Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2015 Preview: Layering trends

Today's "long underwear" has come a long way from its past. Here are three trends in layering we're watching heading into Winter Market 2015.
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Leading up to Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2015, SNEWS is previewing some of the top trends and new products you’ll see at the trade show and All Mountain Demo in Salt Lake City, Jan. 20-24. Find this story and more in our O.R. Daily Day 0 Preview edition.

Proper layering remains a staple in outdoor apparel, but today's "long underwear" has come a long way from its past. Here are three trends in layering we're watching heading into Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2015:

(Re)defining wool
Wool continues to be a hot natural fiber at outdoor specialty retail, but it’s becoming a crowded field with practically every outdoor apparel brand putting its spin on the yarn with synthetic mixes.

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Purists say that’s diluting the definition, and in some cases, the inherent benefits of wool — thermal regulation, odor control and insulation when wet. On the flip side, those doing the mixing say they are enhancing wool by adding comfort, durability and wicking properties via synthetic fibers.

To muddy the water further, those mixes are constructed in different ways — blending, layering or wrapping the wool around synthetic. The latter is a popular method to keep the wool against the skin where it can best perform its thermal regulating duties. But you’ll also see versions with the synthetic next to skin, as some brands try to attract those who want more wicking power and less itch.

Another variable: Where’s the wool from? New Zealand, South America, the United States? The sheep may be related, but depending on where they’ve been raised the characteristics and properties of wool are different. North American Rambouillet sheep, for example, produce a sturdier crimp for more durable thermal lofting, but some argue it’s not as soft as New Zealand merino.

Long story short, not all of those wool baselayers on the Winter Market show floor are alike. We’ll let the brands fight over which one is best for your customer. Our advice is to carry multiple options (and provide education) for consumers, with these pointers:

>> Some customers will swear by 100-percent wool pieces and you should carry them. If they’re OK with the next-to-skin feel and are looking for the most effective thermal regulation and odor control, the real thing works best. Note: Thermal regulation does not equal heat. Wool, rather, works best to regulate the body’s heat and aims to keep it steady — expelling heat when it’s too hot, insulating when it’s too cold. Goldilocks would be a fan.

>> Mixes, as exhibited above, go in every direction. The general consensus is once brands go beyond 50-percent synthetic content, it’s questionable to market the piece as “wool.” Others would say anything less than 60 to 70 percent wool is an imposter, and still others argue it’s the construction that matters — is the wool next to skin?

>> The right mix is largely dependent on the type of customer. Do they tend to overheat and sweat profusely? More synthetic fibers can help with wicking, even if it’s against the skin. Conversely, if the user’s chief complaint is clamminess and the chills, stick to wool next to skin for its thermal regulation.

--David Clucas 

Flaunt those baselayers
They’re known as “baselayers,” but we all know our long underwear and socks become our outer layer once we’re off the mountain, in front of the fire.

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Yet most of those baselayers are none too exciting. That’s changing as brands see more consumers wanting to show off what’s underneath … Whew! Is it getting hot in here?

While black still rules baselayers, more consumers are buying styles with brighter colors, flashier patterns and new graphics.

At times, they’re even choosing to wear their baselayers as light sweaters on top, said Sara Yoder at SmartWool. Exposed, knee-high socks also have become a go-to fashion statement.

“We’ve seen our pattern business pick up [with it being] a little stronger on the women’s side,” Yoder said. “We’re pushing to see how far we can take it because consumers can buy a black baselayer from anyone these days.”

The trend also comes thanks to better technologies for coloring and creating designs with fine merino wool.

For 2015, Helly Hansenbrings all-merino graphic-intense pants and shirts, which have patterns ranging from flowers to sunsets to the Northern Lights.

It all means customers can be stylish and not stink, an ideal combination for sharing cozy spaces.

--Ryan Slabaugh

Short sleeves in the winter?
Comfort is all about keeping the body core warm.

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That’s why insulated vests are a popular choice among those who demand maximum mobility. But some athletes are telling brands they need a little more coverage so drafts can’t get into those large openings.

So yes, save that double-take down the show floor aisle. Those are short-sleeved jackets and even shorts you’ll be seeing at Winter Market.

Sierra Designs has the DriDown Better Vest (MSRP $99), a lightweight (7 ounces), 10-denier, half-zip pullover puffy with 800 fill-power water-resistant down and stretch under-arm and side panels. Swix brings the Down Short (MSRP $90) for lower coverage. And for short-sleeved shell protection (sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it?), check out The North Face Ultra Lite WP Short-Sleeve Jacket (MSRP $150), a 2.5-layer waterproof and windproof piece with 360-degrees of reflectivity that’s meant to be worn with arm warmers.

--David Clucas 

These are just a few of the new products to debut at the show. Be sure to check out much more news and trends in the O.R. Daily, Days 1-4, published live at the show, and available digital format each day of print on SNEWS.

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