Last year, when I wrote about a pair of bike pants from Outlier clothing, I noted the company's products are made for a "small, affluent market niche." Indeed, Outlier's tagline--"Tailored performance clothing for cycling in the city"--nods to the New York City-based company's theme of design that treads a line where fashion and function can tentatively meet.
The clothing, which is made with expensive, high-performing fabrics, could appeal to gritty urban fixie types as well as pretty hipster boys (and girls) hoping to borrow the look. To me, the Outlier clothing line (outlier.cc) seems to take cues from bike-courier culture while adding classic dressy cuts and subdued looks you might see in the world of fashion and design. Performance--breathability, durability, and "wearability" on a bike -- is there, too.
All these traits come together in the company's Classic Merino Hoodie, which, at a sky-high $225, is out of reach for most workaday bikers. Like the company's 4Season OG bike pants--a $180 product that are essentially performance dress pants--the Merino Hoodie offers a unique hybrid piece that can do double duty in social situations as well as during moderate physical activity, like riding a bike to work.
I got a Classic Merino Hoodie to try out for a couple months last year. Since October, I have worn it riding and simply going about daily life. The Merino Hoodie, made from a fine New Zealand wool with a hint of nylon added in, is undoubtedly nice. It is warm, breathable, soft, and good looking.
The drawstring hood is large and floppy, made to fit over or under a helmet. The two-way zipper lets you regulate ventilation while on a ride. Beyond that, the Classic has few bike-specific features but works fine for commuting or casual riding around town.
A similar product is the Cobra Hoodie from Chrome Industries, also made of merino wool top. It costs $160 and has a slightly rougher feel to the outer fabric, though it doesn't itch inside. There is a soft "fleeced backing" on the interior, which is warm and cozy on bare skin.
Like the Outlier hoodie, the also-pricey Chrome (chromebagsstore.com) wicks and keeps you warm. It's good for performance for sweaty commutes on cool days.
Extra touches on the Chrome include front hand-warmer pockets, thumb loops on the cuffs, a key pocket on the wrist area, and a large jersey-type cargo pocket with a concealed zipper on back.
The Chrome fits tighter than the Outlier and is more performance-minded. But the Outlier has a subtler, higher-end look and doesn't scream "bike wear" as much as the Chrome piece might. If you can afford it, either of these hoodies is a solid top for cool days in a city, on and off a bike.
--Stephen Regenold writes about outdoors gear at www.gearjunkie.com.