Veilance, now no longer “Arc’teryx Veilance,” will only tell you something if you are into performance menswear.
Between the ups-and-downs of fashion, sustainability, and the question of personal style, it has been a fascination and favorite of mine.
Veilance celebrated its 10 year anniversary in 2019. It seems to be getting more popular – but I want to speak to another aspect of its performance, as non-fashion style and function, durability, and with all of that, sustainability.
Do You Need This?
The first aspect to consider in sustainability, after all, is if something is needed and good for its purpose. Or just a buy-and-toss piece of fast fashion.
T-shirts and jeans, suits or skirts – they may not seem like products that play a large role in our ecological impact.
In fact, the world of clothing has an outsize impact. And it’s something where our own consumption habits matter tremendously.
Can the World Take Fashion?
Just consider this:
“Textile production is one of the most polluting industries, producing 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent (CO2e) per year, which is more emissions than international flights and maritime shipping.”The price of fast fashion. Nature Climate Change volume 8, page1 (2018)
Average annual clothing consumption in the US has not risen since around 2000 – it “only” remains at 70 pieces of clothing per year.
The other side of this “constant:” Americans throw out some 80 pounds (40 kg) of textiles, mainly clothing, per year. Per person.
Your fashionable influencer who always looks stylish in their #ootd (outfit of the day) is now likely to order many of the clothes they show only to take photos and send the items back.
#ooed – Outfit of Every Day?
It is all a mess we are making with that. And it is the fault of both companies who have been pushing fast fashion, and people who believe that they always have to have the latest trend items, something new and cheap, mistaking that for democratized luxury.
Having our own “uniforms,” as the tech bros would have it (admittedly, a privilege of the male) or at least our own style would help tremendously. Using products that serve their purpose for a long time, all the better.
This is a big part of where my interest in performance menswear, aka techwear, comes from.
What Is Performance Menswear?
The idea behind performance menswear is taking special materials (as used in outdoors gear for their performance characteristics), using them with special patterns, and producing clothing that performs well and looks stylish-smart.
Sometimes, it gets a bit peculiarly “techwear”; often it goes for rather timeless looks.
It’s all been a bit… peculiar. Not the easiest to understand. But also, not meant to be for everyone. And considering that William “The Future is Already Here, It’s Just Not Evenly Distributed” Gibson was somewhat involved, well… That all fits.
In Veilance, there have been things which didn’t work out well.
I still remember those early Voronoi pants where the combination of material and seam tape meant that they folded into edges where holes appeared in them. Especially in the crotch. That was not good.
Jackets and Blazers
The jackets and blazers, instead, have been great examples of a touch of performance in smart clothing.
Field Jacket Experience
The “worst” that has happened with jackets over the years was that my original, normal, Field Jacket’s Gore-Tex delaminated in the hood, so that it was no longer waterproof.
It had already served me for some winters by then, however. And Veilance warranty replaced it – or rather, as I decided, let me upgrade (via a payment) to the Field Jacket IS that I now still have and use. And I already had when I worked in Beijing a few years back.
Experience with Blazers
The blazers are a bit diverse in performance. That is, they are not so focused on performance and special materials (especially since I – still? – do not have an Indisce blazer, which would be made of Gore-Tex Windstopper material).
Even the “normal” Veilance blazers, however, have a touch of the special.
The light LT versions for summer can be packed small, in the worst case still look good when wrinkled, and wear well in hot summers.
The Haedn Blazer looks like a classic heathered wool blazer, but has nice inner zippered pockets, one zippered pocket hidden behind the collar, and the collar that can be stood up for further protection, jacket-like, that I always missed on classic blazers.
These may be small things, but the combination of classic looks that don’t age (as long as the 1970’s wide lapels don’t make a comeback) and special touches make for a good feeling.
The feeling the wearer gets, the style and class expressed to others – they matter at least as much as the performance of the materials, the comfort and the cut.
Impressions of competence from faces predict important real-world outcomes… Presumed competence is associated with social status. … subtle economic status cues in clothes affect perceived competence from faces.Nature Human Behaviour (2019)
Field Overshirt, Unexpected Favorite
A strange piece became an unexpected favorite of mine for travel, the Field Overshirt.
Its material is just a dense-weave polyester, which is not bad at protecting from wind and a ligth drizzle, but not very protective, either.
Travel Support System
However, this also means that it can be worn in a wide range of conditions – which also applies to uses.
I came to like it for travel. There, the classic military-inspired four-pockets design of a Field Jacket is great for keeping one’s passport and smartphone and other essentials close by, be that on air travel, a train, or the way through a city.
This time in China, its style proved a real boon.
It was only too much “Mao suit”-like, so I sometimes looked more Communist in it than the Communist cadres I met while dressed in it.
It worked, though, because it cannot only be closed completely, the front can also be opened just enough to have a bit of a lapel.
Or it can be opened so much that it looks like a blazer – and served me as replacement for one, with white shirt and tie. From (faux) business suit to closed travel jacket protecting on cooler nights (and one’s travel essentials) – try that with your normal suit jacket.
Spec Pants / Field Pant – Stealth Shirt / Operand Shirt
My two (sets of) favorite pieces, which also talk to durability and timelessness, however, are Windstopper “cargo” pants and deceptively plain shirts.
That would be Spec pants and Stealth shirt from (eight?) years ago, soon after the beginnings of Veilance, and Field Pants and Operand Shirt from just two years ago.
In many regards, the new pieces are iterations of the old ones.
The Field Pants are again made in an angular cut, with extra pockets on the sides of one’s upper legs, from a Gore Windstopper material – just as the Spec Pants had been.
They are new among the select clothing I use; the Spec Pants have been with me for every winter since I got them – and they are still good now.
A bit of their color has faded, but that’s about it with problems. They still look good enough to wear for special occasions, and they still protect in winter cold.
Materials and cuts here have improved, however. The Field Pant is a rather nicer piece. If it lasts as long again, which it looks set to do, it will be good all through the beginning decade.
The Operand Shirt received a cut that somehow doesn’t work as well for me as that of the old Stealth Shirt. It tends to hike up, out of my trousers. But, well, it’s not like there weren’t any other shirts that did that.
Not many other shirts are made in a nice greenish colorway, of a material that includes Kevlar in its mix. It is a bit odd in its feel on the skin, rather better layered with a thin shirt underneath, but it can be worn in all but the hottest summer, I find.
The Stealth shirt was more experimental in its design, not least with the zippers for opening the cuff, but works just as well (and better, without the hiking-up) as a dressy shirt.
The material has held up tremendously well; all I can see is a slight fading above the snap buttons and, inside, seam tape starting to come off.
In my experience, then, these are items of clothing to wear for – literally – more than a decade.
This is the performance I was looking for. And it makes the high prices of those pieces a good value*. At least, whenever it’s possible to afford anything…
(*Expensive they are, but mainly compared to cheap clothing. Not, compared to luxury brand’s pieces, even if those are sold at a discount. Especially when those are made to be wearable for just their specific season.)