Summer Gear Blair Braverman Doesn’t Hate
Blair hates to be cold. She also hates to be hot. But our grouchiest gear reviewer doesn't hate these clothes.
I feel like my standards are reasonable. All I expect from summer clothing is that it fits perfectly, feels like pajamas, holds up to vigorous abrasion, keeps me cool and protected at the same time, and looks amazing. Lots of products excel at one of these things and maybe even get my hopes up with three or four, only to fail spectacularly in another category and break my heart. I can’t count how many times I’ve flopped in the shade on my Wisconsin farm while overheating in stiff work pants or found supercomfy shorts that ripped the first time I walked too close to a fence post. While I have my winter uniform pretty well figured out with my beloved wool long underwear and down skirts, I’ve never reached that kind of comfort with summer clothing.
You know how your loved ones get in your head sometimes? Whenever I make a statement that includes the word “never,” my husband shouts from wherever he is in the house, “Yet!” He’s right, of course. I’ve never reached that kind of comfort with summer clothing—yet. But I’m working on it! Here are three things that are changing my mind by knocking every single standard out of the park.
Duluth Trading Co. Women’s Armachillo Cooling Bootcut Pants ($85, sizes 4 to 26)
I have a love-hate relationship with pants, by which I mean that I recognize their utility but usually hate them. I live in leggings, snow pants, and long johns in winter, then skip abruptly to skirts and bike shorts when temperatures rise above 50, because another thing I hate is being too hot. But unfortunately I live in tick central and spend hours each day working in grass to feed, clean, and play with my sled dogs during their off-season. Even if I didn’t need them for tick prevention, long pants provide the sort of protection I need for farm work, lest my legs get even more scratched than they already constantly are.
For summer months, I’ve tried it all: leggings (they catch on stuff; mosquitoes bite through them), canvas work pants (they’re hot and slow to dry when I accidentally pour buckets of water on myself), and wind pants (they’re noisy and clammy). I had just about given up hope when I came upon the Armachillos.
These are, at first glance, pretty simple pants. They cover your legs. They have pockets. They sit flat at the waist with a handy drawstring. Apparently the four-way-stretch nylon is infused with tiny pieces of cooling jade, and I have no idea how that works, nor do I care to learn. That’s because my experience of these pants is less about the pants themselves than all the things I don’t have to think about when I’m wearing them. In the weeks since I started using these for my daily chores, I haven’t gotten a bad scrape or found a tick on my skin once. I have full range of motion. My legs don’t get too hot, even on the warmest days. I don’t have to pull the pants up or adjust the waistband, even after sitting on the ground or clambering over fences. In fact, I completely forget about them. Which, for me, is the closest I can get to loving a pair of pants.
Mohinders Woven Flat ($145, sizes 5 to 10)
I wear a size 11 in shoes, but I tested Mohinders’ woven flat in a size ten (the brand’s largest women’s option) as instructed by the website, which suggests ordering a size smaller than normal to account for stretching. The flats are handmade in India using traditional techniques and water buffalo leather. They arrive in a woven bag with instructions for breaking them in and a warning that they won’t fit right away, which is good, because squeezing my feet into them for the first time was distinctly painful. I followed instructions, spraying a 50-50 blend of water and rubbing alcohol on the shoes before wearing them around the house with socks in 15-minute intervals, occasionally doing burpees for maximum foot flexing. I don’t have any tattoos, but I imagine breaking in these sandals gave me a similar sense of purpose and accomplishment: I am enduring this discomfort as an investment in my future self. I’m doing this for me.
It worked, because after a week or so, these flats became my favorite warm-weather shoes for casual use: walking, errands, travel, concerts, and so on. The woven leather formed into a kind of second skin that fits perfectly and moves with my feet, so I don’t even want to take them off when I come inside. And it seems strange to say, but I feel like myself in the Mohinders in a way that I normally don’t in flats. They’re simultaneously striking and unobtrusive, plain and beautiful. They remind me of trees.
Icebreaker Cool-Lite Impulse Training Shorts ($80, sizes XS to XL)
It may seem hyperbolic to call these shorts the most comfortable summer garment I’ve ever worn, but it’s true. I’m sorry, because $80 is ridiculous for shorts, but if I were rich I would buy ten more pairs. Look, I like stretchy shorts—and I’m a fan of the layered athletic styles, because they give you full coverage in all positions and offer a bit more modesty than plain old bike shorts. But these styles are usually polyester, and one of the rules of having a crotch is that you don’t wear polyester underwear lest you want to play Russian roulette with yeast infections. Especially, god forbid, when it’s hot out. Enter Icebreaker’s training shorts. The outer layer is made of whisper-thin stretch nylon, but the inner short—a wicking combo of merino and Tencel—is where the magic happens. These shorts don’t get clammy. They don’t get sticky. They are exceptionally cozy, and they keep your crotch completely fresh on even the hottest, most humid summer days. They are the holy grail.