As menswear and streetwear have gotten crunchier, fleece has become the reigning fabric of fall and winter. Those who've adopted the trend have learned what outdoorsy folk have always known: strong pile polyester is as comfy as it is insulating, an ideal piece for layering or wearing on its own when temps haven't quite hit freezing.
Malden Mills, now known as PolarTec, and Patagonia were the first to develop fleece as an alternative to wool in 1979. Like wool does naturally, fleece maintains warmth while wet while weighing a fraction of its predecessor. And more than 40 years after it was first introduced, it remains one of the most most widely used fabrics in technical apparel.
Now that fleece has become so popular amongst the fashionable set, it isn't just the outdoor mavens like The North Face and Patagonia that have a stronghold on the fabric. Many reputable brands have made fleece their own, bringing an inventiveness that goes far beyond utility. Sandy Liang makes fleece big and weird in jackets intended for women that men just can't resist, while streetwear brands apply their expertise in must-have graphics.
To hold you down as temperatures drop, we've put together the 10 coolest fleeces you can find. Even if you already have one or five, there's always room for another fleece in your collection.
Rowing Blazers Harlequin Deep-Pile Sherpa "Jockey" ($273)
Rowing Blazers, one of today's best shepherds of prep, launched its first range of fleeces this season with a hefty deep-pile sherpa. The jockey-inspired patterns consist of separate panels stitched together, which is a much more time-consuming process than your standard fleece. The result is an equally hefty price, but you can scoop one up right now for nearly $100 off.
Stüssy Mask Jacquard Sherpa ($150)
Stüssy's fall-winter lineup is stacked with covetable fleece on jackets, vests, and even a cardigan. Many have sold out, but you can still get your hands on this white sherpa with the brand's go-to tribal masks.
South2 West8 Piping Jacket ($459)
Nepenthes' South2 West8 offshoot specializes in sharp fishing gear, but it has no problem with taking on a hiking staple either. Satin trim on the collar gives this fleece a hint of elevation, and a two-way zipper is always an appealing feature to regulate temperature.
Patagonia Classic Retro-X ($199)
The Retro-X isn't Patagonia's first fleece, but it is the most enduring. It's the jacket you start with and the one you keep going back to, especially when the brand puts out a new range of color schemes each year. This year, I'm feeling the purple and blue — but you can't go wrong with any Retro-X.
The North Face '95 Retro Denali ($199)
The Denali fleece, intended to be worn as part of a system with the Mountain Jacket, is another classic. It's gone through many iterations, and The North Face painstakingly recreated the boxy cut from 1995.
Sandy Liang Rory Fleece ($495)
Sandy Liang deserves the credit for turning a fleece jacket into a status symbol. Her bold patterns and oversized fits have made for the trendiest fleeces around, or something of a new classic. The contrast of camo and neon zippers here is just *chef's kiss*.
Brain Dead Fully Reversible Front Fur Shirt Jacket ($220)
Brain Dead hasn't missed with its The North Face collabs, but its in-house offerings don't fall short either. The brand is calling this shirt-jacket "fur," but it's polyester construction isn't much different than fleece as we know it. It hits all the same marks, and the ability to reverse it doubles the return on your investment.
Aimé Leon Dore x New Balance Deep-Pile Zip-Up ($295)
ALD and NB's collaborative apparel haven't got quite the same attention as their shoes, which should be seen as an opportunity and not an indictment. Dynamic color-blocking makes these fleeces look straight out of the '80s and like a future highlight of your wardrobe.
GMBH Grey & Black Fleece Two-Tone Jacket ($473)
GMBH takes inspiration from German workwear, the designs of which puts its American counterparts to shame. Even the garbage workers in Germany look cool as hell, and you can get a taste of their drip with this Raiders-esque fleece.
Topo Designs Sherpa Jacket ($169)
Topo Designs is a newer outdoor brand out of Colorado, and it's taken a strong enough hold in the state to warrant a store at the airport. Pick up one of their fleeces now and you'll still be beating a lot of people in the rest of the country to the punch.