Best of 2021

Shoes

Steve: Parkhurst Brand The Allen boots (British Tan Chromexcel + Wedge Sole) have quickly become my go-to boot for anytime I want to look put together. It’s hard to beat Chromexcel leather for looks and durability, and the wedge sole is pure comfort. These boots, dress down easily with jeans and a tee, but also can look good with Futureworks and a button-up. Another positive is Parkhurst does not use metal shanks, so any of their boots and shoes will be OK to keep on for TSA PreCheck.

Ben: Red Wing Iron Rangers, mine are in Copper Rough and Tough leather, but it’s probably hard to pick a bad color in these. They are not the most luxurious feeling as boot, but they feel indestructible on my foot, and are the only boots I really don’t care about doing whatever in. I know they can handle it, and even though they are very overbuilt, they seem to work well even in less rough settings. You can adjust how casual they are with different leathers, with my Copper Rough and Tough being very casual — yet I still take them into the office. If I can, I will wear these. They are nicely molded to my foot now, and feel like home.

Pants

Steve: Western Rise Spectrum Joggers (our review, currently 20% off) are the first pants I always go for in my closet when working from home. They are really comfortable, while looking sharp enough to wear around town. For me, the ankle elastic often ruins joggers, and these don’t have any — they are just tapered.

Ben: Outlier’s Futureworks, now Futureslimworks (our review), remain the best pants out there. I could easily have these be my only pants and only feel restricted by them in the most uncommon of situations. They are that good. They are all I wear about 5 days a week now that I am back in the office, and even with all the other ’performance chinos’ I have tried, nothing sticks like these. I have three pairs, and that’s probably overkill by one pair. So very good. Start with Dark Navy or Charcoal, you won’t regret these.

Shorts

Steve: Outlier New Ways (our most recent review) remained my favorite short. Comfortable, great in the heat, above average pockets, and sharp looking. Can’t ask for much more.

Ben: Triple Aught Design’s Agent XC Shorts (our review) are my tops for the year. From a style standpoint they are not as good as the Outlier New Ways I love, but from a wearing standpoint they are outstanding. They have all the utility of cargo shorts, with none of the cargo short vibe. The internal pocket organizers, the durability and the extra rear pockets are like a handyman’s dream. I wear these a lot, I can’t wait for them to come back in stock so I can get another pair.

T-shirts

Steve: I found my workouts shifting to the evening, so I often would just throw on a workout t-shirt in the morning, with a button-up over top if needed for warmth or a video call. On the summer weekends, I’d often throw on a merino t-shirt like the CIVIC Merino Tee or the Outdoor Voices Merino Tee.

Ben: My t-shirt wearing this year was in a bit of a death spiral. I barely wore what I had, and my most worn was for sure Outlier’s Ramielust (currently only available in a different cut, our review). Which is a supremely comfortable shirt to wear in the hot and humid weather I live in. It dries insanely fast — but I think Outlier’s t-shirt cuts aren’t working as well for me as they used too. I feel like I am swimming in it. So if forced to pick, that’s my pick, but I am a little underwhelmed by everything in this category lately.

Button-up

Steve: J.Crew Lightweight Chamois Workshirt. Not going into the office, I maybe wore my Wool&Prince button-ups once or twice this year, so thisbecame my go-to to throw on top of a t-shirt when my office was a bit chilly. I loved it so much, I picked it up (on sale) in a second color.

Ben: Vollebak Equator Shirt, I just got this, but it’s going to be my top pick for 2021. Squeaking in just before the end of the year, this shirt blows my mind. It’s so light and stretchy, with a billion little vents everywhere — the comfort is unreal. But the cut is also outstanding. My wife got me this, and typically she labels the look of very technical shirts as “fine” if they are good enough to wear in public, this one she said “wow that looks great”. When I asked if I should get another, she replied “maybe, but that’s the only color they had in stock when I bought you that” — so yeah. This is a supremely good shirt, and the only shirt that comes close is the Planet Earth from Vollebak which wears a little warmer. (My most worn though is by far Wool&Prince buttons downs, because I do work in an office most days.)

