Blundstone Dress Chelsea

I’ve been wanting a pair of Blundstones for ages, and so when I started ramping back up to the office I was looking for what boot I might buy to have a good pair of black shoes. Somehow I didn’t have any.

I found these on sale and jumped at the chance to try them out. These Dress Chelseas are fantastic.

Materials

There’s really only a few components to this: waterproof full grain leather for the uppers with elastic to help secure, and a TPU sole with cushioning. The magic is in the “SPS Max Comfort” system which is essentially a method for reducing impact to your heel when you step/move/whatever.

For now I’ll focus on the primary material: the leather. The majority of my shoes are leather and the majority show the same things: scuffs on the toes and scuffs on the inner heel of the shoes. These are high wear areas on any shoes or boots and leather tends to show these. The Blundstone leather here is slightly matte, maybe eggshell in sheen. And in the black color I have it takes the right angle of light to see any scuffs in them.

Even when you do get the lighting correct, you’ll find almost no scuffs which is unusual for my shoes. In fact I was taking out the garbage in these boots and the giant plastic wheel accidentally nailed the side of my boot at an angle — the type of thing that would put a serious mark in most shoes. It was hard to see on these, and then almost completely went away with a wipe of a damp cloth. A few days later I don’t see it at all.

This is seriously durable leather, and while I can’t speak to the waterproofing, I suspect there’s not a lot to worry about with these. The sole is likely to wear out before the leather.

Fit & Style

As with any boot, getting the sizing right is important. I wear 11.5 in Nike’s and many shoes, and 11 in others. I ordered an 11 after measuring my foot per Blundstones guide and hit the mark out of the box. Note that the half size increments don’t change the length, but change the width.

The style of these boots takes the classic Blundstone Chelsea design and applies a smoother/less aggressive outsole to it. The end result is a dressier looking Chelsea boot which only suffers from performance by having a less aggressive sole.

I love the way these look and fit. Overall they look great in the office and with a pair of jeans around the yard.

Performance

With boots there’s a wide array of performance attributes, but I’ll focus on three for these boots: comfort to your foot; breathability; and durability.

When you talk about Blundstone what you generally hear is how comfortable they are. I own a lot of boots, and in fact they are my most worn shoe type because if I am wearing pants I am wearing boots. The Blundstones are a top performer when it comes to comfort. They are soft but supportive under your foot. The entire footbed is really nice, but not so nice that they out perform other boots (GORUCK’s MACV-1s for example wear more comfortably over a longer day). They are certainly comfortable, and for the price you rarely see comfort like this, where you aren’t just buying a sneaker made to look like a boot.

However, the breathability does suffer in these as they are thick leather with no vents. The only breathable areas is the elastic on the sides to secure your foot into the boot. A thicker wool sock is recommended for these to help your feet regulate moisture better, once that is done I have had no issues wearing them in Houston during the summer — I would say they are on par with all other leather boots.

The last thing is durability. The leather here impresses me a lot, as it is very durable and will lead to a boot that looks good well past it being useable. Meaning that they are low-maintenance boots and not something which scuff the instant they see your foot slipping into them. That said, the lower profile sole doesn’t have as deep cut tread so it’s likely to wear out sooner, and these boots cannot be resoled. In the two and a half months I have had my pair, I don’t notice any concerning wear on the sole thus far.

Break In

With all boots we need to talk about break in periods and how that goes. I found that with these the break in is very short, but is needed. I only had a mild hot spot develop on one foot from my driving position, that went away after just two wears.

What took much longer to break in was the top edge of the boots. Getting the top to relax and mold to how you sit and stand took about 5-6 wears of the boots. And the first couple had the spots around the top edge of the boots feeling carpet burned. Switching to heavier socks resolved this after the first wear, and since then they have relaxed nicely to where it’s not an issue.

So the break in for these boots is at the top edge, and will take 3-6 days of wearing them to get feeling good.

Overall

I love these boots, and they are among my most worn. While you can get them from Blundstone directly, I found mine on sale at Amazon for a very good price. Knowing what they are now, I would be happy to pay full price, and would love to get another pair in brown as well — even if I have nothing but brown boots already.

They are comfortable, easy to slip on without worry. And they fit in a lot of situations. My wardrobe trends more Smart Casual in style and this dress variant fits that styling very nicely. If you are more casual then the standard Blundstones are likely the best bet for you.

Great boots, good comfort, and really durable leather on them making them the lowest fuss boots I own.

NOTE: where possible all product links on this site may earn the site money when you buy using those links.

Blundstone Dress Chelsea

Western Rise StrongCore Merino Long Sleeve Tee

This shirt was provided for review by Western Rise for.

I’ve previously reviewed the short sleeve version of this tee, so I decided to take up the offer to check out the long sleeve version. In short, it’s the same tee, but with sleeves, but let’s look in some more detail.

Material

The StrongCore Merino Jersey is made using a core-spun nylon Merino fiber (89% Australian Merino Wool/11% Nylon). The nylon is added in the core for strength, with merino on the outside for performance. At 170 gsm, the fabric is light, but not too light. It appears that they moved from 17.5 to 18.5 merino since I tried the tee, but I actually think the fabric feels softer in this new version. The slightly thicker fiber should also contribute to the durability.

