Outdoor Retailer Winter Market '06 Trends: Hats, Gloves & Socks

In hats, knits of all kinds are still hot, now with the addition of appliqués, embroidery and screenprints individually and also layered all together for unique collage-like designs. Gloves are starting to be as feature-driven as outerwear what with all the zippers, venting systems and electronics-compatible features. What's happening in socks? An emphasis on environmentally sound manufacturing and organics, and lots of new ski sock styles, that's what! Read on for the our take on SNEWS® team's take on trends and new products for hats, gloves and socks...
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The SNEWS® team of editors powered by imported dark chocolate and numerous espresso shots (not necessarily in that order), zigged and zagged around the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market floor to ensure we could bring you the most comprehensive take on trends, directions, colors, styles and innovations in stories that will run until we pass out. No, each report is not complete and we apologize in advance if a company feels its product was not mentioned when it should have been. We're only covering product that stood out to us, so if you're not mentioned, our brains were either too frozen from our early morning runs to see you, we didn't think your product stood out sufficiently, or we started drinking espresso shots too early in the afternoon -- you pick one. With that in mind, here's our take on trends and new products for hats, gloves and socks:

HATS
Knits of all kinds are still hot, now with the addition of appliqués, embroidery and screenprints individually and also layered all together for unique collage-like designs.

Ambler -- More styles have been added to the Everest collection, a hand-dyed and knit line by Nepalese workers, including the hard-to-resist Peace knit beanie with an Asian peace symbol knit on it, the Ohm crochet hat with pom-pom, and the Lotus cross-weave hat with a knit flower embellishment and fleece lining. New for the company were the tech tight knits, some of which featured screenprints of butterflies, cherries and fish. Especially cool are Ambler's Malden Power Stretch and Power Shield beanies and helmet liners with colorful sublimated graphics of abstract skiers, trees, flowers, dragons and stripes. And who can resist the expanded kids' collection now with nine unique (and precious) styles, like the knit-ball-covered Toggler, the frog-face Erwin with hanging knit arms, and the Flower-covered knit beanie. www.amblermountainworks.com

Bula -- Bula was having fun mixing and matching embellishments and embroidery on various women's styles, like the Mt Fuji, Picnic, Butterfly and Prep. The Flora's sublimated flower graphics on beanies, gaiters and balaclavas also caught our eye. www.bulabula.com

Chaos -- For the first time, Chaos launched an All Natural Collection made of four
natural yarns and fiber blends: hemp, ramie, linen and cotton. The 14-piece collection is dye free, chemical free and hand made, picking up on ecological and ethnic-inspired trends prevalent today. Having its own mill makes it affordable for the family-owned company to experiment with collections and it plans to do more in this direction. It's also looking to source small independent guilds for other special collections. On the more tech side, it also debuted the Chaos Thermal Regulation -- also known as CTR -- line of neck gaiters, balaclavas, helmet liners and skullcaps. It has five systems, each one using a different fabrication: Thermolite, Outlast, Polartec Classic Micro, Polartec Power Stretch and Polartec Windbloc-Act. And here's something different: Knitting is big with 12- to 24-year-olds who want to separate themselves from the crowd in small signature expressions, so Chaos debuted Knit Kits that come with all the supplies to knit your own hats. One kit has patterns, needles, yarns, etc., for three hats and will retail for $32. www.chaoshats.com

Dohm/Icebox -- Using antique knitting machines, Dohm/Icebox offers mountain and urban collections featuring the latest yarns from across the globe -- merino and virgin wools, mohair, alpaca and viscosa. With domestic production, no minimums and stylish offerings for men and women, it's a good bet for the little guy. The hat-maker also offers a cap line and kids styles. www.dohmhats.com

Jytte -- Touting itself as a real ski hat company from a real ski town, Jytte's Sun Valley, Idaho-made, knit hats had a bit of the whimsy in them this season -- polka-dots, coffee beans, aspen leaves, etc. In honor of the Year of the Dog, Jytte's Good Dog knit beanie has wagging tailed pouches and paws with a little pile of poop secretly knit in. It must have been a lucky sign: Sparky the employee dog came to Winter Market with more than 15 sweaters to model new hat designs, but Jytte ended up leaving with a new product category -- dog sweaters. It's planning to offer six sizes with the proposed tagline: "Sweaters that your dog isn't embarrassed to wear." www.jyette.com

