The rise of the fleece boy, when garden centre meets roadman
So here for outdoorsy fit
If you go to any Grime night in the United Kingdom, chances are you will bump into a guy wearing a fleece. You know the one, it's forest green, from Berghaus or Patagonia or any other brand your Dad probably wears when mowing the lawn.
You'll see him in a beige Ralphy five panel from Depop, Nike TNs, his chin will be smothered in artfully trimmed stubble and he has the floppy fringe of a Jack Wills model.
He likes to present himself as outdoorsy, but that only really extends to going on a walk to get milk when he's on a cummy. He is always gassing about how much he loves fishing, "getting back in touch with nature", it's just so good to "get out of London". But him and his boys don't know how to fish so all they do is get blazed in a tent and eat cold baked beans. He might look like he works in a garden centre, but in reality he knows more about AJ Tracy's latest banger than he does a spade.
Fleece boy is wholesome and polite and mature. He writes long statuses about the importance of the youth vote in modern politics and takes the time to ask about that post-colonial literature module you like. But he's also funny, like he has definitely brought a street sign back from a night out.
What is it about the fleece that is so appealing? I spoke to William Liddle, advertising executive, London, 23: "My angle on fleeces is that they're an all terrain garm, perfect for country walks in the Yorkshire Dales but also drinking on Dalston high street. The size to warmth ratio is also on point, They're like an acceptable fur coat alternative. I only wear fleeces with 1/4 zips though, the full zip is too Supreme highsnobiety wanker-ish".
Greg Barradale, assistant editor, 22, also points to the fleeces multi-functionality: "There’s the geography teacher vibe. As a fleece wearer, I’m not oblivious to that, but I’m also not against it. Pair it with some rugged trousers and you’ve got that look of knowing, outdoorsy respectability. Parents love it. But pair a well-zipped fleece with something a bit more rolled up and some chunky trainers, and suddenly you’ll get people asking where you buy your 35mm film from."
Ben Johnson, TV producer, London, 25 agrees: "Fleeces are warm, practical, aerated and of course very chique. A timeless classic if you will. Most of them were purchased by our respective mothers."
But as suspected, though they look like the type who could make fire with twigs and use compasses, they think going twenty minutes out of town is rural. Ben explains: "I only go outside when walking between tube stations. And coffee shops/bars/pubs. The last time I left London was 2006."
I don't care, I am totally sold by this wholesome lad aesthetic. I want a fleece boy of my own, someone who listens to Talking Tha Hardest whilst potting plants. And according to Theo Zeal, documentary film maker, 24, I am not the only one: "Women love fleeces because it shows I'm not scared to indulge in some comfort, much like a hug or blanket, whilst also being sensible against the elements."
Where has the reemergence of the fleece come from? I asked Tom Goulding, a journalist, 24, who attributes it to the fetishisation of Dad fashion. "It’s difficult to say. The micro-nostalgia that takes 'Dad' fashions of under 20 years ago and makes them somehow regain social capital seems fairly consistent. It’s like 'ooh look at me, I’m goofy and lovable but in a very deliberate and knowing way'”.
But the fleece cannot be viewed in isolation, it is the culmination of a wider trend where men are increasingly looking like workmen. All over my Facebook timeline men are popping up in Dickies trousers, Carharrt painting overalls and Timberland boots. I mean look at Urban Outfitters, the litmus test for mainstream cool:
So how do the real OGs feel about this? The pioneers of fleece fashion, the trailblazers of functional cool? I am talking about the builders, painters and decorators, the electricians – the people that actually know how to install shelves. I spoke to tree surgeon Joe Morris, a regular wearer of Colombia and other alpine clothing.
"If they wanna wear fleeces, that's chill with me. I wouldn't wear my work boots out into town and I normally put a nice t-shirt on when I go out but fleeces are well comfortable. I might start wearing it out to be honest if it is a thing".
Do wear the fleece Joe, I just want to nuzzle my face into that machine washable Polyester. Fleece boys are hot, whether they lug concrete around for a living, or patter delicate fingers over a Mac keyboard. I am into it, get yourself a Patagonia pappi and keep warm this January.