Editor’s note: For the second-straight year, we’re presenting another 12-day holiday gift guide, brought to you by the one and only “FBD”, our gear-review guru. Kicking the series off, recommendations for recovery gifts to keep you and your ski buddies on the trails and injury free. See also: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3
Day 4: Casual Wear
Even though I clearly established on Day 1 that recovery is key, we really got after it on Day 2 with training clothing, and on Day 3 my good buddy and biathlon rock star (she literally IS a rock star in Germany and rightfully so, as she is a total badass), learned you up on how to make the custom, “FBD Podium Smoothie.” Good times. And since I view each of these columns as unique, wonderful creations, being forced to pick favorites is like asking any parent to pick a favorite child. Well, maybe that’s a bad example, as kids like me are always going to win that race… but the point here is that all of these columns are incredibly valuable, amazing contributions to the overall betterment of mankind, and I can’t overemphasize how lucky you all are to have me in your lives.
The second, and closely related point, is even as great as all of these are, it’s still hard to not have a favorite topic and since we’ve been through a lot together, I’m going to let you in on a little secret, casual wear is one of my favorite topics. Why? Well, I suppose partly because despite the fact that my overall fashion game is so strong, even the most agro, focused, Type A, OCD lunatic skier can only log so many hours per day on the tracks and unless you are one of “those guys” who sits around in their kit all day (in this case “guys” can also means “girls” and not in a transgender sense, more in a generic type of “you people” sense. And yes, it’s weird that nowadays this needs clarification), you spend (or at least should spend) more time each day in casual clothes than in your nordic gear. This means that while as important as it is to have your nordic fashion game on fleek, it’s probably even more important to have your street-fashion game tight. This really is like choosing between having a huge motor or immaculate technique, as you absolutely need both to be a playa, but since the FBD is much more of a hammer than a technician, we’ll call Street Style aerobic capacity and Nordic Style technique. So listen up all of you velvety-smooth skiers walking around in loin cloths.
MSGA hat: $20
You may remember this dreamy, Alaska bad-boy from his brief career as a Sears catalog underwear model, or recognize him from racing his way around the World Cup, or manning the scope for the Soldier Hollow junior biathlon team, or in his brief-but-illustrious career as a glove model, but did you know that this hunky Dartmouth graduate also has a vision to “Make Skiing Great Again?” It’s true.
Now before everyone gets all worked up that we (really, he, in particular if you are mad – write Zach, NOT me) are normalizing the theme that this hat is in fact mocking (I’m looking at you, Ollie Burruss), I can assure you that the creator (again, Zach, NOT ME) is simply providing biting social commentary and merely making light of a bad situation. Please don’t read too much into this, just enjoy the damn hat.
In addition, skiing has always been great, so don’t get all nitpicky with the grammar and yes, yes, we all know that Trump is a complete idiot, so please don’t view this as even a tacit endorsement of any of his moronic policies, it’s just a hat people. A funny, creative, light-hearted hat. So lighten up Francis, buy a hat and help make Zach rich again (MZRA), (which, by the way, kinda sounds like someone in Wu Tang Clan, doesn’t it? I wonder if Zach was in Wu Tang briefly after he left Dartmouth, he does have a lovely singing voice. I really need to fact check my work sometime).
Fight the power, expand your wardrobe, and deal with bad hair days. Email Zach at firstname.lastname@example.org . Tell’em, FBD sent cha. Best $20 you’ll ever spend.
$30 – $99
There are lots of decent “house slipper” options out there and certainly mind-numbing possibilities in shoe selection, but where there seems to be a bit of a dearth of options is in “tweeners,” you know, slippers that can also venture outside to get the mail on a snowy morning without filling with water like the Titanic.
These aren’t just whips for mail and coffee runs either, no, these “sloes,” (slippers + shoes, pronounced ‘slu-es’,) are ideal for lots of nordic-skier excursions. For example, what racer hasn’t been to a training camp and had to walk down to some hotel lobby along snow-and-detritus-soaked carpet? If I remember anything from my elementary school sex-ed class, attempting this voyage in socks is a one-way trip to VD town (that’s what we called it back then).
Do you want that to be you? Huh? DO YA? Of course not. I didn’t think so. So let’s save you an embarrassing trip to the doctor, armed only with some shaggy dog story about a dirty tractor seat and a Speedo and make sure that you keep your equipment clean as a whistle and ready for action.
The item of interest that is going to make all of this happen are a super-slick pair of kicks from a company called Time. No, not the pedal company (though I have it on good authority that they are back and making a big-time run), no, this is exclusively a slipper company.
