Blending in: Summer 2015 men's lifestyle apparel

Fabric combos infuse eco- and travel-friendly versatility in men’s lifestyle category. A look at what's ahead for summer 2015 at outdoor retail.
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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2014 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Aug. 6 – 9. 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.

For men’s styles in spring/summer 2015, it’s all about the blend.

Across the board, brands are combining cotton with polyester, Tencel, hemp, bamboo and other fabrics to increase comfort, versatility and wearability. Among the benefits of these blends: wicking power, eco-friendliness, rugged textures, extra stretch and of course, that snuggly soft hand of cotton.

Take Outdoor Research’s Goldrush Jean (MSRP $99). Made of a cotton, nylon and Cordura-blend denim combo, the jean boasts durability four times that of a regular pair of Wranglers with added stretch — great for a bit of bouldering — and enough style to wear out on the town. Both Rab’s MeCo 120 Layback Tee (MSRP $65) and Icebreaker’s Sphere Short Sleeve Crewe (MSRP $80) combine merino wool with sustainable fibers like Cocona and Tencel, respectively, to improve moisture management.

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Many brands are taking their blended fabrics on the road, incorporating them into the booming travel subcategory as adventurers demand garments suitable for a hike around Roman ruins and wine tasting in the same afternoon — hence the need for a mix of style and performance.

“We’re always looking for things that will serve for many different aspects of their trip,” Paula Richter, buyer for Three Sons in Iowa, said. “Hopefully we can find product that they can use again when they get home.”

Travelers can pair Mountain Hardwear’spast top performing Loafer Pant (MSRP $70),reengineered for 2015, with Howler Brothers’H Bar B Snapshirt (MSRP $65) for put-together comfort. Don the Sojourner Jacket (MSRP $119) from Toad & Co. (formerly Horny Toad), on chilly evenings.

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Depending on the traveler’s preferred method of rolling, wadding or stuffing the apparel into his backpack, wrinkle-resistant fabrics are a must. Enter SmartWool’s Fish Creek Solid Tee (MSRP $60),which is ready for town or trail in two shakes (literally).

And, of course, nobody wants to be the stinky kid in class — or in the confined spaces of the Tube for that matter. Odor-resistant fabrics like wool and Tencel are great for multiple wears without attracting the flies, as seen in Icebreaker’s 100 percent merino Compass Short Sleeve (MSRP $145), a collared, button-down top featuring an eyelet pattern under the arms to air out those pits. Stash your passport in the secure chest pocket, and you’re good to go.

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The trend toward eco-friendly and sustainable fabrics and practices continues to pick up steam. And as the tech improves, there’s no need for tree huggers to compromise on lifestyle-worthy performance. Patagonia remains among the industry leaders in this movement with a recent pledge to have every piece in its sportswear line embody a commitment to environmental and social responsibility. Its Go-To Shirt (MSRP $69) pairs organic cotton with recycled polyester to create a comfortable, easy-care tee. The Bluesign-approved Goat Peak Short Sleeve (MSRP $60) from Marmot has the eco-conscious consumer in mind as well, as does Outdoor Research’s Harrelson Shirt (MSRP $79),made with 55 percent hemp and 45 percent organic cotton.

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As for color, the U.S. men’s market still isn’t as daring as its European counterpart, much to the chagrin of Icebreaker’s Senior Global Merchandiser Kurt Foster. “Color is still really important [in the U.S], but it’s more the shade of the color,” he said. “It’s slightly more subdued and rich in its approach rather than that electric bright.”

This side of the Atlantic, neutral, earthy tones reign, as seen in Toad & Co.’s Fletch Print Short Sleeve(MSRP $69). SmartWool’s Routt County Polo (MSRP $85), Columbia’s Flashback Windbreaker (MSRP $60) and Marmot’s Hamilton Short Sleeve (MSRP $65) all use color-blocking to add character to the subdued shades.

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Still, the Americans are taking baby steps in the direction of their European brethren, accepting pops of brighter color to break out from the more natural hues. Howler Brothers’ Horizon Hybrid Short (MSRP $65) uses a bold orange tag for a boost of individuality. Of course the ever-popular plaid will remain on the racks, joined by stripes aplenty, but even these pieces are being updated with pearl buttons and contrast stitching.

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Graphic tees are about as gaudy as it gets on the men’s side with nearly all brands offering their take on this wardrobe staple. Most patterns take their cues from nature (think mountains and oceans), but an abstract twist differentiates both the graphic and the one wearing it.

--Courtney Holden

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