Jackets

Steve: The Ventrix Jacket from The North Face (our review) has remained the first jacket I grab out of my closet. It breathes well and works for a wide variety of temperatures and situations. I’ve also recently started layering the Western Rise AirLoft Vest (our review) underneath when I need some extra warmth.

Ben: I am very torn between my Alex Mill ’Mill Blazer’ (our review) and my Rogue Territory Ridgeline Supply Jacket (our review), but I think I’ll go Rogue Territory here. Mostly because if there is no other style consideration needing to be given, then I would pick the Rogue jacket every single time. It’s an amazing jacket, wears warmer than its thin nature would have you think, and looks darn cool. It still looks brand new to me, and I think I like it more now than the day I got it. It’s expensive, but I really do love it.

Socks

Steve: Still wearing my Darn Tough merino socks in various styles and colors. I keep hearing I need to try out Farm to Feet, but haven’t needed any new socks recently.

Ben: Farm to Feet Damascus 3/4 Crew — holy cow I love these. These are great socks — super comfortable and have proven very durable. I like that they are a lighter weight in most spots, but then you get extra cushioning in targeted areas. Especially at the top of your foot, which is a great area to have nice padding when you wear boots. They are very expensive and I don’t own but a few pairs, but I will slowly be replacing all my socks with these. They strike a perfect balance of working well in boots, while also being thin enough not to overheat my feet.

Underwear

Steve: Mack Weldon 18-Hour Jersey Boxer Brief were a surprise when I gave them a try. While I still have some Duluth Trading and ExOfficio pairs for when I need the most performant underwear, I wear these most days. They are super comfortable, and work well enough for a normal workout.

Ben: Wool&Prince Boxer Briefs are the kind for me. I switched completely to these this year and while they are pricey they are exactly what I want. I find them very comfortable and performant — great at wicking moisture. I found some that came close to dethroning these (SAXX Quest 2.0), but ultimately I found these to be far more comfortable day to day.

Workout Clothes

Steve: My workout clothes are quite a mashup of various shorts and tees I’ve picked-up over the years. I don’t have any winning shorts, but I do really love my Patagonia R1 Pullover as a layer for any outdoors exercise (it often finds wear around the house as well). I also recently purchased the Beyond Clothing Todra Crew, and it is looking promising.

Ben: Under Armour’s Tactical UA Tech™ Long Sleeve T-Shirt, I wear these a ton, they cost very little and perform as well as most of my other shirts. They don’t have much sign of wear on them, no obnoxious logos all over them — all around great performers. Even in really warm weather, they do a great job moving moisture and keeping stink down to a reasonably level. They aren’t merino, but they are $30 and really good.

Travel Bags

Steve: While I didn’t get much of an opportunity to travel this year, the GORUCK Kit Bag became an instant favorite. While looking unassuming, the size and shape works really well to pack a lot, while keeping it a manageable size as a shoulder bag. The inside zippered pockets are also a really useful touch. My GR1 also came out for my only flight of the year.

Ben: Filson 48hr Duffle Bag, is my all time favorite travel bag. It hits all the sweet spots for travel. It’s compact, but holds more than it looks like it should. It’s very durable, while not looking durable. I take mine with me every chance I get, and I have never not felt it was a good choice. Though, 2021 didn’t see a robust amount of travel for me.

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

Best of 2021

Western Rise AirLoft Vest

Note: this vest was provided by Western Rise for review.

I had been looking for a breathable, insulated vest to add to my outerwear selection, so when I noticed that Western Rise launched their AirLoft Vest, I had to give it a try. The vest uses the same Toray 3DeFX+ insulation as the AirLoft Quilted Jacket I previously reviewed, as well as the rest of their current AirLoft line.

Material

The star of the show here is the Toray 40g 3DeFX+™ Polyester hollow-core, 4-way stretch insulation. This is a continuous fiber insulation, meaning it is long fibers tangled together into the batt, rather than many small fibers bound together or stuffed into a shell. This gives the insulation warmth and breathability, while allowing it to be quite thin and durable.

