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It’s Time to Kill the Fleece Quarter-Zip

The perennial menswear staple is passé — and you can do better

Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported on the hot market for vintage Patagonia fleece jackets. You know, those faux-wool, boxy zip-ups and quarter-zips that give off the impression you might know how to ski.

Vintage Patagonia’s success comes during a hallmark few years for the outdoor gear company. No longer is the label associated with adventurous Rocky Mountain hikers: It’s now the province of Brooklyn athleisure influencers braving little more than outdoor dining under a heat lamp in the pandemic. Wearing Patagonia is also a sartorial signal of being politically progressive; wearers support a company that sued the Trump administration in 2017 for reducing national monuments and stitched the phrase “Vote the asshole out” on clothing tags.

So, for $175 on the vintage outdoor clothing site Orbital Outdoors, you can get an original ’95 Patagonia Anatolia: Condor patterned fleece and feel good about shopping sustainably. Becoming a fraternity-boy label (alongside Vineyard Vines and Sperry) is an impressive pivot for a brand whose in-fashion menswear cred was zilch just four years ago.

What happened? In 2018, CNBC reported finance and tech bros were driving fleece sales, which were up 700 percent over a three-year period.

These intentionally piling synthetic jackets are so ubiquitous that both Midtown Manhattan finance bros and even Bushwick art gays now wear Patagonia fleece, though in widely different patterns. (In fact, one of the few benefits of working from home in the pandemic is avoiding said finance bros in company-branded Patagonia fleece overtop blue gingham shirts.)

Now, however, we’ve grown too comfortable with fleece quarter-zips. Everlane, REI and even Chubbies all sell versions of the iconic Patagonia jacket. For the sake of good style, we can’t let Patagonia continue to pull the wool over our eyes. It’s time to quell the fleece quarter-zip’s sartorial stronghold.

I’ve got nothing against Patagonia. It seems to be one of the few commercial retailers that understand how to harness corporate power (and consumer dollars) to actually politically support their Middle American customer base. However, these quarter-zips are a stain on wintertime menswear. Even in a year where we’re spending more time outside and colorful, hefty statement coats are trendy, dudes are working way too hard to make the fleece an everyday item. In January, they walk their dogs through Prospect Park in a fleece quarter-zip as their outermost layer. It’s not sufficient to keep ya warm, Tyler. (They’re always named Tyler.)

I’ll admit my strong reaction against an unassuming piece of clothing is personal. As a graduate of a state school with a big frat scene, seeing a Patagonia fleece quarter-zip is traumatic. Those soft jackets spur harrowing memories of dudes in quarter-zips and ill-fitting khakis downing handles of Burnett’s vodka and extolling the virtues of Barstool Sports. I finally get why thirtysomethings (who still call themselves ’90s kids) are panicking about Zoomers bringing back the butt cut, low-rise jeans and bucket hats.

Yes, fleece is super-comfortable. It makes you warm like a furry goat but without the itchiness of wool. Likewise, we should certainly support Patagonia and its efforts to fight a fascist institution. But, friends, you can do better than a clothing item that’s already a meme. Patagonia has an array of fleece clothing styles, like a technical fleece that’s moisture-wicking and slimming. For outdoor pandemic dining or chilly walks, the TechFace Jacket we’ll keep you even warmer. Hell, this fleece shirt jacket is the first chore coat that actually looks like it’s worth buying.

Just please, for the love of God and my mental health, don’t buy another fleece quarter-zip that gives off the oppressive masculine vibe of Old Spice Body Spray and Grizzly Wintergreen Long Cut chewing tobacco. I can’t continue summiting this sartorial mountain.