Mental Headgear -- New this season is the Bean Nuts collection -- like a beanie, but it's nutty (OK, that's what they told us) -- made entirely of polyester fleece with direct embroidery of snowflakes, flowers, hawks, butterflies, flames and stars -- just not all on one hat. Known more for its whacky fleece hats (remember the natty dreads and the jester?), Mental said it's also been working on getting its knit hats right switching manufacturing from Asia to Canada, which "nailed it" (yup, them again). In knits, it has a core, various lifestyle and women's lines. www.mentalgear.com

Pistil -- Every Winter Market, it's fun to visit the folks at Pistil and see what they have up their sleeves for the season. The traditionally female-centric company told us, "They asked for it and they got it" – meaning guys now have their own collection of hats made of Italian boiled wool, extra fine merinos and cashmere blends. The collection includes 10 beanie styles, one with a brim, and two scarves. Retailers with a heavy casual sportswear clientele or boutique-style shop should check out Pistil's unique women's hoodie -- just a hood covering attached to a scarf. Made of Italian cashmere/extra fine merino, it's available in silver gray, plum and charcoal. It also added more scarves that coordinate with its women's hats. www.pistildesigns.com

Powderfish -- Expanding its line beyond neck gaiters and balaclavas, Powderfish now offers Polartec Power Dry skullcaps and knit beanies, and has added a kids' line of neck gaiters in four colors. Especially eye-catching was its new packaging that incorporates its color palette into the design. www.powderfish.com

Seirus - After venturing into the knit hats arena just last year, Seirus' line has grown to more than 80 styles up from 35. This season, it's added matching hat and scarf sets, hats with fleece-lined knit clavas, and headband and knit neck gaiter combos. www.seirus.com

Shred Alert -- Shred Alert's hat line brim-eth over (sorry, we're losing our minds obviously). The must-have styles being picked up by retailers had a youthful air, military cap styling and lots of brims. Some favorites: the hand-knit Rockwall beanie with a brim and the street-chic Greta bucket made of lambsuede. www.shredalert.com

Stormy Kromer -- Invented in 1903, the Stormy Kromer hat was headed to extinction until an aficionado bought the rights three years ago. The wool baseball cap with earflaps has a long heritage of withstanding the winter chill of Michigan and is hoping to spread its warming influence again. Now, there's also the Ida Kromer, a pastel pink hat sized just for the ladies, and three sizes of the classic Stormy for kids. www.stormykromer.com

SmartWool -- SmartWool's hat line has been entirely revamped -- different knitting techniques, new styles, thick and thin knits and textures -- a complete departure from last year. Its 11 new hats run the gamut from solid and knit print hats to The Bill with brim and the Flapjack with earflaps. Plus, it's added beanies in two lengths -- the Cuffed Beanie with rolled cuff and the Training Beanie sans roll-down. Most hats are 100-percent wool except for one or two with a splash of spandex thrown in. www.smartwool.com

Trailheads -- What's luxuriously soft and closely resembles poodle's hair? Trailheads' new Woolly Mammoth Fleece collection featuring Malden's Thermal Pro curly fleece. It's about time somebody wised up and used this fun fabric in beanies. It also appears in the Ventilator gaiter/hat combo and a scarf. Also new is the Trail Topper made of Malden's Thermal Pro in bright colors and the kids' Junction Beanie. And if you've got big hair, check out the Goodbye Girl Ponytail hat with an adjustable hole for keeping hair under control. www.trailheads.com

Turtle Fur/Fur -- Trying to improve on the classic balaclava, Turtle Fur introduced the Fog Free line that features a patented flap-covered hole to eliminate fog build-up. The line has four styles: a balaclava, drop-down beanie, neck warmer and watch cap. Its Tech line has screenprints now, some with female-specific prints to blend high-tech function with fashion. Lastly, Fur is a new lifestyle brand for the company intent on attracting younger consumers and teens (i.e., skate rats, boarders and girlie girls). Lots of beanies and faux fur abound. www.turtlefur.com

Watership Trading -- The Vineyard Haven hat has been improved for better performance in windy conditions. With a stiffer brim and Velcro-adjusting headband, the Wind Performance model is engineered to stay on your noggin in 30-knot winds, but still roll up easily to cram in the corner of your pack. www.watership.com

GLOVES
Gloves are starting to be as feature-driven as outerwear what with all the zippers, venting systems and electronics-compatible features.