They claim a 4-way stretch knit, which sometimes doesn’t play out in practice, but the fabric here feels more stretchy than most tees.

Fit & Style

The fit is classic, without being baggy. An XL fits me well (just note the half-size shrinkage if you machine dry), and I think the proportions would work well for most. The sleeves are right, and the neck hole isn’t too tight or loose and saggy.

The only complaint I have on the sizing is with the “v-cut” at the hem, it makes the front shorter than the back. If I’m reaching way overhead, it comes up just a bit too far. Other than that, the v-cut adds something a little different to the shirt. It likely is going to be a deciding factor on whether you love or hate this shirt.

The style is what you expect, a simple, performant long sleeve tee.

Performance

As expected, this performs as well as a 100% merino tee. Core-spun fabrics often don’t hurt the odor resistance, so I was able to wear this shirt until I felt like it needed a wash, rather than when it smelled.

I’ve been wearing the shirt during some cooler weather, and found it to be comfortable and breathable up to about 75°F.

The surprising performance factor here is the 4-way stretch knit combined with the v-cut. I sometimes find long sleeve tees to be a little constricting of movement, but never feel that way here. It stretches to move well around the shoulders, and the v-cut relieves any of the binding around the bottom hem.

Overall

I like this shirt. The v-cut could be a polarizing feature, but overall it provides some performance advantages. Great to wear around the house, durable enough to wear outdoors, and looks good for wear out to a coffee shop on the weekend.

Price wise, the StrongCore Merino Long Sleeve Tee comes in at $108. That at first struck me as a little pricy, but it stacks up well compared to the competition from Ibex ($98) and Icebreaker ($110).

NOTE: where possible all product links on this site may earn the site money when you buy using those links.

Western Rise StrongCore Merino Long Sleeve Tee

A Well Performing Belt

Personally, if my shirt is tucked in, then I need to be wearing a belt. Anything else feels off, and even when I am not tucking in my shirt, I often will reach for a belt as well. Belts are a tricky area, as they are partly about looks and finishing an outfit, and partly about the function of helping to keep your pants held up (they are never about holding items unless you are working or in a war).

The problem with belts is that there are effectively three types: heritage leather style belts, the classics if you will; hiking performance belts; and tactical belts for holding all the guns. It is extremely hard to figure out what a good belt is for normal life — or as normal as life might be right now. Something that looks good, is comfortable, and has good adjustment.

I’ve already looked at a few on this site, the Grip6 and we’ve talked about the Slidebelt in some guides, but today I want to walk you through the spectrum and how I am approaching belts these days. But first, a baseline: all my belts need to work well on a pair of Futureworks in the office, in the car on the way to the office, and they need to be able to be used on 5-pocket style pants as well. That’s the range I am going for: casual to smart casual.

Let’s go from classic to high-performance.

Filson 1-1/4″ Bridle Leather Belt

First up is an offering from Filson coming in at $80 the 1-1/4” Bridle Leather Belt is one of many offerings in their full leather lineup of belts. It’s width makes it perfect for smart casual to casual wear and the leather itself is among the best you can get. Filson’s bridle leather is next level if you have never handled it before. This is among the most classic designs: single strap of leather with a brass buckle to secure it.

This is easily one of my favorite belts I’ve ever owed and something which feels like it will last a lifetime. There’s plenty of reviews talking about how people used them daily for 10 years and only got a new one because their pants size changed. The sizing is a little odd, but read the measurements and measure your waist — if you buy based on that you should get a belt where the buckle lands in the center of the holes. In the time I have had this belt is shows no stretch and no wear marks at all.

It’s a little bulky at the front, but otherwise is as simple and classic as you can get. For a long time I avoided belts like this because I thought they would not be worth the money, but this one is. The issue: it’s about as low tech as you can get. If that’s your speed, stop here, if not, keep reading.

British Belt Company / Generic Box Store Belts

I have had a few offerings from British Belt Company, and I mean no disrespect when I saw this, but they mostly feel no different than any “genuine leather” belt you grab from a big box store, though likely with better pricing. They look nice! Even the belts you buy from Macy’s or Nordstrom look nice, but they feel nothing like the Filson Bridle Leather. They are $35 belts and paying any more is wasting money.

These are simply about looks, and they last a couple years at most. The leather is cheap and stiff. Oddly turning them into belts that show wear quickly and stretch even more quickly. There’s nothing bad about owning some of these, especially for things like “suit belt” but there is also nothing good about them either.

SlideBelts

SlideBelts was one of the first ‘performance’ belts I got. Taking a classic leather belt look, and applying a unique ratcheting style buckle/clasp to the belt. What you end up with is a couple really cool things: easy to adjust discretely, micro adjustments, and a cut-to-fit ordering system so you are never getting the wrong size.


Vegan leather.

I have two of these, one in the vegan leather option, and one in the top grain leather option. The vegan leather is not good. It’s plasticky and very stiff, so much so that any advantage from the micro adjustments is lost in the uncomfortable nature of the belt band itself not forming well to your body — and I put over a year of wear on mine. The top grain leather is fantastic, it shows wear, but it molds very nicely to your body, forming a very comfortable belt.


Top grain leather.

There’s a wide variety of colors and styles, so there will always be something for you and the buckles are interchangeable as well (though you need a tool to pry them free I find). The part that finally got me to move away from these though: bulk and weight.

