Long thought the reserve of garden centre employees and elderly market town lurkers, the majestic fleece has made gallant strides toward the mainstream in recent years, and we should all count our blessings that we’re living in the age of polyester pile pandemonium.
That being said, choosing the right fleece for the right situation can be a total minefield without proper understanding of the field of Fleeceology. Consider this Pica~Picks your first class.
At the top, who else but Patagonia? They might not necessarily hold the title of ‘Fleece Founding Fathers’ (that honour goes to Malden Mills) but considering how hard they backed it in the 80s, they’re the crew we think of when we think of fleece.
This one here is a modernised version of their classic Retro X jacket. Not only is it softer than a particularly-soft bag of lambs, it’s got that classic, ‘weather-beaten Colorado hiker taking it easy on the front porch’ look about it that deserves repeat servings.
Unlike a lot of ‘outdoor’ brands who’s connection with the natural world is once having taken an out-of-focus 35mm photograph of some flowers in the local park, Fjällräven’s outdoor credentials are absolutely unquestionable. You need only look at something like this Vardag Pile Fleece to see why.
Zips in all the right places… raglan sleeves for added manoeuvrability… contrasting panel pocketry… just be careful with the Lingonberry jam around the white fabric and you could easily see out a winter in the Scandinavian wildness with this as your liner jacket.
Just like how you can make a decent lemon cake with chickpea water instead of eggs, you don’t have to utilise synthetic materials to make a damn fine fleece. This one from Snow Peak was made from wool, which gives it a slightly more rustic feel that calls to mind gentlemen explorers.
Alright, there’s nothing Shackleton-esque about that forward-thinking, highly-Japanese design, but you get the picture.
Note the curvature of those pockets too – someone knows their way around a calliper.
Regardless of where the colour inspo came from, there’s no denying this is a zesty specimen indeed, and should be prime for when you when you quickly need to flag down Mountain Rescue after getting lost up Kinder Scout.
And then there’s this Boa Fleece Jacket from orSlow. The contrasting panels and olive green hue bring an armoury’s worth of military flavour to the table, but like most hard-cases, this is a big softie at heart, thanks to some dangerously-fluffy fleece fabric.
Plunge your head into you screen and rub your face on it. Feels good, right?
Unless writing off a pair of white plimsoles every week is your idea of a good time, you’re going to want to invest in a pair of heavy-duty stompers to tackle dire winter weather.
So here you go, another bumper list of serious footwear.
And before you ask, ‘serious footwear’ is our catch-all term for shoes purpose-built for outdoor abuse. Some are fully-fledged hiking boots, some are technical trainers, a few sit somewhere betwixt, but all are guaranteed to make trips outside a little less miserable.
Strolling into frame first are these Raid Wind 75 trainers from Salomon.
Salomon is a pretty fresh name to the Oi Polloi register, but they’ve been churning out ingenious footwear for 75 years (as the moniker suggests) and have pioneered a lot of tech that’s revolutionised loads of outdoor activities – from skiing to whatever the hell trail running is.
The latter pastime was presumably in mind when the Salomon design crew sat down and pencilled these into existence, but thanks to the eye-catching colour combo and the all-important drawcord lacing system (which should save you countless tie-tying hours), these are just as prime for everyday endeavours too.
Next up, these Everest Boots from regal ramblers Diemme.
Ideal for when dirt paths end and gold-paved streets begin, these ooze the kind-of unbridled luxury usually dished out by bespoke shoemakers, and while maybe not the best choice for full-blown mega hikes, should see you right when ascending the mountains of splendour.
While they certainly look like walking boots from the halcyon days of outdoor gear, these Fracap Otto boots aren’t your typical old-world clunkers – thanks to the ingenious inclusion of some Vibram soles, they’re pretty light on their feet, making them easier to wear than most boots.
And with those mocc-toes and high-class leather thrown into the mix, those hankering for that ‘Michael Corleone larking about in Sicily’ look shouldn’t be disappointed.
No slapdash list of serious footwear would be complete without the inclusion of the Danner Mountain Light. These hardy spine-breakers have been in active duty for over 30 years, and even though the world of outdoor footwear has made plenty of sci-esque technological strides in the subsequent years, the fairly-acoustic Mountain Light is still enjoys a reputation as the Big Kahuna Burger of indestructible hiking boots.
So yeah… as far as ‘serious’ footwear goes, these might just be the most straight-faced.
