to dominate this new space. Whether Antarctic parkas can be luxury apparel is up to interpretation, but it's hard to deny the facts. In 2016, Canada Goose is ubiquitious

The slick silhouette, matte finish, and red logo patch associated with the Toronto-based company have become synonymous with "expensive winter coat". Worn by the likes of Nicholas Cage and Daniel Craig, Canada Goose is pure utility. But when (barely) worn by Kate Upton, Canada Goose becomes a fashion statement that's sure to turn heads. 

For those who love the rugged look of a 'Goose jacket but don't want to spend $800+ dollars on a one-season piece, you're in luck: here are 9 parka alternatives that are sure to fit your budget, whatever it is.

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$ - Ballin' on a Budget: The Struggle is Real Edition

Uniqlo Stretch Wool Blend Down Jacket - $129.00

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It wouldn't be internet menswear without at least one Uniqlo mention. The Japanese apparel company's Wool Blend Down Jacket is the definition of "LifeWear": elegant face fabric, high-loft down insulation, DWR-coated for elements, and at an affordable price point, to boot. The low price does mean no fur-lined hood, but that's a small complaint for arguably the highest utility:dollar point on this list.  Available here in black or navy.

Columbia TurboDown Barlow Pass Jacket ($180.00 on sale, $280 MSRP)

Next up by price is the Columbia TurboDown Barlow Pass Jacket. Notably, this is the first Antarctic Parka lookalike on our list! And at $180 on sale, it's really hard to pass up. If you like Columbia, you'll like this jacket. If you buy into TurboDown (psst..it's just regular down with synthetic mapping), you'll really like this jacket. The Barlow Pass is lightweight for the segment (slightly <4lbs), but prone to durability issues. It does, however, have a faux-fur hood. My recommendation: save $40 more and go for the McMurdo. Speaking of....

The North Face McMurdo Parka ($220.00 on sale, $330 MSRP) 

A certified Expedition-style down parka with all the bells and whistles for literally 1/4 the price of a Canada Goose Langford. The North Face McMurdo is my pick for "best of the cheapest", but all the price savings did come with some drawbacks. Namely, I'm talking about its weight. For a jacket stuffed with "lightweight 550-fill down insulation", the McMurdo is HEAVY. The coat weighs close to 5lbs. Imagine carrying an extra textbook with you to class, and then imagine that textbook restricting your arm/shoulder mobility. All in all, the McMurdo is a certified beast that also looks the part.

 

$$ - Purchases You Rationalize With the Word "Investment"

Penfield Hoosac Parka - $400.00 

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The classic utility down parka by Penfield follows a familiar formula: down-blend insulation, DWR-coated face fabric, faux fur hood. This message will repeat. Why spend the money over a McMurdo, then? Because the Hoosac just looks better. Compared to The North Face parka above, the Hoosac has much cleaner lines (no chunky velcro closure, no bloated chest pockets) and better emulates a classic survival jacket. Likely because Penfield predates the modern, hyper-technical outdoors industry. That doesn't mean the Hoosac won't keep out cold - it's as warm and weather-resistant as any others. I just want to give special mention to Penfield because they're one of the only aesthetically-oriented outdoors brands operating at this middle price point.

Also, there's no obnoxious branding - again, the Hoosac just looks better. You can get your Hoosac on Penfield's website here.

Triple Fat Goose "The Chenega" ($450.00 MSRP)

There's a grand irony to calling a Triple F.A.T. Goose jacket an imitator. Only two decades ago, Triple F.A.T's jackets ( designed for "For Arctic Temperatures") were to New York what Canada Goose is today. Ask your parents or cool older cousin: this brand's puffer jackets were standard issue for the background of every 90's rap video. Between now and Biggie Smalls, the brand hit some financial troubles and was swept under the rising tide of Columbia/The North Face circa late 90's. In 2016, and under new management, Triple F.A.T. Goose is looking to regain its prestige in a packed outerwear market by offering literally the same looks as a Canada Goose Langford Parka for around half the price. For $50 more than the Hoosac, you get the Goose aesthetics, coyote fur, and a shoulder patch. The Chenega is every inch a capable piece, but it's just a little too close to the real deal for my taste. If you want the Canada Goose look at a lower price, however, you can get your Triple F.A.T parka here.