They offer all sorts of models, from a traditional slip-on slipper (is this redundant or superfluous? I’m not sure), to a mid-top, to yes, even a high-top. Even though weed is legal in Colorado and I’m a CO boy from way back, the filmstrip immediately following the bizarrely graphic and disturbing elementary school sex-ed lecture was perhaps and amazingly even more insane, the “scare you straight” 1930’s biopic, Reefer Madness. Call it authoritarian propaganda, inaccurate, or downright dishonest, but it did it’s job — like Pinto from Animal House, I have been convinced ever since adolescence that even one hit of Mary J, and I could go “schizo”, so I can’t do the “high” top. All of us in Abbot elementary made a blood oath with Mr. Porter that we’d stay away from the Devil’s lettuce and since I’ve made it this far, I’d hate to cave in now with a pair of “high” tops, which I’m pretty sure the filmstrip said were gateway shoes to essentially immediate heroin addiction.
Despite this fear of drugs, germs, clowns, closed spaces, open spaces, heights, depths, attractive women (well, women of any sort, really), and people in general, I do still consider myself a rebel and a bad boy, though, and since I like to live life on the edge, I went with a pair of mid-tops: not quite shoes yet also tantalizingly close to taking me down the road of a life of crime. Since danger is my middle name, (well, not really, it’s Thomas), I was in. As we discussed in yesterday’s column, I’m all about the wool, so I naturally went with the option for wool. Wise choice. I’m a smart dude.
These babies showed up during my three-week internment in West Yellowstone and they couldn’t have come at a better time. Since I had no car for this training camp, I was either skiing, walking or sleeping, and having the option for kicks that were comfortable in my Ted Kaczynski-style cabin while I was writing my manifesto on how technology was crippling modern society was key. On a rare occasion that someone invited me out of seclusion for some type of social engagement, I was delighted (even when it was Burruss), and these babies were perfect for the double-duty of landlord friendly “in-cabin” duty, as well as the occasional foray into the lobby for dinner and drinks.
For this reason (and a few others), I’m really digging (Not to be confused with Diggins) the mid-top style and steez. The ankle-kissing height throws the fashionistas off the scent if someone is trying to pigeonhole you into one of those “wear sweat pants on the airplane” losers, or one of those people that wears slippers at a grocery store. You’re only one step away from pajama pants at the shuffleboard court of a cruise ship. Once that happens, you might as well just throw yourself overboard.
So the wool is warm, the soles don’t soak up water like a Midwest low-lander finishing their first mountain marathon, and the style is both comfortable and versatile. On top of all of that, the owner’s wife is “one of us,” yup, a nordic nerd through and through. $99-$150 on TimeSlippers.com
Speaking of being cold and alone in remote Montana, another tactic to keep me from taking my own life each night when I returned to FBDR remote HQ, was the fact that I got to “slip into something more comfortable.” Who knows if this trite line ever has actually worked with a real woman in real life, not to mention the fact that I was alone in this den of self-loathing, so the only person I had an attempt at seducing was myself, and as we all know, that fish is already in the boat, as I’m already madly and deeply head over heels in love with myself, so seducing myself was not necessary. (Is this redundant or superfluous? I REALLY need to start fact checking my work…)
I guess the point I’m trying to make here is that the skiing up there was awesome, but it could get cold so the whole training camp was much more pleasurable due to the fact that I could go back to the cabin and put on a very warm, comfortable hoodie.
Wow, we were on quite a journey for that one, weren’t we? Looks like shaggy dog stories coming in handy in more places than just attempting to cloak the origins of a VD outbreak with your family physician.
Buy one, stay warm, ski more, and stop complaining. $89 at L.L. Bean
As we make our way down the body, the next logical step after we’ve got you styled out and covered up on top are the hustle sticks. Is there any piece of clothing more versatile and utilitarian than a trusty pair of jeans? I don’t think so, especially in this day and age where increasingly relaxed dress codes mean these fashion workhorses are finding their way into the office on casual Friday, first class cabins of airplanes and even poking out from under blazers in upscale eateries in Manhattan, something unheard of even a few years ago. Who doesn’t love a good pair of jeans?
There are tons of options out there and quite frankly, lots of good ones, but also lots of crappy ones. Do you want to be the guy everyone is laughing at in the “mom jeans?” As usual, I’m looking at you, Josh Smullin.
Proceed with caution though, as it is also easy to go too far the other way (as is often the case in life) and end up looking like the disenfranchised millennial, burnout, wannabe skater rocking the skinny jeans. This is also a mistake. Thankfully you people have me to help you navigate though this fashion minefield.
