Rather than overwhelm you with a huge gift guide list, we wanted to keep it simple and recommend a few great items to keep you or your loved ones looking great this winter.
As far as pants go, we have a long time favorite and a recent pick to highlight here. If you just want to own two pairs of pants, the Outlier Futureworks (our review) and the Ministry of Supply Kinetic Pant (our review) are the two that could cover almost every activity in your life. We’d go with lighter casual Futureworks and dark business oriented Kinetics for a perfect two pant setup.
For a button-down, we typically think of two scenarios — travel and normal wear.
Western Rise hit it out of the park with their AirLoft Quilted Jacket (our review). If you’re looking for a versatile technical jacket that has the style to look great in the office, look no further than this jacket.
Finding a high performing, well made, and good looking blazer can be a struggle — especially when you then try pairing such a synthetic material with other pants. The Ministry of Supply Kinetic Blazer though proves to be a really interesting option.
Like with the Kinetic Pant (our review), this is a 100% Primeflex® Warp-knit Japanese Polyester garment, which feels substantial in weight, but wears much lighter. As with the pants, it is incredible stretchy and comfortable. The knit look to the fabric has nice dimension to it and very low sheen.
Overall, excellent material.
Blazers like this can be hard to pull off in a synthetic material. Often they get so heavy that they perform worse than a wool counterpart. In this case though, this is easily the most comfortable blazer I have worn.
The stretch is phenomenal. The breathability is excellent as well. This jacket performs well for two reasons: the material is substantial but wears light and is stretchy, and it is rather minimal in construction.
Like the pants, it is prone to gathering lint and hair on it, but I have found it to be less of an issue on the blazer. It dries extremely fast. The biggest downside for this is the wrinkle resistance. I found that the wrinkles did not fall out as easy as they did with the pants, and I think part of this is that a blazer is much hard to pack smoothly than pants. I needed to quickly steam the jacket with an iron when I traveled to get the wrinkles to drop out of it. From there I had no issues.
Fit & Style
I found the blazer to fit me really well. Ministry notes that they include extra fabric in the sleeves so that you can lengthen them if needed — which is a nice touch. For me the jacket fit really well out of the box.
The style lends itself more casual with patch pockets and no button detailing on the cuffs. At a glance it will pass as a nice blazer, upon closer inspection it will look more casual. I think this lends itself well to being highly versatile. You won’t look like you are coming from court, nor will you look like a professor in this.
My take here, is this looks like a modern blazer made to blend well in the office and business world of today. Things are more casual now, and this jacket fits in that world quite nicely.
The closest jacket I have to compare this to is the Bluffworks Gramercy Blazer (our review and it is hard to compare. The Kinetic is more versatile and infinitely more comfortable. The fabric has a better and has a lower sheen, and looks more traditional. However the cut and style of the Gramercy leads that jacket to being able to be dressed up better, and the fabric on it is far more wrinkle and lint resistant.
That said, I would easily pick the Kinetic between the two. It’s very comfortable and I think in most settings where you would want to wear it, it will blend in better. I also think it is easier to pair with more pants than the Gramercy is.
This review has been a long time coming, with the Kinetic Pant being something I have had my eye on for quite a while, but never got around to testing. They always seemed too technical, or too expensive, when I compared them to every other offering out there. I recently picked up a pair and have been testing them for a little over a month — I shouldn’t have waited so long to get them.
The material on these is pretty straightforward at ‘100% Primeflex® Warp-knit Japanese Polyester’. That’s entirely useless, because these pants are so much more than that. First there’s an immense amount of four way stretch in the pants, so much so that I would say you will likely not experience restricted movement because of these pants.
Next, the material is not a smooth fabric like you might expect from polyester. Instead the material as a slight knit look to it, which gives the fabric nice visual texture.
The hand feel is soft, but not smooth. And there is a very slight sheen to the entire pant, not enough to be concerned with, but it does exist. Thankfully, the pants move silently.
One word: extraordinary. These are easily the most comfortable pants I own, and not even with the caveat of them being office friendly. Just hands down the most comfortable. They have a ton of stretch which keeps them moving comfortable, but also means they sit comfortably on your waist no matter what position you find your self stuck sitting in.
In addition to that they are highly breathable, and I found them comfortable in very warm weather. From a performance standpoint there is nothing I would change about them. Add to that the clever rubber dots on the inside of the waistband, which hold a tucked in shirt in place, well thought out.