Gordini -- When you send a glove sample to more than 1,500 outdoor industry members -- from store associates to ski pros -- to test, one would assume it's damn good by now. Testers rated Gordini's Vertigo GTX on warmth, weight, waterproofness and moisture management, then after alterations based on feedback, it got the double thumbs-up. The gauntlet glove's shell has three-layer thermal ply fabric, leather trim for abrasion resistance and sticky material for better grip, while the Megaloft insulation features the company's Lavawool moisture-management system and Gore-Tex insert. For a feminine flare, the new women's Fiore is an all-around ski glove that addresses the desire for a cute fashionable glove with the need for a performance piece -- even the Gordini logo has a feminine touch. Featuring Pittard's Marquetry Fiore Leather trim in contrasting colors, the Fiore has a wind-blocking, breathable shell, durable leather palms and Primaloft synthetic down insulation. www.gordini.com

Kombi -- Looking at how gloves interact with apparel, Kombi came up with a couple design concepts to slim gloves down and reduce bulk. First, the Ergo Flex Wrist features a cut-and-sewn channel between the main body of the glove and the cuff that creates a smooth, no bulk area resulting in better flexibility and less binding of materials. It'll be offered in all Kombi glove categories. The second design feature to cut down on unnecessary bulk is an under jacket cuff with a palm side closure using a tapered cut and a stretch Spandura gusset on the back of the hand, resulting in a "seal" and a smooth transition between the glove and the jacket. It's available in the UCHigh glove and women's Diva glove. For cell phone lovers, there's the OTC gauntlet-style glove featuring The Cell Spot, a new design that allows a cell phone to move from wrist pocket to palm as the glove is taken off. The Cell Spot adds a sewn-in pocket to the OTC glove made of a sheer, stretch material for easy detection when the phone is vibrating. Available in men's and women's sizes in a variety of colorways, the OTC is waterproof, breathable, has loft insulation, ripstop nylon shell and a hidden adjustable cuff. www.kombisports.com

Manzella -- With aspirations to be the "best glove company in the world," Manzella may have set the bar high for itself, but it seems to be paying off. Last season, the company debuted its Glove Selection System (warm, warmer, warmest) that helped consumers pick the right glove for them based on comfort preferences and activity -- and now the company is selling twice as many gloves as a result. For '06, Manzella is introducing the "Best of Class" concept representing the best glove value for consumers and retailers, paying specific attention to fit, comfort and end use. With Best of Class, the company said creating gloves that are equipment not accessories is the top priority. The company has even gone so far as to treat gloves like bootmakers treat shoes -- creating lasts that the gloves are built around to ensure incredible fit. With lots of new stuff across the board for outdoor, ski and snowboarding, these are just a few styles that caught our attention: the Summit Mitt with interior finger slots that allow the palm to move with you, the Radioactive with glow-in-the-dark knuckles, and You Sexy Thing, a waterproof breathable insulated ski glove for women. For boarders, check out The Beast for guys and the Air Dog for gals. www.manzella.com

Marmot -- For fall '06, Marmot added 10 new styles and updated nine others. Of note was the new iGlove, a series of Apple iPod-compatible glove styles that allow the user to manipulate the click wheel of an Apple iPod without removing a glove. Here's where it gets techy: the click wheel on an iPod functions through capacitive touch sensing technology. Essentially, the wheel and the human finger are electrical conductors and when they touch, the wheel can be controlled, so most gloves block that flow and don't work. On the iGlove, though, a special coated fabric strategically placed on the ends of the index finger and thumb conducts these charges and allows the click wheel to be operated without removing the liner gloves. The patent-pending glove is available in three styles ranging in price from $29-$75. www.marmot.com

Outdoor Research -- Whether it's skiing or climbing, the new slim-fit Prophet glove for men and women is designed to function in cold, wet environments where grip, dexterity and a full range of motion are key. It has a Gore-Tex insert with X-Trafit technology that offers tactile performance and waterproof/breathable protection combined. But what makes the Prophet really cool is the limited edition sublimated patterns -- four prints for men and three for women. And ladies, for your next expedition to an 8,000-meter peak or the Arctic, you now have an Alti Mitt of your own -- sized for women in crisp white or jet black. Also, all but one of the gloves and mitts in the Powerliners next-to-skin collection have been redesigned and the PL 100 is new. www.orgear.com

