I am a huge fan of technical clothing and my closet is littered with Patagonia, Marmot, Outdoor Research, and of course Icebreaker. In fact, I am such a fan that a third of my clothes can’t even be worn for 10 months of the year because I pretty much live in paradise, weather wise.
I recently volunteered for the inaugural Santa Barbara Marathon and I was at my post before 5 AM and it was freezing. I brought out my new pair of Icebreaker wool gloves which I bought earlier in the year in anticipation for winter. My job was just to direct traffic, and sometimes runner. By the end of the four hour shift, there were numerous holes and tears all over the gloves. Four hours! I sent a detailed email to the company and there was not a single reply. Luckily, their baselayers are great but if you are looking for gloves, look elsewhere.
When I see elastic sided boots, I generally think of Australia and I rarely think of value but that’s exactly what Blundstone Footwear represents. They have been family owned and operated in the land down under since 1870. Their flagship model is undoubtedly the 500 in stout brown; it’s the model you think of when you hear the name Blundstone. Unlike boots with a traditional lace up system, the 500 series are easy to get in and out of thanks to the elastic side band and the two pull tabs, one on front and one on back. The comfort footbed is removable and replaceable with a thinner one to accommodate thicker socks or a more custom fit. The sole is slip resistant and chemical resistant. For such a durable boot, it’s surprisingly lightweight. I have been really happy rockin’ the 558′s here on the West Coast where we’ve been getting some heavy rain in short spurts. And for those looking for something a little more rugged and workwear worthy, they have you covered as well with an entirely different line. The price and quality cannot be beat and I am surprised it took me this long to learn about Blundstone but I am glad I did.
I am a huge fan of technical clothing and find them especially irresistible when they actually look pretty good as well as being able to keep me warm and dry. The problem with the cold weather industry is the same that afflicts many other markets – excess. Super sized drinks and fries, 5 layer Motherlode cakes, and Turkduckens keep this country fat and sweaty.
I have trimmed down and cut back in my aspects of my life. No, not to conserve energy or money. And no, not because less is more. But because enough is all you need. That’s why I really love the Patagonia R2 jacket. I am not sure the women’s design is the same (I suspect it is), but for the purposes of this review I will only discuss the men’s.
The R2 is a slim fit (as opposed to regular) which means it’s closer-fitting. It hugs the body. It’s not a baselayer so you can still fit say a thermal or long sleeve shirt underneath but if you are sizing correctly, you should not be wearing anything thicker underneath. It’s made of Patagonia’s blend of polyester which is incredible soft and has great breathability.
The R2 refers to Regulator Insulation which is a proprietary Patagonia system. The lowest (R1) is meant to be a baselayer and the clothing gets thicker and warmer as you move on up. For Central Coast weather, the R2 is perfect for me. It is slim, but not restrictive. It has great features like snug cuffs to keep out the wind, protected flap in the neck area so the cold zipper doesn’t rub, zippered hand warmers and a chest pocket. And for you green readers out there, it’s 100% recyclable through the Common Threads Recycling Program.
Besides all these technical features, the jacket just feels right. It fits great over a polo or t-shirt and keeps me warm without making me sweat. Santa Barbara weather hovers around 70 and while that’s a perfect temp for me. The problem comes when it’s a few degrees colder. It’s too cold to be comfortable but once you put on a jacket, you heat up really rapidly and next thing you know, you’re hot again. The R2 is just right.
As for looks, I think the jacket looks great. It has a nice fuzzy texture that is visually appealing and always gets me compliments. I have a lot of jackets, maybe too many, but the R2 is one I always reach for when I am getting dressed in the morning.
When I was in D.C. earlier this summer, I took the train to Clarendon, VA to interview Mauro Farinelli about his store Farinelli’s. While I was there, I learned more about a collaboration he did with Crate Denim in LA. He picked some really nice denim from Cine Mills, created a pattern, and had the fellas at Crate manufacturer them. 100% American made from cotton to jeans. There was a slight production problem and instead of taking the jeans home, I waited for them to get fixed. I waited and waited and finally, they arrived. I haven’t bought denim in a while (I have too many pairs as is), but this easily going to take a Top 3 spot. The fit is right on, it’s comfortable, the dye is great, and the denim just feels wonderful.
Here are the features:
* White Oak Cone selvage denim of an extremely limited edition
* Hidden back pocket rivets
* Reinforced crotch
* Individually-branded edition numbers on the back patch
* Tailored belt loops
* Cloth hanger loops within the waistband
* Chainstitched hems
* 108 pairs produced
* Made in the USA
I started buying and wearing fitted caps about two years ago. Since then, I have been tempted a few times to buy off-brands and each time I have been disappointed to some degree. There’s a reason why the top brands go to New Era for their collaborations. Simply put – they are the best. The only complaint I have is sometimes their sizes are inconsistent. I get the same model and size and depending on the designer, the cap may be slightly tight, just perfect, or loose.
Let’s look at one of the wannabe companies and examine why they make a good effort but fail to deliver. I was really excited when OFFICIAL was going to introduce their first cap, based on the British SAS Shemaghs design. Yes, they capitalize their brand, like they are yelling. After numerous email spams, sneak peaks, teaser posts, it finally comes out a three months later. When I got it, my draw dropped. It’s like someone took some thin cardboard and hand sewed fabric over it. The hat makes crunchy noises when you flex it. It sort of sounds like tissue paper (the kind you use for gift wrapping). The brim is ok and holds its shape well. The other thing that annoys me about OFFICIAL is it’s run by a white guy but the site and he act ghetto. I think there’s a way to be part of the street game and not be silly. Take Ricky Kim or Jeff Staple, for instance.
Another cap that fails to deliver is 3Sixteens wool cap. Though, I have to admit it’s pretty good for a first try and years ahead of OFFICIALS. I think it goes without saying that if you want to get a cap, you should stick with New Era. Everything else OFFICIALLY sucks.