The shell material is 102gsm, 100% polyester, “self-cleaning, 4-way stretch, Primeflex® exterior fabric with a C6 DWR for dirt, stain, and weather resistance optimized for cool-weather activity”. This material looks great and doesn’t have a sheen that some technical vests do.

Fit & Style

The fit is described as a “modern cut and tailored silhouette ensure freedom of movement and a flattering fit”. I’d say it’s tailored with the idea that you will likely wear a heavier shirt underneath. What does this mean? It looks a little bulky over just a t-shirt. Looking at the product photos, this was intended, and makes sense for an insulated vest.

Length-wise, this fits more like a jacket, which is nice because I sometimes find vests to be a bit too short. The collar also looks good up or down.

Style-wise, this is as good looking as you’ll find in an insulated vest. The matte finish and lack of logos on the face fabric make it blend in well. Certainly looks better than your typical shiny-faced, logo-ed insulated vest.

Performance

The combination of warmth and breathability here makes this vest very versatile. It’s warm enough to be your outer layer on a cool-ish day, and when it gets cold, it can transition to a layer under a jacket, or something to toss on when you get a little chilly indoors. The performance here is perfect, unless you want a fleece vest for a different look, I can’t imagine a better vest.

While the hand doesn’t feel much stretch (even though the face fabric and insulation are both 4-way stretch), the vest remains comfortable and doesn’t bind around the armholes. Some vests take care of this by giving you oversized armholes, but not here. The vest stays comfortable and moves with you without being oversized.

A few other nice features include drawstrings at the bottom, an interior chest pocket (phone sized), and a side-entry outer pocket on the lower back that reaches across the whole back (not sure what to use this one for…).

Overall

The AirLoft Vest is just what I was looking for. Warm and breathable enough to see some versatile wear, while looking better than your average vest. The $189 price point is perfect when looking at what else is out there in the same league. Through Christmas, you will get a $50 gift card with your purchase ($50 for every $100 spent). Highly recommended.

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

Western Rise AirLoft Vest

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

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.

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

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

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

Houdini Sportswear Omni Pants

Houdini Sportswear has been on my radar for a while because of their sustainability initiatives. They are best known for their Mono Air Houdi, a fleece hooded jacket made from a special Polartec fabric designed to reduce microplastic shedding, is at least 50% recycled, and the whole jacket is designed to be fully recyclable. The whole jacket is also open source. But that’s not what I’m reviewing today (I already have plenty of fleece…).

Houdini recently released a few pieces geared more towards lifestyle than outdoors, and when I saw the Omni Pants, I figure they were the perfect piece for me to give the brand a try.

Material

The pants are made from a fabric Houdini calls Thrill Twill, a blend of 41% EcoCircle® recycled polyester, 38% polyester, 21% PTT stretch polyester at 180 gsm. It is one of their tried and true fabrics they describe as “dense enough to shelter you a little bit from wind, but also light and open enough to provide high breathability. It is fully recyclable.” This seems like a lightweight but durable fabric.

When pulling up the fabric info to write this review, I was surprised at the high “stretch polyester” content, as the fabric doesn’t feel noticeably stretchy in the hand until you look for it (it is two-way stretch in the horizontal direction). The fabric is matte peached on the outside, but softer on the inside. You will also notice a lack of a DWR finish here.

My main point of comparison when thinking about these pants is the Outlier Futureworks. The F. Cloth is made from a 200 gsm 97% nylon, 3% elastane canvas, with a 35% two-way stretch. Comparing the two fabrics, they don’t feel noticeably different in weight, but the F. Cloth feels a bit more rough and tightly woven, with more texture and a bit more stretch.

There is, however, some technical swoosh here. This does seem to be getting a little better as I wear/wash them though.

Fit & Style

Houdini describes the fit as a “regular tapered fit”. I’d say compared to the typical tapered chino or the Futureworks, these are more of a straight or relaxed fit. Some of this may come from the fact that the sizing is XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL (I was able to get a good fit with the XL), vs. waist sizes, but it is also the general design of the pants. I don’t think they look sloppy, just more on-trend for the more full pants that seem to be coming back into style.