Since my guess is that most of my loyal readers are closer to aging hipster than young punk skater kids, when I got the call from this new “performance jeans” company (whatever the hell that means), I proceeded with interest, but also with caution. In particular once they passed the meticulous FBD screening process, my watchword (not to be confused with my safe word, which is used in a completely different context) was still caution, so I opted with the relaxed fit, as opposed to the skinny fit. Having been marooned in Philadelphia for far too long, the TV from which that clip was lifted, “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia,” hits a little too close to home sometimes, so even though I’m about 100 centimeters taller than Danny Devito and vastly more fit (twice voted, “Best From Behind” back when yearbooks had cool sh*t like that and we also weren’t sophisticated enough to realize that this also carries some other, more sexual overtones).
The point here is that if you’re getting most of these often-obscure references, you need to steer clear of the skinny jeans. If most of the time you have no idea what the hell I’m talking about, your primary form of communication is SnapChat, and you’d sooner die than be confused with Smullin from a distance, what the hell do I care, go skinny. $99 at DUER
$100 – $299
In my gripping and compelling podcast with FasterSkier earlier this year, my colleague, student and understudy, Jason Albert took us out for a metaphorical “long drive,” but since I am awesome, every second of the entire piece is riveting. I bring this up because one of his 4,000 questions was who I thought was going to win the World Cup this year. Since I am an American (and a great one at that, just ask me), I went with my Colorado homegirl Joanne Reid to win the women’s biathlon crown. When asked why, I replied, “Because she’s from Colorado and everything from Colorado is awesome.” This is a well known and clearly established scientific fact, so don’t even both trying to call me out on this.
The point here is that when another, young, scrappy startup based in Colorado hit me up (thankfully not literally, as I have beautiful alabaster skin, but this means that I do bruise easily), I was more than happy to give them the time of day. This is not insignificant either, as now that your boy FBD is a bit of a hot commodity (not to be confused with a hot commode, which is something completely different), I have all sorts of kooky startups trying to bend my ear about how their jock straps are going to end world hunger, combs that can make you taller, or some other such nonsense. But turn down a fellow CO bro? Never. All bros know that’s strictly against bro code.
So my South-state brethren loaded up Tad Elliott’s El Camino with their latest and greatest swag for a trip up to the big city, Steamboat. And I loved it. With a few notable caveats.
First of all, surprise, surprise, the garments are wool. What can I say, I’m a fan. Not literally a fan, as I don’t think fans can type. The do a wonderful job recirculating air, but type? I don’t think so.
First up was the Access NXT. This thing was screaming winner from the second I pulled it out of the box. It checks all of the boxes, warm, light, stylish, versatile, you name it. This made the cut on “Casual Wear” day because that’s kinda how they market it, but in reality, it is one of those FBD favorites that can go straight from the tracks to the table, as in dinning table. As in dinning table at a restaurant, where people are cooking food for you and brining it to you, not you fumbling around in your crappy little kitchen at home, slaving over a hot stove, stirring a pot of gruel like some filthy peasant. Wear whatever the hell you want when you’re doing that, you frickin’ animal. No, instead I’m talking about going out on the town with your shaggy dog tales (a word to the wise, you may want to skip over the dirty tractor seat saga, that’s really best kept between you and your HCP.)
The point here is that the Voormi pullover is perfect for a cool mountain bike ride, then stopping straight off at your favorite local drinking establishment for burgers and beers. I know this for a fact, as it tested this theory all fall. $199 at Voormi.com
I was a little bit more on the fence with the River Run Hoodie (pictured above). Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice garment, but it’s very thin, which is both a positive and a negative. It’s a positive in the sense that it’s a great piece for light to moderate aerobic activity when it’s cool, but something about a thin, lightweight hoody just kind of has that ’80s surfer, Spicoli, hooded t-shirt vibe. To be clear, I’m a surfer and I love the surfer lifestyle, but it’s a fine line between true, cooler-surfer vibe, and landlocked kook that is trying too hard. My concern is that this garment is a little bit too close to that line, so use with caution.
If you’re all about the hooded T though, this is definitely your jam. $129 at Voormi.com
Patagonia Better Sweater
Thankfully someone at Patagonia has their eyes on the prize and has figured out that if we’re not careful, we’re going to kill the planet. This presents a bit of a problem since it just so happens that we live on the planet and it’s the only planet that we’ve got.
To help keep this from happening, the gang up in Venture has really been at the leading edge of the curve in terms of repair, reuse and recycle. Attend any of the big outdoor trade shoes and they have this big, covered wagon contraption in their booth which repairs old, damaged gear — extremely commendable for a company who makes their money by selling NEW gear.