The buckle is a serious chunk of metal and it weighs a lot, and more than that it sits out from your pants a fair amount. It feels and looks bulky. With some styles, this is fine, but for me it was too much. (For travelers do note that these buckles often don’t make it through metal detectors.)

Good belts, comfortable, but for the price they weigh a lot and are bulky.

Filson Togiak Belt / Hiking Strap Belts

Now we are moving straight into the hiking performance belts. I have a few in this category, I’ll talk mostly about the Togiak belt from Filson as I like it the best. But generally these are some sort of nylon webbing / elastic webbing / canvas strap type of belt with a pull-to-adjust system of some sort and a basic to fancy clasp. The Togiak is canvas with a g-hook style clasp. Bison Belts are popular, as is the Arc’Teryx belt.

These are all very comfortable while looking not great. Depending on the nylon webbing choice they range from stiff to soft on the canvas side. I prefer the smoother webbing options or canvas as they form well to your waist and offer supreme comfort. They are true micro-adjustment belts too, as they offer near infinite adjustment options.

The downside is completely on the looks end. While you can get the precise strap you want and a wide variety of color options — none of these will look “nice”. They don’t all look bad, but they are going to stand out if you try to rock them in the office with a pair of chinos and a button down. Firmly casual, but among the most comfortable out there since they are the easiest to find exactly what you need/want for your use.

I wear the Togiak all weekend long. Great stuff.

Arcade Adventure Belt

Arcade made a good marketing splash when they launched the Adventure belt. I picked one up and fell in love. This is a belt for people who don’t like wearing belts, but want their pants to fit a little more snug. These are a decently thick bit of elastic webbing with a very thin plastic buckle.

They sit very low profile, and move very nicely with your body. They come in a wide array of color options as well. The color I picked isn’t conducive to the office and I think you might be able to get away with one with chinos, but it would be pushing the limits. So while the looks aren’t a huge downside, I don’t find them to look overly dressy as they are quite wide. Some newer options from Arcade attempt to solve for this, but the logos and buckles will always skew these casual.

There’s only two downsides to these belts: they flex a lot so they won’t work well for you wanting to hang anything from the belt (which don’t); and they are difficult to adjust when wearing them as they are very tight to move through the adjuster on the buckle.

If you like elastic waist pants, but sometimes have to wear non-elastic waist pants, these are a great solution for you.

Grip6 Belt Narrow

I’ve already written about this here, and my opinion on it hasn’t changed. Grip6 belts are fantastic low-tech, high-impact belts. They sit very flat, offer a webbing that is strong enough to have some structure, but eventually will form to your waist shape. They are comfortable, secure, and look ok. They won’t work for business casual, but I wear mine often into the office.

They hold really well after you sort out the correct way to secure them. They come in a wide array of colors and widths, and the buckle is the lowest profile of all the belts on this list. The only downside with these that I have found is that they are a little tricky on the width. There are three widths: 1.1”, 1.5”, and 1.75”. Anything in the 1.5” and up realm will often look far too casual for office wear with chinos/button down. But 1.1” is slightly too narrow to site well in the loops of my Futureworks. I really like the 1.25” width for universal belt use, and that isn’t available in Grip6.

For me, I wear these belts a ton, but they do have some downsides the width being one, but the second being that they need to be worn snug in order for the clasping mechanism to secure properly. So this isn’t a belt you can wear loosely at all.

Good stuff, great price, versatile — tricky widths.

Outlier Polyamour Precision Belt

The last belt is the most technical of them all, the Outlier Polyamour Precision Belt. This is a crazy belt, as it is 100% polyester webbing that has all sorts of tech into it making it feel like cotton canvas, but perform like “not cotton”. And then there’s touches of suede to aid the looks. Lastly the belt secures with a hidden Fidlock clasp.

The belt only comes in black and in a 1.5” width which normally I don’t love for smart casual, but the looks of this belt pull it off well. I’ll go ahead and say this right now: I wish there was charcoal, because I would only wear this belt if given the option. There’s no other belt on this list as good as this belt. It’s comfortable, the webbing forms well, and the clasp is fantastic. Both fast to secure, easy to undo, and secure throughout the day. With a nice balance of sitting low on your waist, while not looking out of place.

There’s two main downsides to this belt:

  1. The clasping mechanism has limited range of adjustment about 1.5” total. And while it does step nicely through them so you can find a good fit, that does mean that if your waist size fluctuates this won’t be a great option for you.
  2. It only comes in black.

The upside is that the sizing is easy on this one, as Outlier tells you to buy your pants size which is contrary to all other belt sizing, but 100% how belt sizing should work. I wear a 34 in Outlier pants and bought a 34 belt — perfect fit.

Again, if this came in charcoal (brown likely wouldn’t look great) I would only wear this belt and forgo all others — it’s that good. This is what all the other belts want to be and so much of that is because of the webbing magic.


What I Mostly Wear

All of those belts above are ones I bought, own, and wear with some regularity. The Outlier belt is newest to me, but easily my favorite. That said I find that I wear the Filson Bridle Leather belt the most, it’s essentially everything I want in a belt, and I never have to think about whether it works for that situation.

Belts are funny, they are the one area where the tried and true classics work almost as well as the highest of high-performance models, so much so that there’s very little upside to getting anything other than the classic options.

