6 November 2018

Review: Uniqlo Fluffy Fleece

Uniqlo Fluffy Yarn Fleece - £19.90
For reference I am wearing a Size Small, and am 184cm/68kg

Please note: this is not a sponsored post, the item was personally purchased

My wardrobe goal for this Autumn/Winter season is pretty simple - keep is cosy.

I have only recently started paying attention to Uniqlo again, thanks primarily to the Christophe Lemaire collaboration. The collaboration started off super promising, but has since descended into cheaper fabrics and construction than I had hoped (and probably also why the name of the collaboration dropped the 'Lemaire' and in favour of 'Uniqlo U'). I have been buying pieces each season to check it out, and for the past two, they have all gone straight back. However I have been curious to see what general Uniqlo quality was like, having stopped shopping there a number of years back. I still have fond memories of Uniqlo before their aggressive expansion here in the UK. The quality of the fabrics and general fit in those days was second-to-none on the High Street for that price (...well ok, Muji has always been better, but then there are only a handful of Mujis around). I can still remember going into a Uniqlo for the first time and seeing the wall of coloured socks, and for whatever reason, that was what sold me on them more than anything else they carried. Indeed there was actually a time when the vast majority of my wardrobe was from Uniqlo. 

However with Uniqlo's expansion, around the same time as their push into the American market, a number of years ago came cheaper fabrics and shoddier construction. I remember seeing Uniqlo adverts in tube stations and in newspapers like never before, and knew that cost cutting was around the corner. And, lo and behold, things got cheaper and quality declined. I stopped shopping at Uniqlo shortly thereafter. I still reminisce over the quality of the first Jil Sander collaboration collection, but even that got worse over time. And yet, having said all that, I am happy that I gave them another chance recently because they really do appear to be slowly focusing on improving their quality, even if the Uniqlo U stuff has been something of a red herring. A man can't live on high fashion pieces alone (especially not a man with my bank balance), and so I have been slowly but surely trying out different Uniqlo pieces to familiarise myself again with their cuts, construction, and general quality. I saw this fluffy fleece zip up when it dropped and it seemed quite fitting for the cosier direction I want my wardrobe to take this season.

Plain fleece tops and jackets are easy enough to find, whether you want to drop the money on something more practical from an outdoors company, or something a little more casual to wear with pyjamas around the house from a department store. But I saw this fleece and was immediately taken, because it looked so fluffy and soft. My constitution as of late has been rather delicate (to say the least) thanks to the double gut punch of a Crohn's flare and chronic fatigue hitting hard. As such, cosy clothes have most certainly been at the top of my list when it comes to dressing each day. I already own a borg fleece hoodie, which I like to think of as my teddy bear hoodie, but it is a little too chunky for everyday wear. It is suited primarily for the worst of the Winter weather. I wore it last year in the snow, and it was super cosy, but wearing it in the current weather would be a little too much. That idea of a teddy bear has stuck with me though, and I want to try and find super snuggly clothes that will keep me cosy through the Winter.

 I ordered this zip up fleece in two different sizes - a size small and a size medium, because I usually wear either depending on the type of fit I am looking for. I settled with the size small, although the size medium would have worked had I wanted to wear this fleece as a jacket, rather than as a cardigan as I have currently been using it. The fit is quite close to the body, although the sleeves have a decent amount of room so as not to feel too restrictive, and I like the wider shoulders. The body is perhaps an inch shorter than I would like, but at my height that is to be expected I suppose. It has two hard warmer pockets at the front, which are well placed, however they do tend to bag a little and make it look like you are carrying some extra weight around your midsection, so you may want to be careful with that. I was pleased to see that the stitching was all neat, and the construction overall appears to be solid. I have machine washed it twice on a standard 30 degree cycle now, and thankfully the fabric remains soft and the size is unchanged, with no wrinkly zipper. I like the fact that you can simply hang dry it and wear it without ironing, so it is quite practical in that respect.

The feel of the fleece is super soft, because those fluffy fibres feel so plush, and I do find myself stroking the fabric mindlessly when wearing it. Thankfully I have not had any shedding, but will report back if I do run into any issues. I would liken it to wearing a plush dressing gown, and it really does feel comfortable for everyday use. It is nice and warm, in fact more so than ordinary fleece I would say, because of that extra surface area and insulation. Being fleece there is however the dreaded static issue, and while throughout the day I do not tend to notice any static build up, I will say that taking it off at the end of the day most certainly reminds you that you are wearing polyester. That goes with the territory, but it is something to be aware of, because obviously depending on what you are doing throughout the day, a static charge building can be somewhat annoying. But overall, for the price, I think it beats any standard zip up fleece you might find. Not only is it super soft and tactile, but the texture also plays with the light and adds a nice element of visual depth (especially when you wear all black like I do!). I am actually tempted to double up, but knowing Uniqlo it will hit the sales or be discounted soon enough, so hopefully I can snag even more of a bargain.


