Pop quiz: name one high-end designer brand that hasn’t recently added some sort of fleece jacket to their menswear roster. Struggling? That’s probably because there isn’t one. A few years back, the only way fleece would be inescapable was if you had somehow become trapped at an ornithological convention. Now it’s everywhere. In just a few short seasons, thick-pile outerwear has leapt from the shoulders of your old high-school geography teacher and onto every fashion-mag front page, haute-couture runway and streetwear Instagram account worth their salt. It’s the new dad shoe, or mom jean – a fundamentally uncool garment, repurposed and revived by the fashion world’s propensity for ironic statements.
Only, it’s not just irony anymore. Fleece has passed that point now, and the more we wear it, the more we come to genuinely appreciate it. It’s light, it’s warm, and it’s delightfully retro. It adds depth and texture to an outfit and popping one on feels like a hug from a friendly bear. Who wouldn’t want a fleece jacket?
Three Ways To Wear A Fleece Jacket
At its core, the best fleece jackets are outdoorsy garments. Fleece was first developed by outdoor clothing and with the hiking trend still on the ascent, it’s possible to wear one in its intended manner and still make it look good. Starting from the ground up, get yourself some mountain-worthy footwear. Luxury leather hiking boots if you’re thinking classic, or teched-out trail runners if you’re thinking contemporary. Trouser-wise, a pair of regular-fit cargo trousers cuffed to just above the ankles should do the trick, particularly if chosen in black, khaki or navy blue. For the main event, go retro. Patagonia is the king of fleece jackets, known for its thick-pile, throwback goodness. And in terms of the colour, cream is always a safe bet. Tie it together with a mini roll beanie and you’re good to go.
Workwear is one of the cornerstones of modern menswear, and layering is one of the cornerstones of workwear. When the mercury begins to drop, there are worse styles to deck your wardrobe out in, and it just so happens that fleece jackets sit very comfortably within the workwear sphere. Start off with a fleece jacket, minus the sleeves. This might sound counterintuitive when trying to stay warm, but the reduced bulk will make it easier to pile (no pun intended) the layers on. Speaking of which, underneath the gilet, wear a thin base layer, like a tee or long-sleeve, and a thicker layer on top. A crew-neck or a hoodie would work well.
For the outer layer, a chore jacket is the obvious choice. Just ensure you buy a size big enough to fit everything underneath. One size up from normal should do the trick. Finish off with some straight-leg raw denim jeans and a pair of leather work boots to bring the look together.
Traditionally, fleece jackets were a pretty dull affair. However, since high fashion has got its claws into this fluffy fabric, things have been getting a lot more interesting. Bold patterns, vivid colour blocking and even graphic designs can now be seen everywhere. Fleece has gone statement, and handled with care it can be a solid way to add some spice to your winter wardrobe. As is always the case with any sort of statement garment, the key to pulling it off successfully lies in ensuring the rest of the look is subtle and stripped back. The outfit accompanying the statement fleece should serve as a sort of blank canvas. Think low-key staples, in muted tones or neutrals. All black is always a good option, and it leaves the door open for many different types of footwear. Go for a leather boot in inclement weather or some techy tonal trainers in more favourable conditions.
The Best Brands For Fleece Jackets
The North Face
You can’t talk about outdoor brands without mentioning The North Face. The Cali-born mountaineering label has grown to become the most recognisable in the world, and fleece has been a staple since the beginning. The Denali fleece is TNF’s signature style, complete with a hefty dose of street cred thanks to a long-running collab with Supreme.
Patagonia’s Synchilla (synthetic chinchilla) material was the original fleecy fabric. No wonder, then, that the outdoor label’s fleece jackets are considered to be the original and best. Heavy on build quality and retro styling, Patagonia’s woolly warmers count everyone from seasoned alpinists to fashion-savvy influencers among their proponents, and for very good reason.
Sheffield, South Yorkshire. Hardly the Himalayas and yet it’s home to one of the most respected mountaineering brands on the face of the Earth. Rab entered the arena on the merits of its down jackets and sleeping bags, but fleeces weren’t far behind. Designs tend to be performance focussed and lightweight, but don’t be surprised to see the odd heavy, retro-tinged option here and there, too.
Two things we know about Sweden: it’s cold, and they like minimalist garb there. Combine those dual nuggets of knowhow and it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to learn that the Swedes know their way around a fashion-friendly fleece jacket. If you’re a baller, Acne Studios is probably the way to go, but for the rest of us, high-street newcomer Arket has got it covered.
Aime Leon Dore
Increasingly, streetwear and fleece are going hand in hand. No one brand is currently evidencing this better than New York’s Aime Leon Dore. Teddy Santis’ colourful collections have opened streetwear up to a new audience and jazzy, colour-block fleece jacket are quickly becoming one of its signature autumn/winter pieces.
For that fleecy workwear flex, no brand is doing a better job at delivering the goods than Carhartt WIP. A more fashion-focused version of the American workwear heavyweight, WIP (Work In Progress) takes its elder sibling’s commitment to making long-lasting gear and adds a dash of streetwear flavour. Expect a chunky pile, the odd camo print and build quality that is second-to-none for the price.
Inspired by “the cities and countryside of the American north east,” Brooklyn-born Adsum has been making waves in the world of contemporary menswear of late. It has also been making some rather attractive fleeces composed from both lightweight Polartec fabric and more robust, heavyweight material. These are fleece jackets you can wear down the pub without worrying about receiving any birdwatcher jibes from your mates.
For budget-conscious fleece fanatics, there are worse places to shop than Japanese high-street heavyweight Uniqlo. The brand’s trademark balance of quality and affordability has made it a firm favourite of ours, and with fleece-heavy collabs from the likes of Engineered Garments and JW Anderson, it’s clear that Uniqlo is a retailer that takes its fleece jackets seriously.
Is there anything quintessential British luxury brand Burberry won’t slap their trademark tartan on? If the fleeces are anything to go by then apparently not. It’s a bold look and certainly not for everyone, but if you’ve got the balls and the Benjamins to pull it off then more power to you.
Everything Woolrich produces it does so with the utmost attention to detail. Its outerwear is among the finest money can buy, and its fleece jackets, which are often made from hard-wearing Polartec fabric, are some of the best designed around. Expect plenty of zipped pockets, ribbed cuffs and hidden details such as drawstring waists.