Then again, Outlier, make me a charcoal variant of that Polyamour Precision belt and I am all in. Until then, the Filson Bridle Leather is fantastic.

NOTE: where possible all product links on this site may earn the site money when you buy using those links.

A Well Performing Belt

Beyond Clothing Avid Ultralight K4 Pant

One of the newer offerings from Beyond Clothing is this Avid Ultralight K4 pant which is a hiking pant made into a jogger design. These grabbed my attention as I like to wear lightweight pants around the house on the weekends, and often find that cotton doesn’t quite meet my needs.

I’ve been testing them for a while now, so let’s dive in.

Material

These are marketed as “soft shell” but I think that’s a bit of a misnomer here. They are more like if you just had the facing of a soft shell garment, as there is no pile or anything of that nature — to that end they are effectively a stretchy nylon pant that is pretty thin. Beyond lists the make up as: 86% nylon, 14% spandex with that being a 4-way stretch on the spandex. The shell is further treated with DWR and what Beyond lists as “Clear coating on the outer shell increases the soft hand feel”.

I am not sure what the latter is exactly, but I will say the material feels very nice, and only has a small amount of the dreaded nylon “swoosh” sound. I’m a fan of this material, though it could stand to be a touch lighter in weight.

Performance

These are what I call performance first pants, as anything that you get for looks or feel is a bonus. These are designed first and foremost for performing well in any activity and they bridge a nice gap: something you could wear outdoors without issue, but also something that lends well to around town. If you could wear joggers to do it normally, these are like joggers on steroids — some of the best performing ones I have tried.

There’s six traits that Beyond lists, here’s my thoughts on each:

  • Ultralightweight: in weight of the garment this holds very true. But the fabric is not as thin as something like GORUCK’s Simple Pants. But as something to toss into a bag as a travel pair of joggers, this checks that box nicely.
  • Wind resistant: I was not expecting this at all when I got these pants — I didn’t read the description closely and thought they would be breathable. Weirdly, they trap heat from your body, and block wind extremely well. For cool weather workouts they are great. For keeping off a chill in strong AC, great. For heavy activity even in moderate temps, they get warm. Very warm. But, had I read, I would have been very impressed with the wind resistance on these, especially given how light they are.
  • Water resistant: this is all about the DWR, which is effective. But for how long, I don’t know. Light rain that is passing, no worries. Anything more and I wouldn’t expect to stay dry.
  • 4-way stretch: wow. These things stretch all over, but it’s not a soft stretch, so they stay decently crisp looking while never binding up on you. Good stuff.
  • Highly compressible: kind of. About the same as any thin pant, I don’t see anything special here.
  • Fast drying: yes, nylon and elastane are drying champs. These dry on par with most light nylon garments, which is to say really well. If you do find yourself hiking in a cool but not cold temp and they get wet, they should dry without much hassle. Similarly they dry quickly after washing.

There’s a couple other points about these worth mentioning:

  • The hand pockets are fantastic. They have a nice cut to the pocket and stuff stays in them. Further they have a bit of elastic at the bottom edge which makes them more comfortable for your hand, or gives you an ideal spot for anything with a pocket clip on it.
  • The left front pocket has a loop to attach keys to, which is out of the way and actually useful. Well done.
  • The right front pocket has another zipper pocket at the opening. This pocket is unobtrusive and is a nice addition for pants made for the outdoors.
  • The rear pockets are zippered and I could take them or leave them. They aren’t bad and don’t get in the way, but I’ve not found them functional on this type of pant.
  • The waistband though, the waistband is awesome. It’s smooth, thick, durable and holds in place. I am slightly in between sizes with these and so I sized down, so they fit me more snug than I might like, that is until I load up the pockets and start doing stuff in the pants — at that point I love the waistband. Really well executed.

As a performance pant: these are some of the best hiking pants turned joggers and the only downside is that I live in an extremely hot climate.

Fit & Style

First the fit, as these are sold in Small – XXL waist sizes with three lengths for each. I wear a 34×32 in most pants and find that to be spot on, after some back and forth with Steve over the sizing, I opted for the M Regular in these. I find them to be a perfect length for me, while being about as snug as I might want them.

Style wise, these are joggers and outdoors ones at that. I would say they are firmly casual/outdoors. No big bonus points here, but they don’t get any weird looks anywhere I wear them.

Overall

I like these pants. They are an acquired taste, and for me they are great pants for the weekend. Great to wear around the yard, doing chores, or just lounging about. They make solid pants for travel as they can fill many roles well, and of course they are great outdoors.

You aren’t likely to win any style points for them, but you’ll be more comfortable.

Find them here.

NOTE: where possible all product links on this site may earn the site money when you buy using those links.

Beyond Clothing Avid Ultralight K4 Pant

Triple Aught Design Agent XC Shorts

I’ve been fascinated by Triple Aught Design’s Agent chino offerings, but have always waited too long to get a pair, and found my sizes out of stock. But when these shorts came out right on the heels of me needing some new shorts, I snagged them right away in the Raven color (which is like charcoal with green undertones?). The XC fabric is their more technical, lighter weight offering — since getting these shorts I have been wearing them a ton.

I really like them, but maybe not for reasons you might think.

