Getting Fleeced | The Retro-Tech Revival.

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.


patagonia fleece

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

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The Patagonia FLeece

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Comments on “Getting Fleeced | The Retro-Tech Revival.

    BlueTrain on March 13, 2014 12:21 PM:

    Fleece comes from sheep and it’s been used for clothing for a long time, not referring here to wool but “shearling.” “Pile” garments were on issue in the US Army in the 1950s. Other varieties of artificial fleece have been around for decades. I suppose it’s old enough to have a retro look.

    Next up: wool sweaters.

    Lucy on March 13, 2014 1:55 PM:

    Thanks guys.

    Tyler on March 13, 2014 2:25 PM:

    They’re making their way onto the runway too. Patrick Ervell has at least one out now and featured a few in his most recent NYFW show

    Ben on March 13, 2014 3:22 PM:

    Hats off to the former CEO of Malden Mills, Aaron Feuerstein. After the Mills burnt down in 1995 he kept all 3,000 employees on the payroll till the mill was restored. True American.

    Ray Hull on March 13, 2014 3:24 PM:

    Hey BlueTrain, et al: I’ve discovered Dale of Norway beautifully tight-woven woolens that are like luxurious, warm, non-bulky sweatshirts. They have high neck collars with zippers, cuff thumb holes and wash like a good cotton; you just have to flat-dry them. They are so much better than old-soda bottles that I can’t begin to tell you; but then, I never liked plastic fleece anyway, so I’m actually net-advanced in cold-weather dress.

    Skenflin McGinty on March 13, 2014 3:32 PM:

    Not sure if it is true anymore, but if memory serves correctly you used to be able to buy the fabric right from the mill in Lawrence, Massachusetts. An old girlfriend made me a blanket out of a piece she bought there.

    Chris on March 13, 2014 4:16 PM:

    Look at those catalog prices, hilarious.

    Gregg on March 13, 2014 6:27 PM:

    Jake, I really like that beige Patagonia fleece that is shown in the third photo from the top. By chance, would you happen to have a model name or other identifying info on it? I went on the Patagonia website and could not find anything like it. Mahalo, Gregg

    Jack Ackerman on March 13, 2014 9:37 PM:

    The Legacy collection is expensive for copying their own 1980s coats. But, these coats and jackets are made in China or Thailand. I don’t see any “legacy” in manufacturing coats in China. -Jack Ackerman

    Bebe on March 14, 2014 2:52 AM:


    Snap-T synchilla pullover. Like the old colors, just not the Made in Nicaragua.

    Guy on March 14, 2014 1:13 PM:

    I think most of us who are looking for performance based apparel have figured out that wool is simply superior to plastic…it’s not even close.

    After years of the industry pushing “hi tech” fabrics that are poly based, there has been a revolution in wool performance wear. Patagonia was slooow to the party, and Ibex, Icebreaker, Smartwool and others have made significant in-roads.

    Patagonia still sells a lot of plastic pile (fleece) and I’m surprised. Perfectly fine for fashion and tooling around town, but few serious performance oriented buyers would go there.

    Gregg on March 14, 2014 2:22 PM:

    Thanks Bebe!

    Skenflin McGinty on March 14, 2014 2:51 PM:

    @ Guy

    I think that for most people’s purposes, even people who engage in outdoor activity in inclement weather, synthetic does the job fine, especially if you know how to use it. That said, I prefer wool products, but do love the hell out of a patagonia snap-T.

Comments are closed.