While big ol’ mammal-crushing boots are all well and good, sometimes proceedings call for something a bit more manoeuvrable – that’s where the Keen Jaspar II things come in.
With the thought-provoking toe-to-tongue lacing system and ultra-lightweight soles, these have a real ‘light-footed’ quality to them once thought the sole preserve of the climbing shoe realm, but with the help of some Engineered Garments design-tinkery and a smattering of sturdy suede, you won’t look like B-roll footage of Stallone in Cliffhanger when you’re out doing whatever it is you do.
To the untrained eye, these Paraboot Yosemite boots might look like another entry in the ‘gentlemen stroller’ category, but if we peel back the well-groomed curtain and we’ll find a pair of stout slammers that can hold their own with the best of ‘em.
It’s all down to something called a Blake welt – without getting too carried away with nerdy detail chat, this thing makes the sole unit far more flexible than its rubber contemporaries and makes them far less cumbersome to boot… no pun intended.
Made from a heady triptych of leather, ripstop and Gore-Tex, with some of the phatest soles we’ve ever seen outside of the novelty shoe shop, these really are the running shoes of the future, and while there’s nowt wrong with old-world running trainers, the U Bondi L GTX are actually built to last, and won’t fall apart after a quick canter to the tram stop.
Wrapping things up, we’ve got a certified Oi Polloi classic… the Mephisto Rainbow. These things have been a constant fixture on the OP shoe rack for about as long as we’ve had a shoe rack, and unless something terrible happens (like if the world exhausts its wood reserves and the production of shoe racks is forever halted), the centrepiece of our shoe rack they will remain.
To be honest, if you’ve followed us for any amount of time you should own at least two hundred pairs of these, but if you need a sign to finally chase the rainbow, let this be it.
We’re not trying to replicate the macabre timbre of Donald Pleasence narrating a creepy 70s public service announcement here, but as we plummet deeper into the depths of winter, it’s worth keeping in mind a hard-wearing, heat-hoarding jacket is often the only thing between you and an icy grave.
Not many jackets fit this bill better than the ones that’ve been stuffed to the gills with down, so here’s a particularly-stacked roster of down-insulated outerwear that should lead you to toasty salvation.
Up first we’ve got this choice cut from Patagonia – the Downdrift Jacket. It’s basically an ultra-wearable, zero-fuss, DWR-doused down jacket that’ll get its proverbial head down in most situations, with a heaped tablespoon of 70s outerwear spice mix thrown in to help things go down even smoother.
And considering this has been made from salvaged fishing nets and recycled down from unsold products, we’ll doff our caps to Patagonia and their eco-commitments too.
Second on the list we’ve got this zestily-hued specimen from Tretorn. This lot are mainly known for their superb rain-dodging garb, but in a plot twist no one suspected, they’re actually dab hands at heat-hoarders as well.
And yeah, that azure blue paint job is quite the retina tonic too.
Fjällräven have been making variations of the Expedition Down Jacket since 1974, and almost three hundred years later it’s still a mighty fine way to stay warm in even the harshest conditions.
This version here is the Expedition Down Lite. The basic recipe remains unchanged, it’s just been toned down a bit to better suit civilian excursions. Unless your daily commute takes you through some perilous Arctic tundra (and even then), this will be more than enough.
We’re not sure how they’ve swung this (a shady backroom deal with Lucifer seems like the only viable explanation), but these two have managed to make this packable while still retaining the heat-hoarding qualities of a burly mountain parka, meaning that if you theoretically can’t stand the heat, you can actually get out of the kitchen.
It’s massive, it’s shaded exactly like the American, banned-in-Europe variation of Fanta, and – dare we say it – it looks just as good as the jacket it’s based on (although we can’t be sure the Eddie Bauer legal team shares our enthusiasm).
Picture a film where a weather-beaten Robert Mitchum (or Christopher George, if the budget’s tight) plays an ageing stevedore who’s strong-armed into ratting on his union pals by a pair of seedy DEA agents in exchange for a reduced jail sentence – our world-weary protagonist would be wearing this during the scene where he tearily confesses his snitching to his closest compatriot.
If that doesn’t sell it to you, God knows what will.
We’ve had a few of these over the years, but the top-billed Crinkle Rep stuff – and the eye-catching, uneven hues it produces– never fails to floor us with its crispy texture and waterproof/windproof properties.
This one here comes in that unmistakable shade of pink made famous by perfectly-mixed strawberry Müller Corners.