Materials

The material on these is a heavy NYCO blend, which feels very smooth to the touch and a bit crisp. In a lot of ways it reminds me of Filson’s Tin Cloth before the waxing — which is a complement. At 194gsm it’s not the lightest weight material, despite Triple Aught Design saying it is their lighter weight material.

The actual make up is listed as: 40% Cotton / 28% Nylon / 27% Cordura Nylon / 5% Elastane. I am sure there is some branding reason the Nylons are put apart like that, but really this is a 55% Nylon, 40% Cotton, 5% stretch garment, which is a pretty classic mix and one that performs well. You get the cotton feel, a slight bit of stretch, and an exceedingly durable garment.

If you are at all familiar with Filson Tin Cloth, I would say this is the modern take on that fabric. Triple Aught Design then does a thorough DWR treatment on it, and the material is durable and water resistant. Good stuff.

Fit & Style

These are listed as “standard fit” with an 8.25” inseam. It’s actually harder to find shorts around this inseam length, and I’m very happy with the inseam. It’s the right balance of being shorts, but also not too short for the style (while not being silly long as so many shorts like this can be).

I ordered a size 34, which is the size I am wearing in almost everything right now, and found that out of the box they fit about a half size too large. I don’t think I could downsize so I washed and dried them and that shrunk them only about a quarter size. It’s enough that they don’t fall down without a belt, and they fit comfortable.

The style isn’t too outwardly aggressive if you wear shirts untucked, as that will hide the massive belt loops and extra pockets. If you tuck in, then be prepared for people to notice the more outdoors vibe to these shorts — I certainly don’t think they scream tactical, but they clearly are not normal. With your shirt untucked they can essentially pass for any run of the mill shorts.

The Raven color is fantastic. It’s closest to charcoal with browns and greens in it too — it shifts ever so slightly and is really pleasant looking in person. I am a big fan of it.

Performance

The Agent XC shorts add performance in an unusual way. Yes, they do have some stretch, but I don’t notice it. The gusseted crotch itself is a far bigger performance gain than whatever the 5% elastane is doing in these. But that gusset means that they don’t need to be overly wide at the thigh while still allowing a lot of range of motion.

They resist water and heavy dirt well, but I do find that powdery type stuff and dust can collect on them. A good pat-swipe motion will clean them right up. But if you work somewhere dusty they are going to snag that dust. I wore them digging a hole, and they looked clean afterwards, however wearing them to clear out some dusty stuff in the attic caused them to look pretty dusty until I could clean them up.

I also need to say that these are not that breathable. They are not warm, they do block wind, but they are not something that is going to actively cool you. They might be more breathable than other shorts out there, but certainly not anywhere close to most of the performance shorts we test here.

Which is why the real performance gain is the pockets on these. There’s a bunch of them. There’s two hand pockets in the front, two rear welt pockets, two “hidden” rear pockets, and then an entirely hidden pocket as well.

The two rear hidden pockets are just up from the welt pockets, and they are narrow and deep. They are easy to access and can hold a ton. I needed to do some work on the fence from a ladder, and they held wire cutters and other long tools really well. They are not secured, which makes them far more useful. And beyond that, they don’t detract too much from the looks.

The big feature on these is the two front pockets. They are slant openings, with a flat/straight edges right at the bottom, which makes securing something like a pocket knife an excellent experience. And then inside the front pockets are internal dividers on the side of the pocket against your leg. These don’t get in the way if you don’t use them, but each pocket has three slots in those (with bottoms) two wider and one smaller. These are great for holding your knife or flashlight inside the pocket. Keeping a key from floating around — my iPhone 12 Mini even fits in one.

At first I felt these were a neat gimmick. Now some time on, I wonder why all pants don’t have these. They are wonderful — but I also carry a lot of ‘gear’ with me. These dividers caused me to wear these shorts far more than I otherwise would have, and are a huge win.

Overall

These are heavier shorts, but I wouldn’t hesitate doing labor intensive work in them. They won’t cool you down but they also don’t trap enough heat to worry about. I’ve worked in them a bunch and found them great because of all the extra hidden pockets.

Even then, day in and day out, the pockets have made my life easier because they keep gear organized, flatter, and the heavy material keeps that gear from becoming oddly shaped bumps showing through your shorts.

I am waiting for these to come back in stock, as I want another pair, and I will also snag the chinos as soon as I can.

Recommended, with those caveats. Buy here.

NOTE: where possible all product links on this site may earn the site money when you buy using those links.

Triple Aught Design Agent XC Shorts

Unbound Merino Polo

Note: this shirt was provided by Unbound for review purposes.

There are quite a few merino polos out there, but many suffer from collars that are too soft. Unbound Merino reached out to see if I wanted to try their Merino Polo and remembering Ben’s review of their Classic Button-Down, I was excited to give it a try. I was quickly impressed, and this polo has become my favorite.

Material

The material is a 165 gsm, 53% superfine (17.5 micron) merino wool, 47% polyester. The weight sits right at that perfect balance of being very light, while still having enough structure. The merino is Woolmark and RWS certified, and being 17.5 micron, has no scratchiness.

The fabric looks great, with no sheen, and there is a really unique, almost 3D texture to the outer face. While different, I think the dressiness of the fabric sits in the same place as a traditional pique knit. A surprising amount of stretch is also present.

