I’m sitting here typing this while wearing a fleece jacket. It’s pretty darn cold in the room where my computer is, so I wear fleece indoors. It’s possible that you are wearing fleece while reading this. Everybody has a fleece jacket now. Every man, woman and child has a fleece jacket. Even my dog has a fleece jacket.
How did we ever survive without fleece?
What did we wear in the olden days?
Well, we wore, uh, fleece.
Real fleece. As in “as white as snow”
As in “everywhere-that-Mary-went-the-damn-sheep-followed-her” fleece. We were gaily bedecked with sheep hides on our backs. We also ate raw meat, and only much later did we call it tar tare, pay $23.95 for it and pair it with a nice Merlot.
Then came polyester fleece. The first stuff was scratchy and pilled into annoying little balls when you so much as looked at it. Eventually, it improved. It improved to the point where it is pretty soft, reliable and doesn’t pill so much, unlike the first stuff.
Fleece is oh so ideal for layering.
Polyester fleece was intended to be sandwiched in between your undies and your outer shell. (that doesn’t sound right, let me try again, lest I insult my readers sporting ectoskeletons)
DOWNLOAD OUR TRAVEL GUIDES
OK, Layering 101: you have your base layer (Capilene, for example) your fleece layer and then a waterproof breathable shell. That is the way that God intended you to dress. God intended you to dress like you once went into an REI and everything stuck to you.
Think: a woodchuck crossed with a dork.
Except nobody does that.
Everybody wears their fleece on the outside, like some sort of fashion statement. Or maybe people could afford the fleece jacket but then couldn’t afford the outer shell. The problem with this scenario is that wind sails right through polyester fleece, chilling you to the bone. Still, you look swank. Cold, but swank.
So the smart folks at Malden Mills and WL Gore decided to sandwich a membrane into the fleece, A membrane that is impermeable to air. Problem solved! Except now the damn jacket costs even more than any normal person should spend on what is basically a glorified sweatshirt, and retail prices of well over $100 for the jacket are standard. Of course, these are the same folks that think nothing of spending over $3.00 on coffee in a paper cup. (These are my people. We have NPR stickers on our Subarus and eat dolphin-safe free-range chicken tenders.)
The majority of credit for bringing you all this wonderful fleece stuff should be given to the folks at Malden Mills, a company that is known for innovation, a great product line, a disastrous fire and a chronic late delivery problem. Chances are, if you have a fleece jacket by one of the “better” companies (and I mean that in the nicest way) the fleece used in the jacket was made my Malden.
On the other end of the wallet is the crap sold at K-Mart and in the markets of Bangladesh. With a price point roughly the same as a carton of Pakistani cigarettes, this fleece comes in an array of butt-ugly basic colors and is of really poor quality. My advice is to save your money for better quality products, especially if they have snooty brand names.
Assuming that you bought a fleece jacket from one of the better companies, not much should ever go wrong with it. Washing it is fine. The problem comes with drying it. Polyester fleece doesn’t like to be dried on the hot setting. The care instructions are clearly printed on the tag sewn into your fleece garment, but nobody ever reads those.
Instead, they nuke the sucker in their Kenmore dryer until their expensive fleece jacket shrivels up into a size that might only fit a Pygmy infant. Go figure.