There are two performance downsides with these pants:
Wrinkles do exist. They are advertised as not wrinkle resistant, but rather that wrinkles fall out quickly with your own body heat. I think that’s accurate. I found that packing them will cause creases, but that those creases are super easy to get rid of. In daily wear I did not encounter the pants getting wrinkled, even when sitting in cramped quarters with them on.
Lint and hair is an issue with these. The fabric will seek out and suck in any hair and lint around you. Not so bad that they look terrible, but bad enough that it drives me nuts. And while on many of my other pants the hair will just brush off with my hand, here it sticks to the particular knit in these pants. You’ll want to have lint rollers on hand with these. This is the worst attribute of these pants.
Fit & Style
Ministry does an overall very good job at offering a wide ranges of sizes. I found the fit and style to be solid, but nothing too trendy. The cut is great, and in the past you had to have the pants hemmed as they all came very long, but now it appears Ministry is shipping them with hemmed lengths as well. This is great, and really makes these pants an easier buy.
I think the only downside on these pants from a style perspective is that the colors are a little off. While this navy color looks nice and plays well with most things, it is a stronger blue than you might want. I would love to see what the gray heather looks like in person.
So here’s the thing with these, they are really great, but have some off trade offs. For one I don’t think they dress down nearly as well as Futureworks (our review, but I do think they dress up far better than Futureworks. For me, there’s no better office pants than these Kinetic pants. They are more durable than the Velocity (our review) offering from Ministry and more comfortable than Futureworks.
However, for travel, I prefer the Futureworks as dirt and lint brushes off that fabric far better. I will also point out that the Kinetic pants do try a touch faster than Futureworks.
If you owned one pair of Futureworks and one pair of Kinetic pants, you would probably be set for every activity you pursue in life. I can tell you that these Kinetic pants have become my most worn pants to the office.
Note: this shirt was provided for review purposes.
The merino button down market is crowded, but diverse. It spans from shirts that easily blend into the office, to shirts that you almost wonder if they are best suited for pajamas. Unbound Merino set out to create an exceptional merino wool button down that can easily be worn untucked for exploration, or tucked in for business. I’ve been testing it now for sometime, and it’s really great.
The shirt is a heavy 56% merino wool, 44% organic cotton blend. I don’t have a fabric weight for it, but I will say it is as heavy as the Outlier NYCO Oxfords that I have — which was the most surprising part. I think that weight helps the looks a lot.
Overall the material looks like cotton, but is soft like nice merino can be. It’s stealth — no one will know this is anything different. Great hand feel.
The biggest question for me with this shirt was how well it would resist odors, with almost half the material being cotton. What’s surprising is that I was never able to get it to stink — even after wearing it flying twice without washing. The odor resistance is equal to that of any other merino garment which is surprising and impressive.
The next factor with this shirt is the weight, as it is heavier than any other merino button down I have. I wore it both in Houston heat, and the dry climate of Arizona — and in both settings it performed well. It wears a touch warmer than my other wool shirts, but still breathes really well.
What the weight really gains you is structure, and from a performance aspect that plays out to a shirt that wrinkles far less than a standard thin merino shirt. It will wrinkle, but when it does it typically will not look bad — still wearable.
I think the biggest performance hit is that the shirt sits trim and can restrict arm movement a bit more than I am used to at this point for performance shirting.
Fit & Style
I absolutely love the fit and style of this shirt. It’s a classic oxford button down in every way. The drape is exceptional, and the cut is very modern. It looks sharp.
Let’s first talk about the collar — which is top notch. Of all the shirts I have, the collar on this one is easily the best. Ditto the cuffs.
Where this shirt has the most trouble is when you want to go tuck it in. On my body the length of the shirt is about a half inch shorter than I would want it for tucking in. I never had issue with the shirt, I just needed to make sure to check the back of the shirt when I stood up. So you can easily pass it off tucked in if you want, but if that’s your primary use case there are better options.
This shirt is simply more casual in looks and is best worn untucked.
I’ve really come to love this shirt, and if you are someone who generally wears a button down untucked as your look — you could buy both colors of this shirt and be set for everything. It’s a very versatile and durable feeling shirt. I wish there were more color options, but that’s nitpicking.
As a travel shirt, this is probably among the best out there, and will easily be my flying go to from here forward. Great stuff.