Fit & Style

The fit of this polo is spot on for me. The cut is slim, but not overly slim. I picked an XL based on the measurements on their size guide, and I think it is a flattering fit that would work for many. The stretch of the fabric gives some flexibility to size up or down for those who might prefer a tighter or looser fit.

The style here works well for business casual, or with nice shorts. The collar performs well. While it doesn’t have much structure, it doesn’t seem to fold weird in the wash. It does fall open, however, as do most collars that are not button-down.

Performance

The performance is awesome for hot weather. It breaths well, and when sweaty (or out of the wash) it dries very quickly. It seems like the texture of the fabric helps it to stand away from your skin, making it feel less damp if moist with sweat. After washing, there also is none of that fuzzy texture, speaking to the durability of the blend/texture of the fabric.

The stretch is a great addition. I never felt the polo restricting my motion — it’s actually more comfortable than some of my merino blend tees.

Wrinkles just don’t form in this fabric — I wouldn’t hesitate to squash this into a bag for travel, and it looks perfect after air drying.

As expected, that odor resistance isn’t quite up to the claims made — “Won’t smell after weeks of wear, unlike cotton and synthetics”. That would be true if it was 100% merino, but not at an almost 50-50 blend. I am able to get 3-4 days of wear, which is still great. With the quick drying nature of the fabric, sink washes would be very feasible to keep this polo going indefinitely.

Overall

This is my new favorite polo, especially for warm weather wear. The texture is unique, while keeping the style business casual. It breathes well, doesn’t wrinkle, and gives 3-4 days of wear.

At $110 retail, the price seems a touch high for a merino blend. I still do recommend the polo though, because I haven’t seen anything like the texture of this fabric.

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Unbound Merino Polo

FRAHM Lightweight Worker’s Jacket

FRAHM is a British company that makes some classic jackets with classic fabrics. They offer pre-orders for their items (at a 20% discount), and this Lightweight Worker’s Jacket sold out before they started making it for 2021, so they’ve already launched their 2022 pre-order (for delivery May 2022).

What got me excited about FRAHM was their attention to detail and use of fabrics like Ventile (waterproof 100% cotton) and British Millerain (machine washable waxed cotton). Of course, this makes their jackets very pricey. So I went with the Lightweight Worker’s Jacket (in French Blue), which is made from an Italian ripstop, to not blow my whole budget. As I dug in further, I also thought their ethical policy was interesting and love the fact that they sew in a small factory in Bulgaria they have a close relationship with.

Material

The material is listed as “brushed Italian fabric is a tough ripstop”, and the content label lists it as 64% cotton/39% nylon. No weight is listed, but it is fairly light while still having structure. The handfeel is smooth, with the outside having a bit of sheen.

This results in a fabric that looks normal except for the slight sheen giving it away as not just cotton and has a great structure, while being really comfortable to wear.

Fit & Style

The fit on this jacket is excellent. It’s not slim, but also not baggy. FRAHM targets their cuts to fit most men, while leaving room to move and for layers. If you take a look at their size guide, you can see photos of various builds wearing their jackets and what size they are in. I find this to work really well for me. It looks sharp, while still letting me move and fit a layer underneath if necessary. I ended up with an XL after using their fit tool and chatting with their customer service (note that the jackets ship from the UK, so returns aren’t straightforward, although their customer service is very helpful and responsive).

The pockets on this jacket are done perfectly as well, plenty of storage without getting in the way. They also didn’t forget the most important feature, side entry hand pockets behind the lower pockets. This is a detail that when missing on jackets like this drives me crazy.

For those that need it, there are also two holes for the cuff button for adjustment. The collar can be flipped up for a little extra wind protection.

The style makes this a versatile jacket. It dresses up your t-shirt while staying on par or dressing down button-up a bit. It fits in in a casual situation and works well going to the office. The slight sheen the fabric has out of the box actually makes it a bit dressier, so I’ll be interested to see if that changes with more wear.

Performance

The performance here surprised me. FRAHM describes the fabric as “crease resistant, showerproof and cool against the skin”. Let’s hit those points:

  • Crease resistant: Yep, I folded the jacket and packed it away in a small backpack for my first post-vaccine road trip. I expected some creases or wrinkles to form due to the feel of the fabric, but it came out with no creases or wrinkles.
  • Showerproof: While this jacket isn’t going to keep you dry in a downpour, the fabric beads water like it has a DWR coating (but I don’t think it does). Definitely my choice for a drizzly day rather than a rain jacket or windbreaker.
  • Cool against the skin: FRAHM lists the temperature range as 50-75°F (with a t-shirt), and I think that’s about right. I haven’t gotten to test it in cold weather yet, but I could see it going cooler with a heavy button-up, sweater, or flannel. And the reason it’s comfortable into the 70s is that the fabric really does feel cool against your skin. I’m guessing it’s a combination of the smooth feel of the fabric, as well as the excellent breathability.

Even though this is a majority cotton jacket, I haven’t had to wash it. When I got some dirt on it, it was easily brushed off with a damp cloth.

And for durability, FRAHM talks about how they make all their jackets to last and stand up to actually wearing them, and I think the fabric will stand up to whatever I can throw at it. The quality is tops here, and even goes as far as adding to the style. The buttons are real horn, with smaller holding buttons behind the fabric and some fancy strong stitching. The stitching is heavy duty twin needle for durability and the seams are bound with a nice contrasting red.