Fjallraven Yupik Parka ($400.00 on sale, $500.00 MSRP)

And now, my personal piece de resistance: the Fjallraven Yupik Parka! Here are the key differentiating factors: taped seams, hydratic membrane-backed face fabric, synthetic insulation instead of down, removable hood. So why should you choose the Yupik Parka over its down-insulated cousins? Because it's the warmest coat in this price range. In the same way that the McMurdo is stuffed with down, the Yupik is absolutely gorged with Supreme Microloft. Technically, synthetic insulation is less warm by weight, but it won't make much of a difference. I see the Yupik as the best features of the lower ranges combined: the looks of the Hoosac, the warmth of the McMurdo, and the weather resistance of the Columbia. Yes, you don't get a big red shoulder patch; instead, you get a $600 jacket for a third the price. Get your Yupik parka on sale at BackCountry.com here.

 

$$$ - This Coat Was Made By the People Who Own Domino's

Canada Goose Langford Parka ($825.00 retail)

Canada Goose products aren't bad. They're actually quite good. For Arctic-rated parkas, in fact, they're hard to beat. I even get Canada Goose coats as an aesthetic piece - they've got elegant lines, celebrities like them, and the company has an excellent marketing team. Especially considering Bain Capital invested $250m in 2013 to help grow the brand. Yes, Mitt Romney Bain. The people who own Domino's.

That's why I'm not particularly opposed to Canada Goose: it's a good product and personally, I champion people buying what they like. I'm more frustrated that most Geese are afraid to own that they paid close to $1000 (delta $500 over mid-range) for the coat because they like it. Perhaps it's because the price is common knowledge, and you don't want to come off snobby in mixed company. But unless you're routinely exposed to temperatures below -10F, you overpaid for overkill because it helped rationalize your fashion purchase. Yes, you're warm on your walk to class - but are you $400 more than the Yupik warm? In an extreme, once-in-a-generation snow storm, the answer to that question is an objective "yes." For light flurries, though, it's a little more hazy.  

That's the weirdness of modern mass luxury in a nutshell: you bought a winter coat to stay warm, but you paid through the roof for a Weblen good because it made you feel warm and fuzzy. It's borderline tautology. After all, Canada Goose is crazy expensive, right? No one could compete with their warm coats because they're the best. They're the most expensive because they're the best... right?

$$$$ - This Coat Costs The Same As a Local Election

Moncler "Cluny" ($1455.00 sale, $1795.00 MSRP)

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French-Italian outerwear stalwarts Moncler invented the "luxury down parka" category, and they're not bashful about proving it. The Cluny down parka is the brand's longest silhouette for men outside of their Gamme Bleu/Moncler V designer collections, and features a real fur hood. The rest of the standard issue features (coated face fabric, down fill, shoulder logo patch) are here, but come packaged in a decidedly more athletic silhouette. If you ever go heliskiing in the French Alps, this is the jacket you'll wear in the lodge to tell stories after. You can scoop the Moncler Cluny in Navy at an end-of-season discount now on END Clothing.

Ten C Deck Parka + Shearing Hooded Liner (Parka: $1695.00 / Liner: $1325.00)

Italian company Ten C goes to ridiculous lengths to create authentic pieces in heritage materials following original construction processes. As a result, their lined parka combination costs $3000. But hey, at there's free shipping. Get yours at Haven here. 

Nigel Cabourn Everest Parka ($2209.00 sale, $3400.00 MSRP)

Nigel Cabourn is an English designer famous for his creative take on mid-20th century garments. You can buy 4 Canada Goose parkas for the retail price of an Everest Parka. Or, you could buy 3 Canada Goose parkas for the sale price of an Everest Parka. Following our logic above, this jacket is 4 times warmer and better than a Goose. That's uh... about it. I'm just a little excited something like the Everest Parka exists. Pick up your #grail museum piece at END Clothing now.

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Did this guide help you find the right jacket? Was there anything I missed? Comment below or on Facebook here to start the conversation.

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Brand Identity

A little bit of Photoshop messing around inspired by Rizzoli's Supreme anthology (2010). I've been thinking more and more about typefaces since I published last month's Design in Life: how character sets have come to define ideas as "modern", "playful", "artistic", or even anything at all. The muses for each of the above should be familiar to many of my readers.  

Interested in more content like the above? Check out fontsinuse.com, an independent typeface archive highlighting what's used where. 

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AS RAKESTRAW | The personal site of Alex Rakestraw.