It’s no secret that Bluffworks makes some great travel clothing. We’ve reviewed and continue to wear many of their pieces. Starting today, they’ve launched their Black Friday sale with up to 30% off (Men’s, Women’s).
Note: this jacket was provided for review purposes by Western Rise.
I came across the Western Rise AirLoft Quilted Jacket last year, but only after it was sold out. When I got the chance to give it a try this year, I jumped at the opportunity, as it seemed like it would fill a gap in my outerwear lineup. I am blown away, it performs way above my expectations.
The magic in this jacket is from the Toray 3DeFX+ insulation. It is a hollow-core, 4-way stretch, continuous fiber insulation and is advertised as the loftiest, most breathable, and stretchiest synthetic insulation on the market.
You often only find continuous fiber insulation in high-end technical jackets. The key being that it gives the fibers the most durability and resistance to settling and bunching in the jacket.
The body contains 60g of insulation and the sleeves 40g.
The face fabrics are 4-way stretch 100% polyester, with the face being more durable and the interior light and soft so it feels good on the skin. To top it all off, there is a DWR coating on the exterior face.
Fit & Style
This jacket has a classic quilted look with a button front and a drop tail. Western Rise did a great job infusing performance technology into a jacket while keeping it looking sharp. For me, this is a perfect jacket to pair with business wear, but it also works with a casual weekend look.
I’d describe the fit here as more like a blazer than what you typically find in a performance technical jacket. That works well for me, but something to keep in mind if you are planning to wear it with multiple layers underneath.
Some nice little details include the side seam hand pockets and the internal chest zip pocket (great for a phone or thin wallet). Additionally, rather than having elastic cuffs, there are snaps, making it easier to roll up the sleeves if needed.
I was amazed by the performance of this jacket. The insulation is very thin and lightweight but it also very warm and breathable. It is comfortable to wear on a cool fall day, even moving between being inside and out. I was able to wear it outside walking around on a windy day in the mid-30s(F). I would probably have been a little cold if I wasn’t moving, but I was very comfortable walking and did not feel any wind through the jacket.
This is a range I don’t get from any of my other jackets. In the dead of winter, this would have to become a mid-layer, and the cut lends itself to that.
The 4-way stretch also makes this jacket extremely comfortable. Even with a close fit, I never feel restricted.
To top it all off, the DWR on the face fabric does a great job shedding a light rain. Even if the jacket did get wet, the insulation ability would not be affected since it is synthetic (unlike down).
The only issue I found was in cold and windy conditions. Since there is no drawstring around the bottom or near the bottom of the jacket, you can get some cold wind blowing underneath. This was most noticeable trying to keep my hands warm in the pockets — the interior fabric was so breathable, any wind that found its way in kept my hands chilly.
Western Rise hit this one out of the park. They paired a great design with some amazing insulation technology to get a highly performant jacket in a classic looking package.
This is one I’m going to keep grabbing throughout the cold months. The only time I might go for something else is either on a frigid dry day where my down might perform better or when I need some more room underneath for layering.
Overall, if you are looking for an everyday jacket that can take you from weekend to business casual, I’d put the AirLoft at the top.
I recently grabbed a pair of Makers & Riders Wool Trousers to try out for business casual garb at the office — specifically, the ‘4 Season AeroDri Wool Trousers F16’. I’ve long wanted to try a pair of Makers & Riders pants as they are well known as a merino wool brand, and well loved by many travelers.
I’ve been testing these pants now for over a month, and overall they are very good (especially given the price) with a few quirks about them.
As I mentioned these are merino wool pants, and while I question how much one needs merino wool in pants, these are a blend. They come in at 190gsm, composed of 46% Merino Wool / 51% Polyester / 3% Spandex — and I’ll tell you up front that the spandex stretch feels non-existent in practice.
The pants themselves are very thin, with a lot of breathability. I would say these are my coolest wearing pants of everything I own and are very comfortable. The material itself is billed as being “soft touch”, but I find that hard to back up in person. The pants felt slightly scratchy, like wool of old — these are not luxuriously soft like most merino you are used to. They aren’t bad, but they are not sweatpants feeling either.
The material itself seems hardy, and in all the days of wearing them, I never once came into any issues with durability — I would guess they will hold up just fine. Further, the drape on them is exceptional, much better than any synthetic pants I wear.