This style to me is more “technical pant that you can dress up” vs. “chino you can hike in” for the Futureworks. Not a bad thing, and considering the dress codes we will likely see post-pandemic, these likely could be worn in a lot of offices.

Performance

Wearing these pants in the spring, I was able to test their wind/chilly weather resistance. I think they are about on par with the Futureworks, which is somewhat surprising due to their weight and what looks like a more open weave. I’m really looking forward to seeing how these compare in hot weather.

The movement feels great here — the slight give the two-way stretch imparts combined with the cut make these pants stay out of your way. Additionally, the pre-bent knees help with binding around the knees when crouching or squatting.

While there is a lack of DWR, these pants dry so quickly, I don’t think that detracts from the appeal too much.

A few other hidden performance features are the zippered compartment in the right front pocket — a feature I often don’t love, but this one seems to stay out of the way (and the zipper pull docks at the top). There are also pulls at the leg cuffs, to all you to cinch them out of the way of a bike chain, as well as a hanging loop under the back belt loop.

Overall

I really like these Houdini Sportswear Omni Pants. The cut combined with the fabric make them comfortable and durable, and they fend off the chillier weather while seeming like they will do great in the heat. For those looking for sustainability, they contain 41% recycled polyester and can be recycled at the end of their life.

While they won’t replace my Outlier Futureworks for office wear (for now at least), they will remain at the front of my closet. At $140, they are competitively priced. Recommended.

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

Houdini Sportswear Omni Pants

Long Term Updates, Early Feb. 2021

Since we’ve been reviewing clothing here since late 2017, we figured it was time to look back and add long term updates to many of our reviews. These will be rolling out in batches, and here’s what we chose for the first update.

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

Long Term Updates, Early Feb. 2021

Spier & Mackay Cardigan

Spier & Mackay is a well regarded Canadian menswear brand, well known for their high quality suits and other traditional items. They’ve been having quite a few sales through the pandemic, so when I saw their merino wool cardigan on sale, I decided to give it a try.

Material

This sweater is knitted with 100% 2-ply Australian merino wool with an anti-pill treatment. I’m not sure what that treatment is, and being merino and a sweater, I haven’t had to wash it yet, but I haven’t noticed any pilling. Even if it does pill, a sweater shaver or stone is always a great trick.

The fabric is light and soft, and doesn’t have any wool scratchiness at all. It is also machine washable (lay flat dry), so no need for a trip to the dry cleaners when it eventually needs to be washed.

Fit & Style

The fit here is quite slim. I went with my normal XL (which they say fits up to a 44” chest) and it fits great everywhere, except it is quite snug when I button it. For me, that makes it more casual, since I prefer to wear it unbuttoned. Sizing up seems like it would likely make other parts of the sweater fit too big.

Spier & Mackay describe the style as easy to dress up or down, and I agree. I even threw it on over a t-shirt when I got chilly in my home office, and I thought it still looked pretty good.

Performance

Not much to discuss here other than its 100% merino — it doesn’t retain odors and likely will only need very infrequent washing.

Otherwise, it is quite lightweight, so I would describe it as a layer to take the chill off inside, rather than a sweater to keep you warm. It is also thin enough that you could wear it as a layer under a blazer.

Overall

Spier & Mackay did a nice job with this cardigan. It’s a little slim for me, but it certainly isn’t overly slim. The quality of the knit and the fabric seems to be above what you’d expect at the price point, and one sale, definitely would beat a UNIQLO cardigan. I paid $37, but think it represents a good value even at the current price of $68.

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

Spier & Mackay Cardigan

Interview with Will Watters, Co-Founder of Western Rise

With reviews slowing a bit since we are not going into the office still, we thought we’d pick some of our favorite brands to interview about how they are doing and what they are looking forward to for 2021. Enjoy our first interview with Will Watters, Co-Founder and Creative Director of Western Rise.

