Covid-19 has upended just about everything.
For those of us who have been fortunate enough to work out of our homes, meeting primarily via Zoom, there’s no longer the need to “dress up”. Sure, you need to look presentable, but there’s no reason to be a clothes’ horse.
Your days of spending money at Nordstrom are mercifully over.
In other words, the pandemic has transformed our relationship with clothing.
Essentially, we’re buying fewer garments. According to a recent piece in Fast Company, fashion industry revenues dropped in the neighborhood of one third last year. Consumers were choosier but increased spending on “casual wear” and “active wear”.
In the active apparel department crossover wear–clothing that can be used in any number of environments has become an important niche. Whether it’s a hike up Tantalus, a BBQ (whenever that becomes possible) or a visit to Costco you’ll want something that’s durable and practical.
Looking halfway decent is always a nice thing to consider as well.
Over the last few years I’ve been writing a great deal about Crossover wear and one of the brands I’ve come to like is VERTX. Owned by famed investor Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway, the 175 year old company was, and still is, known primarily as a manufacturer of tactical clothing. (During WWII they made a lot of government issue uniforms).
They still manufacture military and law enforcement garments used by real “operators”. Because the clothing is designed to allow law enforcement professionals to blend in, you can wear them casually, without looking like a soldier of fortune wannabe.
You’re not going to find these pants for sale in a boutique but that’s not where I shop. The point is, you won’t feel self-conscious wearing their covert line of pants. They are stylish too. You won’t be mistaken for a security guard at Walmart.
Their products are priced upper to mid-range—from $60-85. What you get, for paying a little more, is something that will last. These garments that are over engineered like Swiss or German machinery.
They have recently come out with a couple of new products that are ideal for the Coivd era.
VERTX describes that Grip pant ($69.99) as “The look of workwear, the feel of your favorite casual pant”. I agree, although I’d say it’s a cross between work and casual.
Constructed in a lightweight, stretch broken twill it will highlight your better features while allowing you to hike or work in the garden with them. Or, perhaps carry out a covert operation. The fabric’s feel is nice and soft. Very comfortable.
It has (count em) 14 pockets but thank the Lord it does not look like some overly pocketed cargo pant. As the website says, “Grip Pants blend into the crowd without censoring your style.”
Here are the construction highlights:
- Athletic fit provides low-profile silhouette
- Full gusseted crotch and four-way stretch allows greater range of motion
- Brass YKK® locking zipper
- Contoured higher back rise
- 8 belt loops are 0.875-inch wide and fit up to 1.75-inch belts
- Front pockets are reinforced to reduce wear and tear
- All heavy-wear seams are double-stitched
- Bar tacks or YKK® rivets at critical stress points
I can live with that.
The other style I like is the Cutback SF ($79.99), which VERTX describes as “Streamlined Urban Camouflage”.
I can dig that.
The Cutback actually comes in two versions, the SF (the slim cut) or the “original” Cutback. If you have a physique that can accommodate the slimmer Cutback SF, I would suggest you get that one. It’s going to look better on you. If not the original will serve you well.
The Cutback SF is a bit slimmer than the Grip , and is definitely more stylish. It “only” has 7 pockets. I would suggest that there are plenty of places to stash your credit cards, money, cellphone, passport, etc.
I could totally see these pants used for travel (once that becomes in vogue again) because of the pockets designed to accommodate passports, money, and whatever else you wish to hide.
You can even take these to the range and no doubt be the best dressed on the firing line.
I like the SF design because they really can be construed as casual even if they are built for LE men (or women). The slim tailoring will also blend in with the crowd.
As the VERTX website says, “On the job or out for some R&R you can depend on the Cutback SF for low-profile preparedness, because when you’re on the streets, you never know what could be around the corner.” (Maybe a Tinder date?)
Here are the features:
- 7 pockets keep tools and essentials at the ready
- Deep front pockets are made of soft highly-breathable mesh
- Watch pocket in right front pocket
- Right front pocket has pass-through slots for comms lead or a RATS tourniquet
- Dual angled rear yoke pockets fit standard smart phones and rifle mags
- Wallet traps in both rear pockets keep wallet or passport secure
- 5 mini stash pockets let you pre-load key items from 1.75 to 2.25 inches long
- Keyring and lanyard anchor point in both front pockets
- Concealed DropLoop pass-through in each belt loop for flexible restraints or reinforced tether points for lanyards or gear
- 320D Cordura® reinforcements on watch and rear yoke pocket openings and cuff kickplates
The bottom line is that these pants are both sturdy and have a modicum of elegance. Both are equally comfortable but the Cutback fabric does not have quite the soft feel of the Grip. (It consists of Stretch 6.2 oz. 40% Cotton/ 27% Polyester T400/ 25% 37.5® Polyester twill).
Both and utilize VaporCore a technology that VERTX claims will keep you cool, dry and smelling nice. (It controls odor).
What’s not to like?
One of the over-engineered components are the the mesh pockets (on both pants) which appear to be very durable. Ditto with the massive and numerous belt loops which you could probably hang out of a helicopter with. (Don’t try it though…).
You’ll also have a full range of movement—you’ll be able to squat, run, kneel, etc. And they will last a long time.
These are truly everyday wear that you can travel or, you can head out on the trail with. Easy to stash your cell phone in one side pocket and your EDC flashlight in the other.
I have been using VERTX products for a number of years (see above photo) and can attest to their longevity. For everyday wear, you can’t beat ’em. If you can use them for a covert mission, that’s a bonus.
Robert F. Kay is a columnist for the Honolulu Star Advertiser, a health nut, the author of two Lonely Planet guidebooks and Fijiguide.com. (He also likes crossover wear).