Overall

Overall, I love this jacket. The only downside is now I want more pieces from FRAHM. The fit, finish, and performance on this jacket is better than anything else I’ve owned, so this is very easy for me to recommend. With a pre-order price of £176 ($244 USD), it’s not a quick decision to purchase, but the price is justified.

NOTE: where possible all product links on this site may earn the site money when you buy using those links.

FRAHM Lightweight Worker’s Jacket

Rogue Territory Supply Jacket – Black Ridgeline

I call this my James Bond jacket as it is selected to be worn in the upcoming-but-seemingly-never-to-be-released Daniel Craig James Bond film. He wore tan, here I am talking about the Supply Jacket in Ridgeline Black. This is a really cool jacket, and I picked one up this past winter and immediately fell in love with it.

It’s hard to find useful jackets when you live in weather that is touching 110°F Heat Index as I write this post here in mid-June. But in the ‘winter’ months I often need something to cut the chill that my humidity-oven-baked body is far from acclimated to — this is that jacket. It’s amazing.

Material

The simplest explanation of this jacket is that it is waxed canvas. A little more panache: it’s the best waxed canvas I’ve felt. But the technical side is that this is 8.25oz shelter tent American waxed canvas. It’s not super thick, feeling thinner than most pairs of jeans. But it’s not light either as the weave has incredible density to it. And the wax finish is smooth across the surface, but noticeable to your hands when you touch it.

The end result is a fabric that feels smooth and stiff, which slowly breaks in over time, forming to the wearer of the garment.

Fit and Style

The supply jacket style is classic and on trend right now — but because of the classic nature of the cut, it will be appropriate for the life of the jacket, which might be your lifetime as well. It’s cut slim, and thus tailored well against your body — unlike most supply jackets which wear boxier or looser to accommodate more work and clothing layers. You can wear this anywhere you might were a trucker jacket, work jacket, or light layer.

It dresses up your t-shirt with the smart styling, but dresses down your button-up/down shirts. For that reason it’s date not appropriate for most people in the United States, but a stretch for a stuffier office. This is workwear made by someone who didn’t want to be swimming in a garment.

I ordered mine in XL, which is larger than I would normally order, but in measuring according to Rogue Territory’s guidelines that’s where I came out to, and thus what I ordered. It fits really well, exactly how I wanted it to.

The only other style note on this jacket is that white button hole, which doesn’t actually have a button for it — as far as I can tell, that’s a style choice and nothing else. I won’t pretend to understand it, but it’s less pronounced when you are wearing the jacket.

Performance

Alright, this is old-school performance here, but it still holds up well. Part of what we look at in clothing is the ability for us to blend in. Yes something nylon or Gore-Tex is going to do some/all/most of this better, but the cost of that is style. It is not blending in, it’s not showing off your personality. You should not only be comfortable because of your clothing, but be comfortable wearing your clothing. That’s how I look at the performance on something like this.

To that end, this unlined, seemingly simple jacket is quite impressive. I was able to wear it on cool (high—40s) to warmer (low-60s) nights with a slight breeze with only an Outlier Merino T under it. I stayed plenty warm because this jacket is a fantastic wind breaker. This is both in part because of the dense weave of the fabric, but mostly the waxed finish.

Because of this the jacket doesn’t breathe as well, it has yet to build moisture for me, but it’s going to wear warm and should be treated accordingly. I can’t see it getting wear above 70°F for me.

The wax will also repel rain, though how much rain I am unsure of as the rain we get in this part of the country is binary: it’s either not raining, or the heavens have opened up and no one ventures outside. In theory, it should be fine, and my experience with past items like this confirms that.

And then we get to durability, and this is one of those items which should only get better with age. Most of the patina will happen to the wax layer, and can be renovated as needed bringing back the original (or close to it) look. Because this is a black jacket, that should hold more true than the tan version. The tight weave also means it won’t be prone to snagging from outdoor brush should you find yourselves needing to wear it through such a thing — likewise it should survive your backpack and a trip to Starbucks just fine, certainly your Instagram posts.

The caveat to all this, and there always is one: it’s not washable. Like at all, here’s the warning on the product page: Spot clean only. DO NOT put this jacket in water. DO NOT dry clean.

This is par for the course with waxed goods, a damp rag should clean anything up. From there you just need to worry about odors, which can be mitigated if you can stick it in the freezer for a day.

Overall

I love this jacket, and the only real downside for me (other than the climate I live in) is that it’s hard to pack this jacket. It’s dense, and it doesn’t pack down at all. So if you want to take it with you somewhere, it’s best to plan on wearing it there and back. It’s not at all easy to pack. The fit and finish on the entire jacket is outstanding. This is very easy for me to recommend.

Find it here.

NOTE: where possible all product links on this site may earn the site money when you buy using those links.

Rogue Territory Supply Jacket – Black Ridgeline

Taylor Stitch Easy Pant

Note: the pants were provided at no cost for review.

With work from home, there have been more and more pants being produced that have this relaxed comfort aspect with a sharper look to them. Taylor Stitch’s entry is the Easy Pant which looks like a linen-ish pair of trousers that has a semi-elastic waist cinched down by a drawstring.

These pants are awesome.