2020 was a wild year for most companies, was there any product in your lineup that started flying out the door once lockdowns started?
I can’t say that one product began flying off of the shelves, but we did see an increase in demand for our pants with our Spectrum Joggers being a top new performer.

Following up on that, was there any product you were surprised did not start flying out the door for lockdown life?
Not surprisingly, our more formal button down options experienced a decline in sales. 

One thing we’ve always appreciated about Western Rise clothing is that it is not just another brand sewing up the same fabric from the same mills. Can you give us some insight into how you develop new fabrics?
Thank you! Our process is a bit different from most brands. We typically start with trying to solve a specific problem. We typically try and find the perfect fabric first as starting from the yarn level can create far longer lead times. We typically scour fabric shows both in the USA and Europe, searching both at performance shows and fashion shows seeking to find fabrics that live between fashion and performance while meeting our needs. If we can’t find a fabric that solves the specific problem we are seeking solve, we typically work with our existing partners and their yarn suppliers to help develop something completely new and different. Right now our fabrics come from our amazing mill partners in the USA, Europe, and Asia and are shipped to our factory partners in those various regions to create the finished garments.

Heading into 2021 and beyond there’s a debate with seemingly equal parts of people on either side. Either you think people will rebel against the loungewear they got used to wearing and start a more formal wardrobe, or the other side being that you think people will not settle for going back to uncomfortable clothing. Where do y’all see this trend going?
I certainly don’t think comfort is going away. I think it has just been added as a new baseline for clothing. Our theory when we started Western Rise was that Performance and Style did not need to be mutually exclusive. We create garments that perform better than your outdoor or athletic clothing, with a sophisticated style that allows for everyday wear. Our belief is that comfort has just been added to that equation. With modern fabrics and construction technologies, clothing must be comfortable, it must perform, and it must be styled to be worn in the broadest wear spectrum possible. It’s time to embrace comfort, but do it in style.

Part of 2021 is that the incoming USA administration is very focused on climate change, and as a Climate Neutral Certified brand, do you see more changes coming to your business and mindsets to point you in different clothing directions?
At Western Rise, we have been mindful of our impact since we began. Climate Neutral really just gave us a tool to measure that impact more effectively. From the yarns we choose to the garments we design, to the location of our mills and our garment factories, we always consider impact. Our supply chain isn’t perfect, and it probably never will be, but Climate Neutral allows us to measure how we are performing, make changes to improve that score, and offset what we are not able to improve with carbon offsets. We hope to see more brands join in that pledge in 2021. 

How do you look at staying on trend, while not creating fast-fashion and waste?
We don’t chase trends. We strive to create clothing that is seasonless and timeless. The world doesn’t need another fashion brand and most certainly doesn’t need more clothing. Our goal is to flip the fashion paradigm. Instead of buying more garments and using them less than ever, filling closets and creating waste, we seek to re-create the timeless, essential garments in every guy’s closet using the world’s best high performance fabrics allowing him to own less, carry less, and experience more.

What are you most excited for in 2021?
Travel. Travel not only broadens our perceptions and view of the world, but it allows us to meet in-person with our suppliers, mills, and garment factories. Creating garments is such a hands-on business and I cannot wait to get back to doing it in-person. Travel also pushes us to consider why each garment exists in our line. The constraints of needing to pack in one small carry-on bag really highlights the most-versatile styles. Each new climate or destination presents a new challenge and really guides our thoughts on what pieces should exist in our line and where opportunities exist.

Last question: all the performance pants out there wear quite slim, but the fashion watchers say pants are going more relaxed — what do you think?
Fit is constantly changing. While I don’t prefer ultra-slim fitting pants, I do prefer creating pants that fit correctly. Maximum Versatility is always our North Star as we design products. Choosing a fit that flatters the body, can be dressed up or down, and allows the body to move will always be the most versatile. I do think the fashion landscape will trend a bit wider than it has in 2021 due to the demand for more comfort. If a brand is not using fabrics with a high stretch content, the only way to maintain comfort is to widen the fit. 

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

Interview with Will Watters, Co-Founder of Western Rise