Patagonia -- Completely revamped, Patagonia said its technical skiing and climbing glove line needed some work and it was high time to do it for '06. It's upped the curve angle of the glove to put the hand in a more comfortable position when active and improves flexibility. Each glove comes with a custom liner that has finished seams on the outside, and Patagonia has eliminated seams in the wrist and fingers. The new lightweight Micropuff Mitts and updated Stretch Element Gloves are part of a new alpine glove system that insulates hands in hostile conditions and adapts to climbers' needs along the way. Also new for '06 is the men's and women's White Smoke Gloves and Mitts for skiers/riders with DWR and Thermolite insulation, while the Primo Gloves have been revised to fit over jacket cuffs better and close with a single-handed cinch cord. We also saw a few bright colors sneaking in, like bright red, green and blue. www.patagonia.com

Seirus -- In the All Weather gloves category, the new Recon features the patented side-zip vent technology, is 100-percent waterproof and breathable, and has D.C. subway map graphics printed onto the palm with a grippy silicone material. For snowsports, the MsFit for women also has the side-vent technology for venting or to slip a heat pack in to control the temperature inside the glove, as well as Thinsulate insulation. www.seirus.com

Snot Spot -- Runny noses and winter play go hand-in-hand, and the Snot Spot is trying to clean up the mess. The reusable fleece wiper fits over a winter glove or mitten for a soft absorbent surface for nose wiping and helps prevent chapping. The washable wiper can be used for sport or just cold days walking the dog, and is available in two sizes and colors for $9.95. www.snotspotvail.com

The North Face -- Divided into three categories (Mountaineering, Snowsports and Performance), all The North Face's gloves are designed with fit, warmth, protection and breathability in mind. The majority of the styles in the Snowsports category are new, featuring either Gore-Tex or Hyvent. Among them are the Love Glove with Primaloft insulation and a Hyvent insert for a high-wicking, waterproof/breathable piece, the Vortex with Hyvent and a neoprene back for easier hand mobility, and the Dilithium with a Gore-Tex insert and Heatseeker insulation. On the stylish but functional side for the ladies is the Purr Fect mitt and glove with a satin faille Hyvent shell and insert, leather palm, Heatseeker insulation and an embroidered snowflake outer pattern. www.thenorthface.com

Vaughn Outdoor -- A simple concept born out of necessity, the CZip glove from Vaughn Outdoor has a zipper just below the knuckles that allows fingers out without removing the glove. Now wearers can access phones and MP3 players without fear of losing a glove, or cool down when the going gets hot. Vaughn Outdoor said it's planning a full range of glove and mitt models for men and women using the CZip concept. www.vaughnoutdoor.com

180s -- Hm, Manzella isn't the only company merchandising via the warm, warmer, warmest concept as 180s has adopted it too for 2006. New this year on the product side is the Meta Glove, the company's first ski/board model that does not feature the company's Exhale heating system. The windproof and water-resistant shell glove has Thermolite Micro insulation, silicon-gel palm for tactility and pole grip, and can go from a gauntlet to a shorter glove in one easy zip. Looks like it may be the first of many without Exhale. For more aerobic activities, the new Convertible Snow Sport Glove has a hidden mitt hood that zips out to provide added insulation and protection from wind and cold. It also has an abrasion-resistant Amara palm and reflective piping for increased visibility. www.180s.com

SOCKS
What's happening in socks? An emphasis on environmentally sound manufacturing and organics, and lots of new ski sock styles, that's what!

Bridgedale -- Lightweight knits were the story for Bridgedale's Winter Sport Series, highlighted by the new Micro Fit with zero bulk; the Heel-Fit with better heel fit and shin protection; and the Precision Fit that offers the same warmth as a mid-weight. Bridgedale is now making a women's version of the popular X-Hale sock in the Adrenalin Series. The highly breathable sock is knit so it's softer without the bulk. www.bridgedale.com

Dahlgren -- Look closely at a few of Dahlgren's new socks and you'll see little channels running along the forefoot. The company says the channels will move moisture away from that part of the foot more effectively, and the concept has been applied to the mid-weight Light Hiking sock ($15.50), the Ultralight Trail ($14.50) and the Outdoor XT ($14), available in quarter and ankle styles. www.dahlgrenfootwear.com

Darn Tough -- Using fine gauge needles and dense tight terry loops, Darn Tough can get 1,444 knit stitches per inch and produce socks that form to the foot and stay put. The company prides itself on its simple, honest approach and avoidance of SKU overload. Made using mainly merino wool or Coolmax, the company offers socks for alpine/X-C skiing and snowboarding, hiking and trekking, and running and biking. www.darntough.com