Materials

I was sent the Espresso Linen pair which is: 6-oz. 52% linen, 24% spun silk, 24% organic cotton. To my hand they are smooth and soft, with a heavy drape that feels like it won’t easily wrinkle. The linen is nicely offset by the silk and cotton to give you the look without the frump. They are heavy though, heavier than I think they will be anytime I put them on.

The biggest downside is that they are labeled: dry clean/hand wash only, which is a huge bummer for an easy wearing pair of pants. The biggest upside is the texture and color variation — they look even better in person than any of the pictures I’ve seen of them.

Fit and Style

The fit on these has a slight taper for a tailored looks but nothing slim or too baggy. I generally wear a size 34, and that’s what I got in these — they fit perfectly, but I couldn’t go even a touch smaller with them. They a cut long, and made to be hemmed or rolled if you like, for me I might need them hemmed — I certainly roll them when wearing without shoes.

I love the way these look — they feel like sweat pants and look like a nice pair of chino-ish trousers. They feel like the pants you put on when you want to dress up, but you are on a beach in Mexico. Yeah, that’s what they are, that’s the style. I love it.

Performance

Linen pants are supposed to be airy, they should feel like they won’t hold back even the slightest breeze — this is not what these pants feel like. They are comfortable, almost feeling warm at times when in AC without feeling stifling when out in the heat.

They could be more breathable, more airy, but they are not. They don’t feel hot to wear them around, but they aren’t something I would choose if I wanted to stay cool during the day. These are evening pants, they are indoor lounge pants with a nod to warm weather.

Perhaps the greatest performance feat these pants pull off are in the waistband. It’s partially elastic with a drawstring. And yet when they are on, you don’t notice it visually while noticing the comfort on your waist. If all pants could have a waistband like this, count me in.

Overall

This is a short review because there’s not a lot of performance here. They wear better and more comfortably than any other pant that looks this good. They are light enough to wear in heat, without all the downsides of near constant disheveled looks you get with high linen contents in pants.

That said, I want another pair of these, I love wearing them.

You can find them here in Espresso Linen or here in Navy Linen Herringbone.

NOTE: where possible all product links on this site may earn the site money when you buy using those links.

Taylor Stitch Easy Pant

Tact & Stone Sustainable Performance Tee

Note: this shirt was provided at no cost for review.

Tact & Stone was launched by an industry outsider to make classic men’s pieces with the sustainability focus of Patagonia and Outerknown. They only source organic, regenerative, or upcycled fibers and work with ethical factories. When one of their garments reaches its end of life they will take it back for upcycling and give you a discount on your next purchase.

I was excited to give their Sustainable Performance Tee a try, and I am very impressed.

Material

The 4.5 oz jersey fabric is made of the Orbital Hybrid Yarn (66% organic cotton/34% recycled polyester). This is a filament yarn, so you get a lot less microfiber shedding. The care instructions are wash cold, hang dry (or air dry low), so it’s easy to care for.

To the hand, this feels like a smooth, soft cotton and the drape looks like a standard t-shirt. Having the shirt in white, even though it is lightweight, I had no issues with the fabric being see-thru (it does look a little translucent to darker colors though, see the fit pic).

Fit & Style

The shirt fit is described as “Slim fit but doesn’t hug you.” I think this is perfect, as the trends seem to be going to less form-fitting to tees with some room. The perfect balance is struck here and the shirt looks upscale and put together. It doesn’t look out of place with a pair of shorts, but also looks great under a light jacket with a pair of nice jeans or chinos. Love it.

Performance

The performance of this shirt was surprising to me. Digging into the yarn manufactures website, they present data showing it dries 97-98% in 30 minutes with Nike Dri-FIT (which is 85% polyester/15% cotton) the benchmark to beat at 99%. And this stands true in this shirt.

Let’s rundown the other performance claims made here.
– Moisture wicking: 100% true, wearing this shirt in my warm home office, I never felt damp.
– Fast dry: Already addressed, but can’t help to be amazed by this. It really does dry as fast as a Dri-FIT shirt even though its 66% cotton and looks and feels like a cotton shirt.
– Zero pilling: Haven’t had it long enough to say for sure, but I haven’t seen any fuzziness or indications that it’s going to pill. I even got a stain on the shirt, and used a stain remover and wash warm, and the shirt still looks brand new (and the stain came out with no problems). This is an area where I’ve found other performance tees that look like cotton to fall down.
– Abrasion resistance: Also can’t really speak to this, but I can see it being on-par with 100% cotton, rather than tending to get snags like some polyester fabrics.

I also love how cool this shirt wears. It must be a combination of the moisture wicking/fast dry and light weight of the fabric. This is the coolest cotton/poly shirt I own by far.

The odor resistance here is about on par with your standard cotton tee. No claims are made, so not a surprise. But it’s nice to be able to get a second wear if you don’t get sweaty or at least not have to worry about that polyester stink.

Overall

This shirt exceeded my expectations. I love how cool it wears, the cut works great for me, and it feels just like cotton. Also a bonus, it wasn’t hard to get a small stain out.

At $45 I think it represents a great value, and is a nice middle ground between your standard cotton t-shirt and an expensive merino tee. They currently offer it in black and white, but if they come out with a color that fills a hole in my t-shirt drawer, I’ll be first in line to buy another.

NOTE: where possible all product links on this site may earn the site money when you buy using those links.

Tact & Stone Sustainable Performance Tee