Five Decades of Fleece

Like the hoodie and increasingly the baseball cap, the fleece is a garment that can transcend individual style tribes and indeed wider sections of society. With autumn now very much in the air (and on the ground, conker fans) we thought it was time to pay homage to the fleece, examining its roots and suggesting a few you might like to add to your autumnal armoury.

We love a good portmanteau here at Proper, never more strongly evidenced by our own brand Hikerdelic. Over at Patagonia though, perhaps predictably, they were messing about with wordplay almost fifty years ago. Their development of a new fabric with Maiden Mills of Massachusetts resulted in the advent of synchilla, a synthetic chinchilla fur substitute. This South American rodent is known for having the most dense fur of all mammals, with around 20,000 hairs per square inch. Historically, natives of the Andes used this fur for clothing at high altitude, where staying warm was a necessity. But they’re pretty cute and even back in the 1970s no right-minded outdoorsman wanted to end a little furball that was largely minding its own business.

Yet it seems there were plenty who weren’t right-minded, and despite efforts in regards to conservation, the chinchilla has been hunted to near-extinction in the wild, so don’t be getting any ideas about getting an authentic fleece made from chinchilla fur. Synchilla is the way forward.

Patrick McCloskey wearing one of the earliest examples of fleece, via

Maiden Mills eventually developed their first fleece fabric in the late 1970s, releasing products with Patagonia. This would come to provide an alternative to wool products, which were prone to holding water and difficult to clean. Reputedly, the waterproof quality of acrylic pile fabric saw it used in the home, sometimes in the bathroom. Repurposing this, using samples from his own archive, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard popularised the fleece. Though it solved some problems it created others, being made from synthetic fabric, so eventually a recycled version was developed, using plastic bottles.

Fleece also found favour as a lining fabric.
Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard was always a pioneer with conservation in mind.

The developmental nature of fleece fabric means it continually evolves, with new methods employed by the sharp end of expertise in clothing manufacture.

Whether you see the fleece as something market town Mums wear as they shop for cut price school uniforms, or you’re of a more outdoorsy mentality and see its merits in the wild, the fleece is very much here to stay, finding favour in all segments of society. No wardrobe is complete with a fleece, so if you’re short of such a garment, you should probably increase the fleece.

Patagonia Classic Retro X-Fleece
A warm and windproof 100% polyester (50%-85% recycled) bonded ΒΌ”-pile fleece jacket for cool, blustery weather. Made in a Fair Trade Certified™ factory.
Take a closer look here

Kavu Teannaway Fleece
From a brand with similarly pragmatic roots to Patagonia, Kavu have had a good go at making their Teannaway Fleece a standout example of eyecatching outerwear done well.
See this version and more here

SNS Seasonals Fuji Fleece Jacket
Treading the fine line between bingo Nan and King of Cool, this from the in-house offering of Sneakers N Stuff is a winner.
Get it here

Topo Designs Sherpa Jacket
Another brand that owes a debt to Patagonia for its formative work is Topo Designs. The Colorado brand known for its hardy bags also does a good line in clothing, such as this teddy bear brown effort, which is also reversible and boasts a shell fabric on the reverse.
Get it here

Ralph Lauren Chest Pocket Fleece Jacket
American brands with an appreciation for the fleece aren’t limited to the outdoor lifestyle, rugged types. Preppy Kings Ralph Lauren aren’t shy of the outdoors, of course, but in this example of the fleece they’ve employed a more austere cut and it creates something you could wear to a christening or court appearance in the Lake District. A strong look.
Get it here

Universal Works Mountain Fleece Lancaster Jacket
Proof that the fleece isn’t exclusively the domain on the Americana aesthetic, Universal Works have built a cool cardigan out of this durable fabric. This is the sort of thing you could wear as you demolish a club sandwich at a jazz club on your day off. Something like that, anyway.
Get it here

Lacoste Relaxed Polar Fleece Zip Through Sweatshirt
Even if you’re one of those fussy types and you’re Lacoste Intolerant (sorry!), you can’t fail to be drawn to this from renowned croc rockers, Lacoste.
Get it here

Hikerdelic Acid Rain Fleece
What’s this, more self-indulgence? And what? What you gonna do, tell your Dad? Hikerdelic is our brand, Proper is our website, why shouldn’t we connect the dots once in a while? This is a limited edition too, as is a lot of our stuff.
Get it here

Cotopaxi Abrazo Fleece
This is made in Cambodia, at reputedly one of the best factories there is for this type of product, and one celebrated for its energy efficiency and sustainability. No point bagging yourself something this nice if it has quite literally cost the earth. Thankfully this hasn’t, not literally or metaphorically.
Get it here

Patagonia Microdini Pullover Fleece
We end as we began, with Patagonia, pioneers of pile, spearheaders of synchilla and perhaps the coolest brand in the world. This fleece of theirs is proof – as if we needed it – that 3 colour clothing is usually better than 2 colour clothing.
Get it here

Mark Smith

I had pizza for tea.

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