The debut of Patagonia’s Legacy collection last year was not merely a triumph for the Ventura, California based brand, it was definitive proof that the so-called heritage movement isn’t going anywhere. To be fair this is not the work wear centric heritage campaign of the mid aughts, which had men in 2007 dressing like coalminers from 1907, rather this current wave is far less stoic, drawing inspiration from the cheeky outdoor labels of the seventies and eighties. While we’re happy to report that neon headbands and technicolor leggings are still a thing of the past (for now), this movement has sparked a major comeback for one of the greatest “technical” fabrics of all time – fleece.
Developed by Malden Mills (which has now been succeeded by the more marketable Polartec) fleece is warm, waterproof, and clocks in weighing less than terrycloth making it about as cutting edge as it gets for the late seventies. In 1981, thanks to a serendipitous partnership with Yvon Chouinard, the owner of a blossoming mountaineering brand by the name of Patagonia (who is a client of Paul + Williams), Malden Mills creation made it’s way into the outdoor world. Over the next few years fleece trickled down to every mall brand in America and before you knew it, that mystique of innovation had worn off. What was once advertised as an advanced fabric for the ages was now more run of the mill than merino and fleece was delegated to the discount bin.
And there it has remained for years, as fodder for men whose comfort level far outweighed their taste level. That is until this past year. With so many brands working in microfiber shells, Primaloft insulations and other future fabrics, a small batch of designers have turned the old new again by pulling fleece from the archives and putting it back at the forefront of their collections. Sure, it might not keep your internal thermometer up above 100 in subzero conditions, but fleece is soft, cozy, and endearingly old school, attributes that have made fleece jackets a continuously hot item in Japan, where the crunchy outdoor look remains an ever- present fascination of the deadstock Americana obsessed consumer.
The resurgence of color blocked Snap T’s and unconventionally patterned zip ups is a welcome sign of levity from an oh so serious field that is now dominated by tech specs and matte black. This revival can be seen not only in the Retro-X Jackets from Patagonia’s Legacy collection, but also in pieces such as Battenwear’s deer printed warm-up fleece, and Topo Designs’ aquamarine pullover. We imagine somewhere out west Chouinard is scaling a cliff in a Snap-T right now, ready to declare “Fleece hath returned” once he reaches the summit. -JG