Review of Thunderbolt Sportswear’s Softshell Jeans Mark 2 and Agility Hoodie, after half a year of use – and thoughts around athleisure.
When Thunderbolt Sportswear first came out with its softshell jeans, some notions of technical or performance men’s wear were already around. Arc’teryx had started the Veilance line, for example; Outlier was making the OG pants meant for urban bicycle commutes.
Thunderbolt Sportswear, though, made those jeans a bit less technical or minimalist/high-fashion in look, and even advertised them as (potential) climbing jeans…
Since then, a term and a trend have made the rounds and become one of the hottest notions in the fashion business: “athleisure,” the combination of athletic and leisure wear… which has basically come to mean yoga pants, and preferably $400 yoga pants, worn, if not to the office, then at least around town.
It seems to be such a hot trend because it means that, for example, athletic lifestyle brands can market their goods for more than just the sports they are (ostensibly) intended for… yet again.
After all, it’s not so different from what had happened when The North Face jackets had become popular among rappers and suddenly turned into urban gangsta’s favorite pieces.
High-fashion brands can wrap themselves in a bit more levity again and go for sneakers and track suit-like designs without being told they are copying the worst of circa the 1980’s.
And of course, hip people can present their sportiness on the way from grocery shopping to gym classes.
Both come together with the continuing rise of brands which are innovative and which apparently capture a certain zeitgeist, such as Lululemon and Under Armour.
There are, of course, strange “abuses” of these notions, too.
Sometimes, it almost starts to look like the pajamas that people laugh about some Chinese wearing out on the street are suddenly turning fashionable in the form of yoga wear (and there, China itself is often waging a battle against that, in the usual spirit of creating a “civilized city/society”).
Sometimes, it seems just another way of “enclothing” oneself in an aura of sportiness while driving an SUV, and nothing but an additional way for brands to expand their market shares and increase their prices.
As much as it is all, of course, also about marketing – be that by brands in order to drive sales, or by people in order to present a (life)style lived or aspired to – it is also making some sense.
Certainly, the sense we make of it.
Sometimes, after all, technical and performance aspects of materials, clear lines and athletic looks, and function as both fashion and practical clothing come together nicely – nevermind the new and silly label.
This is how I return to Thunderbolt Sportswear, now that they are in the first year of their relaunch.
The old pair of softshell jeans from them, I paid for myself (after convincing them to send them to me in China); the new things, they sent me (and I still had to pay import duties and taxes, which I gladly did).
They are not athleisure in the making-fun-of-it sense of the label, these two products work.
The hoodie, of course, is less flexible in style. It is a hoodie, after all.
It’s cut nicely athletically though, and its softshell is just the right combination of thin but wind- and water-resistant material to keep comfortable and look unobtrusively sporty-sharp (with a touch of Mr. Robot‘s Elliot) in the difficult-to-dress-for weather conditions when it’s getting so cold and rainy that protection is needed, but not yet cold enough that serious insulation is required.
(The material does have an unfortunate tendency for threads to be drawn out, quite similar to the way fleece ‘pills’, but they can be pulled out or carefully cut away completely without issue.)
When I don’t want to be in a blazer but to go for a seriously sportive look, yet retain clean lines and clear (non-)colors, the Agility Hoodie has become a go-to piece. And it’s nice lounging around at home, just as well.
Softshell (“Original, Mark 2”) Jeans
The jeans continue with the classical jeans cut and five-pocket design, made from Schoeller softshell with Nanosphere – and a look that works with the sportiness of the hoodie same as with the style of a blazer.
They continue to be probably the most comfortable pair of pants you could possibly wear – and wear whether you go on a bike tour, a hike, your commute, a journey, a climb, to a café or to the office.
The Thunderbolt Sportswear softshell jeans, I can hardly even say anything more about anymore: Whether working in the garden, traveling somewhere, going about my daily work, or dressing up for an occasion, I’m in either my old or my new pair of those… and often enough, going straight from garden work to public outings, just brushing them off.
Check it all out on ThunderboltSportswear.com