They’re also understandably and rightfully pissed that, as they put it, “The President Stole Your Land,” and I am ecstatic that in this day in age when so many companies are so cowardly and so reluctant to potentially alienate even a single potential customer, that Patagonia has the moral integrity to stand up to this horrific actions. For this reason alone, you should also have Patagonia in mind for your outdoor needs. Make no mistake, this is a dog fight and we’ve all got to stick together on this.
Along those same lines of social responsibility, another very commendable idea they have is their Fair Trade Fleece program. The gist here is that they look at the working conditions in the factories that produce their products, along with the overall environmental impact of everything they do — Patagonia is one of the first and only clothing companies doing this and it deserves recognition. Since like most (all?) of you, I don’t want to spend my twilight years on a sun-scorched, post-apocalyptic, hell-scape, I’m all for doing whatever we can to save the planet. And if you can do so without making any compromises in quality, style and price, isn’t this pretty much a slam dunk? I think so. If you have time, please watch the video on their site to learn more.
If someone from Patagonia was here, they’d tell you to not rush out and buy this cool hoody just based on this review, but rather to wait until you or someone you love really needed it, then buy it. I’m not kidding either, as they’ve said this to me. I really respect this and I’m more than happy to pass along this vibe. $159 at Patagonia
Anytime there’s a product with “stud” in the name, naturally everyone immediately associates this with me, which is quite understandable. This is no exception.
A hidden gem of the ultra distance running community, IceBug is a smaller company (relatively speaking) that you may not have heard of previously. This is right up my alley, though, as I love testing new gear from “the little guys,” as sometimes it takes the agility of open-mindedness of a smaller organization or a startup to drive change in the industry.
While spiked shoes and boots are most certainly nothing new, IceBug does a very good job in moving this technology along. A great crossover product, as in you can wear it to the tracks and yet still not get laughed out of the grocery store, is the IceBug Metro BUGrip. These babies saved my ass in my internment in West Yellowstone (literally, as this fine community sees fit to not plow the streets or sidewalks in an effort to accommodate “Bubbleheads” (local slang term for snowmobilers), and I have it on good authority that they also dispatch a secret squad of highly trained technicians each evening to specially buff and polish the sidewalks to a fine sheen. This means that the trip to and from the grocery store with your overloaded backpack can be nothing short of treacherous if you aren’t probably prepared to do battle with the elements). $189.95 at IceBug
Patagonia Micro Puff — while this sounds like some sort of marijuana accessory you’d find in one of the Colorado weed shops (lots of weed references in this piece, which is very weird considering the fact that I’m both afraid of weed and the germs, AND I’m currently not even in Colorado), in fact it is the latest offering from Patagonia, and it’s killer. This jacket is both light and warm, to which I can assuredly attest after testing it in the aforementioned brutal daily commute to the grocery store in West Yellowstone.
Coming in right at the cutoff for this category, this jacket isn’t exact cheap, but neither is any coat of this caliber, so while it may be a bit expensive in the absolute sense, it’s a good value in the relative sense.
I do think it is very important to establish some parameters here and a solid frame of reference. These days, Patagucchi alone has a number of offerings in this general category: I know, I’ve reviewed most of them. And I really like most of them. So it’s important to keep in mind that this isn’t “the flavor of the month,” and what I was crowing about last year has now fallen out of favor for some splashy, new offering from the marketing team. No, far from it. I stand behind all of my reviews and recommendations from last year on Eagle Glacier, my team’s puffy coat reviews two years ago, and so on.
What this product has been designed to be is, to use a golf analogy, a “gap wedge.” Unlike Taylor Fletcher, who is a complete hack and total menace on the golf course, my boys Tad Elliott, Sylvan Ellefson, and yes, even Josh Smullin and I, have beautiful, silky smooth swings and overall near-flawless games. Since all of our short-iron shots are very finely tuned and precise (again, everyone but Taylor), there are times when our approach for eagle is too short for a pitching wedge and too long for the “sandy”: enter the gap wedge — a versatile “Tweener,” when making an eagle is mandatory to ensure that Taylor has to swim in the pond upon completion of the round (true story).
Does this gap wedge lessen the value of any other club in your bag? Absolutely not. Could it or should it replace your driver or putter? Absolutely not. But when you need it, you really need it, are you sure as shit are glad that you have it.
If you don’t play golf, none of this probably made any sense. All you need to know here is that the takeaway message is that I’m way better than Taylor Fletcher in golf (and life) and that this is a very versatile jacket. $299 at Patagonia