Instead of commenting on how many wears you can get, I’ll just say that it is more than cotton. My pants never really develop smells, so multiple wears with pants is more about staining, and I had no issues with that.
When it comes to travel there’s three key metrics: comfort, wrinkle resistance, and how fast they dry. Let’s start with the later: they dry crazy fast. The material is thin, and has a high wool and synthetic content. As for wrinkles they do wrinkle, but those fall out fast. I only experienced wrinkles when packing them, not when wearing them.
Comfort is a whole different beast with these. If it is cold (cold being what feels cold to you) you need to know that a breeze will cut right through these. They will not keep you warm. The stretch isn’t there, and the lack of a gusset in the crotch means they don’t move as well as any other performance pants I own.
But in the heat, when it’s really hot, these are my favorite to wear. They wear cool, they breathe, and the pockets are mesh-like which keeps moisture from building up around the pockets.
In other words they are not my pick when I think I might be stuck on a plane, or in meetings sitting in conference chairs — they would need far more stretch. But if I need to be battling heat, and looking sharp, I’d grab these.
The only other factor in the comfort matrix with these is the scratchiness of the material. It’s not ideal, and I mostly feel it on my thighs when I sit. If you are sensitive to wool scratch, stay away. If you mostly are not bothered, you’ll be fine.
Fit and Style
Most of the pants we review have more modern cuts and tailoring. The pants legs generally are slim, or with a strong taper, and the rise is generally shorter than higher. With these trousers the cut is far more classic. It’s not boxy, it has subtle tailoring to it, but they are strongly classic.
The rise is also very high on them, higher than any other pants I own — this might be the biggest deal breaker for people and something you need to try at home. I actually initially ordered my standard size 34 waist and found I couldn’t button these. I returned them for a size 36 and I find those about a half a size too large for me. So size up, but know that the sizing is a little off for me on these. I wish they had more size options, like a 35.
I mention my sizing issues because I think the 34 fit every part of my body better, with exception to the waist. So if you really wanted a pair of these, tailoring might need to be budgeted.
Otherwise these pants are stealth. No one will think they are anything other than standard wool trousers, because they basically are. There is a hidden zip pocket, but it’s well hidden. Nothing to see here, move along.
I do also want to say that these pants are well made, and I point that out because they are a bargain at $118. The closest, most comparable pants (looks wise) that I own are the Ministry of Supply Velocity pants (our review). For me, the Velocity pants are better in every way except for durability.
There’s a choice to be made here, between price & durability, or comfort & performance. For me, I’d stick with the Velocity pants, but it is very hard to fault the Makers & Riders trousers. If the cut had a lower rise, I would probably wear them far more, and when the hot and humid weather returns this summer, I will likely wear them a fair bit.
This shirt is made from a 5-oz. 55% hemp, 45% organic cotton blend. The weight makes it a very versatile shirt, working well in the summer as well as the fall and spring.
The high hemp content gives the shirt a great texture that adds some interest to the shirt, and pushes the fabric solidly into the casual category for me.
The weight and medium color of the fabric also allow this shirt to be worn without an undershirt, a big plus for those warm summer days.
Fit & Style
Overall the fit works well for me. It seems like the Taylor Stitch shirts are cut quite consistently, which is not always a given. The body is trim but not slim and the sleeves have plenty of length.
While on the longer side, the length of the body lends well to wearing either tucked or untucked. I’ve only ever worn it untucked due to the casual look of the fabric.
The collar also lends to the casual look, as while it never spreads so far that it lays flat, it tends to spread out quite a bit.
Taylor Stitch bills this fabric as helping to keep you cool and dry when the temperature rises. Wearing this shirt since the end of the summer, I can say that this is true. I never felt like the armpits were wet and never noticed any sweat marks.
The shirt also does well with odor-resistance, as I am able to get a solid 2+ wears out of this shirt, depending on how much I was sweating while wearing it.
It also performs well for not having any stretch in it. I never felt restricted while wearing the shirt.
Finally, you will not get away without an iron here. When coming out of the laundry, it is very wrinkly. I even tried tossing it in the dryer and hanging it immediately, with no luck. While it does look good with some level of wrinkles, it is way too wrinkly after washing to wear.
I really like the shirt. The texture and weight of the fabric gives it a great look and it works really well for casual wear and the high hemp content lends to the durability and performance. While I’m not sure I’d recommend it at the full $128 price, it represents a good value at the marked down $89.