18 October 2018

Autumn Shades

Vogue Italia (October 2018)
Photographer: Sarah Moon
Stylist: Jacob K
Model: Rianne Van Rompaey

I tend to classify fashion photographers by season for some reason. It is difficult to describe the way in which I come to each conclusion, but something about the mood of their work usually makes me think primarily of one season. Sarah Moon's work feels like Autumn to me. Hard to put into words exactly why really, but in a similar vein - Deborah Turbeville is Winter, Tim Walker is Spring, and Erik Madigan Heck is Summer. That probably sounds completely nonsensical, but hopefully someone else does something similar! And if not, then I hope you find this editorial suitably Autumnal nonetheless - it's layering season and these are some pretty amazing coats. Also, I know I say it every year, but perhaps this is the Autumn that I finally try something pumpkin spiced to see what all the fuss is about.


27 September 2018

Cosy Gang: Y-3 AW18

"Nice to Meet You"
Autumn/Winter 2018

My wardrobe goal for this Winter is to be as cosy as possible.

My Crohn's disease has been flaring rather nastily since the middle of Summer, leaving me feeling rather tender as of late (to put it mildly). On most days I would like nothing more than to curl up in bed and hibernate through Winter, but then that would mean I do not get to layer up for the colder months. I am sure that you are tired of anyone and everyone who writes or talks about fashion waxing lyrical about the magic and joys of layering up as we head into Autumn, but I guess it is preferable to pumpkin-spiced Twitter that will soon be flooding your timeline. To be fair the back to school period is actually my favourite time of year, and the time of the year that I most enjoy dressing for, and while I have yet to check out pumpkin-spiced anything, I have a sneaking suspicion I might actually enjoy it, so what the heck. Right about now a nice warm drink and some cosy layers sound like heaven, and that has pretty much been my mindset this year for my Winter wardrobe - I want to keep things as cosy as I possibly can, without looking like I am walking around wrapped up in my duvet. Yes, I know Margiela literally made a duvet coat, but the resale price on an original one of those is five figures, and I would like to forget the H&M collaboration ever happened thanks.

As I have written before, for me this year has been about exploring childhood nostalgia and all the things that ignited my interest in fashion and dress, which I thought was rather fitting for my tenth year blogging. It seems to me that these few months towards the end of the year used to be far colder here in London than they are these days (climate change in action I suppose). I have memories of running around looking like the Michelin man, wrapped up head to toe in order to stave off the cold. Admittedly that could just be because I had cautious parents, but even so, there is something comforting in that thought and feeling for me. I have strong sensory memories of cosy clothing, from padded gloves to thick corduroy trousers and fleece jumpers. I know a lot of people can feel a little claustrophobic wearing snug layers, but I actually enjoy the sensation of a fitted vest and long johns under my clothing. The way it feels in movement is springy and supportive, and thanks to advancements in fabric technology, these base layers are thinner, stretchier, and more breathable than ever. Indeed wearing slightly baggier layers on top provides a nice sensory contrast, because your body feels snug with that base layer, but still gets breathing room under the outer layer of trousers and shirt. That dynamic space, where you are able to see the body ripple against the surface of the cloth when in movement, therefore thankfully still exists. 

Few designers understand the dialectic between body and dress better than Yohji Yamamoto, and so perhaps it is unsurprising that I found the current Autumn/Winter 2018 collection by Yohji and Adidas so appealing. I am ordinarily drawn more to the side of Y-3 where Yohji plays around with tailoring and the formal aspects of dress, but I have to say that this season the actual sportswear looks were wonderfully cosy and inviting. Plus I am a sucker for any look with a blanket scarf (I'd happily rock the big scarf energy from the Lenny Kravitz meme). I actually have a few blanket sized shawls from Pakistan, which are worn in the mountains during the harsh Winters, but have yet to really play around with the styling and tying past a general wrap. Seeing the variations in scarf styling in this show has me thinking of a few different techniques I can try out to get comfortable. In general sportswear for me has always been about comfort. I was never a particularly sporty child, but I enjoyed the way that the clothing felt (rugby short shorts aside...if I never pick up a rugby ball again it will be too soon). Therein also lies the two extremes of my childhood - the formality and rigidity of school uniform, and the sportswear that surrounded me on the street and in life outside of school (wearing a matching tracksuit was seen as "dressing up"). I often feel like I am trying to find a way to bring both elements together in some fashion. My wardrobe has veered to both ends, but I usually find myself happiest where I can blend both in the way that Yohji seems to do so effortlessly. I know a lot of people only care about Y-3 for the sneakers, but I am actually the exact opposite - all I really care about are the clothes. 


26 August 2018

The Roadman Favourite: Air Max 95

Solar Red

A shoe I have never been able to make my mind up about - the Air Max 95.