Have you heard the good news? Yep, the Ministry of Footwear has officially decreed it’s warm enough to wear sandals from dusk ‘till dawn. Here’s some we’re into…
Up first… these classy numbers from Paraboot. They’re called the Pacific, and that’s exactly what they remind us of… the year was 1979, and we spent the entire summer strolling the picturesque beaches of Peru, the piquant taste of Pisco on our tongues, working on a small fishing vessel with a wizened old man called Hector by day and writing the most important novel of the twentieth century by night… Of course, this never happened, but it can’t be denied that thanks to a potent combination of a classic design and top-of-the-range leather, these doozies stir powerful (albeit in our case, imagined) emotions indeed.
Meanwhile, there’s the Chacos Z1 Classic – which are Oi Polloi exclusives, by the way – living a life less ordinary, scrambling about on rocks and careening down wild rivers with Kevin Bacon and Meryl Streep. Of course, you don’t have to be some Bear Grylls-style nutbag to appreciate these – with those cushioned outsoles and the highly-comfortable, patented ‘Z-strap’ systems, normal people such as yourself should find plenty of use for them as well.
There ain’t no point doing a list of sandals without the including the humble Birkenstock Arizona. Considered by many to be the quintessential sandal, the Birkenstock Arizona has been looking after bunion-ridden feet since 1963, and even though humanity has made many strides in technology since then, there’s still few finer ways to keep proceedings relaxed than these. And before you say anything… yes, we know they look mega with a pair of socks.
The Keen Uneek should stir a bit of debate among the scholars – some of you might categorise these as sandals, some of you might insist that they’re actually shoes, but there’s space aplenty in the bipartisan meeting room for us to all agree that they’re 100% mint. The hues on these things are always something else, and this pair is no exception. If Agent Dale Cooper spent his free time larking by the lake, these would definitely be his novelty-sized cup of joe.
And these Fracap Sandals bring us nicely to that ‘unhinged New Hollywood filmmaker huffing hashish and losing their head in a seedy Tangiers watering hole’ vibe we’re so fond of. Made in the pancetta-scented zone of Italy, they’re made from supple nubuck, and due to Fracap’s world-renowned rubber soles, the chance of slapstick-style pratfalls are slim-to-none.
Wrapping things up, there’s these Nerio Scratch sandals from Mephisto. Detractors may argue these look conspicuously similar to another pair of sandals on this list, but since when was that a bad thing? In the same way that Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2 is just as good as Dawn of the Dead, these really stand on their own, despite of their… errr… obvious inspiration.
Not quite enough sandalry to satiate your cravings? Here’s some more…
We know your recycling bins are only just recovering from Storm Ciara’s recent battering, but trust us when we say it’ll soon be time for you to stow away those rugged winter stompers and slip back into a pair of trainers. Speaking of trainers, here’s a couple we think are decent…
While not a whole lot of fun, the hallowed sport of running has birthed some really stellar trainers. Just take these SL80 trabs from adidas for example. Based on an unreleased women’s version of the hallowed Super Light Runner (which have been locked away in the adidas archive since their release in 1980), these are all the things a humanoid could ever want from a running shoe. And the best part is, they’re just as good for walking as they are for running. Phew.
Next up we’ve got these proper bonkers React Visons from uncle Nike. Apparently inspired by both “Alebrijes – mythical creatures from the fever dreams of Mexican folk artists” and poison dart frogs, these are the kind-of trainers bang-on for the forward-thinking man on the move who also likes to participate in peyote-soaked drum circles from time to time. A real individual option.
The Reebok Workout needs no introduction. Beloved by pretty much anyone with feet, the Workout is one of the few trainers that deserves classic status in the Trainer Hall of Fame… you know, if the Trainer Hall of Fame existed. Not bad for a bit of leather and rubber.
These G80s from Lacsote a bit of a long lost courtside classic. First released in, you guessed it, the 80s, the G80 is a prime slice of the slightly-techy tennis shoe vibe that dominated the era. And, unlike most, they’ve aged remarkably well. Anyway, these tick all the imaginary boxes when it comes to tennis shoes – they’re white (well, ecru if you’re being fancy), they’re mighty comfortable and they’ll look good with just about everything.
And finally, we’ve got the hallowed New Balance M1500. There’s not much that really needs to be said about these. Chunky enough to to put up with stick ‘till you’re old and grey, sleek enough to be worn out to fancy eateries and stuff, it’s easy to see why we’ve been sweet on the ol’ 1500 for so long.