Feetures -- We saw several new faces in the sock crowd, including Feetures, a North Carolina company with a history in the running and tennis markets. We've been wearing a pair of its outdoor socks made with merino wool and Coolmax, and they're well constructed, comfortable, and have nice details like a flat-seam toe. The Outdoor line includes a crew, ($14.99) and quarter ($13.99) in charcoal, heather gray or khaki. And its Outdoor Light models -- also merino and Coolmax -- include a crew ($13.99) and a quarter ($12.99) in charcoal or heather gray. www.feeturesbrand.com

Fox River -- A "green" company for the last 30 years, Fox River sees organics as a continuing trend in socks and its own business. The sock-maker is also looking at using Ingeo, a synthetic fiber made of non-genetic corn, in the future, with proposed styles as soon as Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2006. It debuted six new snowsport styles, many for women and with fun graphics, including the super-soft and super-cute Pippi striped merino wool sock. Champion Freeskier Alison Gannett designed two new women's styles in the Wick Dry AXT line: a lightweight and a mid-weight Wick Dry AXT Carve with an embroidered ski chick at the calf and knit-in snowflake at the toe. www.foxsox.com

Injinji -- Its name is as unique as its twist on sport-specific socks -- a patented seamless five-toe sock. Injinji's design separates the toes and allows them to perform in their natural formation, similar to being barefoot, and reduces the instance of blisters. It offers a Coolmax performance series, Nuwool outdoor series and a comfort series for everyday use. The SNEWS® team has been testing these socks while training for and running ultras and are all grins. Look for a review in our product review section soon. www.injinji.com

SmartWool -- Investing in new machinery has allowed SmartWool to expand to three levels of cushioning in its Adrenaline outdoor performance line -- light, medium and the new heavy weight. Normally all business, its ski socks have been infused with more personality -- bold colors, retro stripes and color blocking -- but the same SmartFit System, a combo system of an elastic ankle and arch brace, along with a contour flex zone that helps eliminate bunching, slipping and sagging. Also, new are the light and medium-weight snowboard socks with a complete redesign of the cushion placement on the shin, calf and underfoot. Its lifestyle collection has fun new prints like the Stripeuccino, Dot Dot Dash and Dahlia for women, and the Herringbone and Hot Date for the guys. www.smartwool.com

Swix -- In its effort to move beyond the Nordic realm, Swix launched several new sport-specific socks this winter, including men's and women's snowboarding-specific models ($18). These medium-weight socks with strategic padding are made with 35-percent merino wool, 35-percent polypro, 20-percent Thermolite, 9-percent nylon and 1-percent Lycra. www.swixsport.com

Teko -- Another sock company with its roots in environmentally friendly and sustainable practices, Teko is introducing socks made of corn-based Ingeo fibers and eliminating chlorine from its wool processing. Starting this spring, its Quarter and Light Hiking socks will be 10 percent lighter for more versatility on warmer days, and it's also improved the Lin-toe seam by making it flatter. Its new Snowboard, Ski Light and Ski Thin socks come in over-the-calf lengths and feature a Lin-toe seam, Lycra arch band and skeleton, diamond air vents, and Ecopoly reinforced toes and heels. Plus, it's upping the color ante with tones like pomegranate and green apple. www.tekosocks.com

Thorlo -- For 2006, Thorlo is launching a new consumer awareness and brand campaign, and unveiled a new line of packaging. Moving away from its numbered rating system, the packaging now features sport-specific images designed to focus on the user. The new look includes colors that differentiate between categories such as outdoor, sport and snow, as well as styles made for men or women. Using comfort as its platform, Thor-lo's new motto is "Your Feet Will Feel Better." www.thorlo.com

Wigwam -- As we saw with base layers this year, silver-based antimicrobial materials continue to be popular with sock manufacturers. X-static is the key ingredient in Wigwam's new Ultimax Silver Ultralight Snowsports sock ($20). Plus, the company introduced two X-static Medical socks for people dealing with diabetes, neuropathy and other foot conditions. They retail for $11 and $13. Also, Wigwam's Ingenius socks (with a liner sock and outer sock knitted together) have proven popular enough that the company introduced three "sport" models, the Ingenius X2 Lite No-Show, Ingenius X20 Lite Quarter and Ingenius X20 Lite Crew, retailing from $8 to $10. www.wigwam.com

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