The Air Max 95 is a cult classic. For years it was the most worn shoe by criminals in the UK, as determined by footprints left at crime scenes (overtaken by the Reebok Classic in 2010, although I am not sure what the current crowd favourite is). It was the sneaker behind what police at the time called the first ever recorded case of targeted shoe robbery in Japan. And it is the first ever shoe that I remember knowing by sight the exact brand and model name. In fact when it comes to clothing in general, it was the first time I knew the name of a product, could identify it on the street, and knew exactly how much it cost. And that had nothing to do with advertising, or because certain celebrities wore it, but purely thanks to word on the street. To put it into perspective for international readers, Nike Air Max are as popular and culturally relevant in Europe as Jordan brand is in America, and arguably nowhere more so than in London. Although they initially released at a price of £99, the Air Max 95s were soon retailing for £110, which is why to this day many still refer to them as the "110s".

The design of the shoe was inspired by human anatomy. The lacing system and those long eyelet loops that start down at the midsole represent the rib cage. The breathable mesh panelling either side of the eyelets are supposed to represent the lungs, while the layered suede panels seek to evoke layers of muscular tissue. The heel of the shoe has a relatively rigid 3M panel that represents the neck or spine. The original design sketch did not actually feature the Swoosh at all, but rather was meant to be a totally clean sneaker. Even with the Jordan 2 in their roster, removing the Swoosh was just not done at Nike. The colour choice behind the original Neon colourway, which is the same as the shoe photographed, but with neon yellow instead of solar red, was also contentious. Many did not think that consumers would buy black and grey shoes, fearing they looked dirty. Even having visible air units towards the front of the sole was quite a departure from previous designs. You hear about it here and there, but I actually remember seeing someone get jumped on the street near my school once purely so that the attacker could stab and puncture the air units on the victims shoes. Needless to say, it provided us with a talking point for months to come.

Indeed as a child this is the shoe that I remember more than any other, and more than the shoe itself, I remember the reputation. To put it simply, they were the drug dealer's shoe, and if you had a pair - you were the man. The area I grew up in was not the most salubrious, and so the older relatives of a sizeable number of my classmates in school made their money on the road. The functional requirements for such endeavours are shoes that are comfortable to stand in all day, but that would also work when making a quick getaway on foot; while the social requirements boil down to something expensive and exclusive enough to mark you out from the crowd. The Air Max 95 checked every box, and thus they were both status symbol and a surprisingly practical choice. The colourway I most remember is actually the OG neon, but soon you could see any number of colourways on the street. I would have been five or six years old when I saw my first pair, but even at that age, I knew that they meant something. Everyone seemed to know that they meant something. If you were wearing them, people would treat you with respect, or at the very least, a wary politeness. Of course that was context specific, because within a few years I remember children at school owning pairs, but even then, those shoes put them at the top rung of the social ladder.

As large a part as the Air Max 95 plays in my memories of childhood, I have never actually been able to decided whether I like them or not. It is one of the only pieces that I can think of that I have gone back and forth between time and time again. And so when I found out that the OG Solar Red colourway would be coming out this year, I knew that I had to get a pair to satisfy my curiosity. The truth is that I until I got this pair, I had never actually tried a pair on before. Nostalgia is a tricky business, and so when they arrived from Nike, and I pulled them out for the first time, it took me right the way back to being a little kid in school. I had not held a pair in over twenty years, and sitting there with them in my hands gave rise to an interesting mix of emotions. If I think about my interest and love of fashion and dress, then that pair of shoes that I sat there holding was arguably the first step that would define the direction of my life. I had never really thought about it in those terms before, but sitting there I realised that they were literally my earliest memory of having an awareness of the social and cultural value of a piece of dress. I remember the design, I remember the value, I remember the reputation, I remember the meaning, I remember everything that can surround a piece of dress to make it more than simply something you wear.

But like I said, nostalgia is tricky business, and the moment I put them on and saw myself in the mirror, I knew they had to go back. I usually look for garments where the meaning outweighs the design (i.e. I want clothes that mean something more to me than simply looking cool), but in this case, that skew was so heavily in the corner of meaning over design, it felt as if they were simply not for me. They felt comfortable on my feet, they looked pretty cool in the mirror, but I felt like I was wearing someone else's shoes. I think that the social and cultural meaning they hold in my mind are so great, that I feel as if I am wearing a piece of costume when I put them on. It is a difficult feeling for me to explain, but they belong to a life that I saw played out in front me, but thankfully not a life that I have ever lived. It is the same reason that I do not think that I could ever wear a pair of the patent leather America's Cup Prada sneakers. Some things are better left to those who lived it, or those who have no knowledge of it. I still think that they are a fascinating shoe, but they are just not for me. Even so, it was pretty cool to try on a pair for the first time - somewhere in my mind a five year old version of me had his jaw on the floor.