Gear trends: Baselayers for 2014/15

Coming-out party: More colors, patterns bring baselayers to the top. Get the rundown of new styles trends in the category for 2014/15.
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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2014 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Jan. 21 – 25. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

Baselayers are quickly becoming two-in-one pieces.

Customers have long relied on the next-to-skin apparel to keep their cores warm and dry while hiking or skiing in the cold, but somewhere along the way, it’s become fashionable to wear those woolens on the outside.

Credit warmer winters (although maybe not this one) — where a light baselayer paired with another one, or even over a collared shirt, will do — and perhaps marketing campaigns such as “strip to your SmartWool.”

Whatever the reason, it’s become an extra selling point for retailers, and brands have responded with brighter colors and patterns for those wanting to show off what’s underneath.

“In more than one [baselayer] style, color is outselling black,” said Sara Yoder, women’s performance product line manager at SmartWool. “We haven’t really seen that before. Color is bigger than it’s ever been before.” And it’s not just for women. For the first time, SmartWool brings a patterned bottom for men, too. Elsewhere, you can see the color and pattern pop in something like Bergans of Norway’s 100 percent merino wool Soleie Half Zip (MSRP $89).

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The surge of merino wool baselayers also might have a hand in the flashy trend, Yoder said. “Wool takes color very well.” The natural fiber has become such a hit, that even some new synthetic baselayers on the show floor are trying to recreate the heathered wool look for style.

While merino wool has ruled in the outdoor baselayer category for some time, it’s just now starting to make an impact on the fitness, yoga and adventure travel markets, said Andy Vecchione. The former Polartec CEO returns to Outdoor Retailer to debut Europe-based Super.Natural to North America; it uses a 50/50 wool/poly mix, and sometimes 4 percent Lycra, in its apparel, such as the Nergy Long sleeve (MSRP $99). “It’s the ultimate cross-over product,” he said.

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Beyond fashion and style, competition continues on merino/synthetic mixes that retain the natural fiber’s benefits (thermal regulation and low stink), while boosting durability and wicking.

“We still believe in 100 percent wool next to skin,” said Keith Patterson, vice president of sales and marketing at Bergans of Norway, “but have found that mixes are great for midlayers where a little more durability is appreciated.”

Polyester has been added mix of choice for most brands, but the addition can take away from wool’s softer hand. That’s where PrimaLoft believes it can improve things by blending in its ultrafine synthetic PrimaLoft One fibers. The 50/50 Silver Performance Yarn Merino Wool Blend makes its debut in Sherpa Adventure Gear’s Vayu PriMerino collection, including the Vayu Zip (MSRP $99).

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Wool isn’t the only game in town, even among natural fibers. Gramicci’s Aquarius ankle-length legging baselayer (MSRP $66) is made from hemp and organic cotton. And Purnell’s cotton/polyester/spandex blend uses a touch of silicon for softness its is Base Layer Leggings (MSRP $39).

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Back to wool, don’t forget check out the value play at Coldpruf. The brand worked with its parent company, Indera Mills in North Carolina, to produce a 100 percent merino wool baselayer, called the Classic Layer, without the high price tag (MSRP $64).

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--David Clucas

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