Aran Irish Sweaters: Did You Know?

Aran sweaters are classic winter wear for generations of Irish men and women. But do you know what makes them so special?

Quill’s Woollen Market, a family run business established in 1938 and source of all things Irish, has created this handy graphic to answer all your pressing Aran questions.

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The Recon AC Short from Triple Aught Design

TAD Recon Short in Desolation_2

Triple Aught Design is a brand dedicated to creating tactical inspired gear and clothing that works in the real world. Truth be told, for some of their customers that world may very well be a covert mission somewhere in the darker reaches of the planet. However, for the rest of us it typically hovers somewhere around our kid’s soccer practice, the daily commute, or heading out for a weekend hike.

We are fans of Triple Aught’s ability to marry the cool factor of something truly designed to handle SEAL-worthy adventures with the practicality of everyday use. Bags that work for everyday commuting – at least for casual commuters – and outerwear that’s urban adventurer functional without being overly commando looking. There is a fine line between appreciating a product’s military inspiration and looking like you’re playing dress-up. Forgiving the sometimes over-top-product narratives, Triple Aught walks that line especially well.

A great example of this blend of styling and practicality is present in the Recon AC Short. It’s still shorts weather out there, and these have become a favorite when dressing up is not a requirement. Placed somewhere between casual wear and outdoor gear, the Recon Short is comfortable, practical, unstructured, and endlessly functional.

The dense yet remarkably soft material is called Amphibious Cloth, hence the “AC,” and is a durable and lightweight nylon fabric. The shorts feature inset zippered cargo pockets with internal attachment points, with a total of nine pockets all together; signature bar tack reinforcements at stress points, triple-needle stitching for increased durability, and a gusseted crotch that provides freedom of motion.

With a stylishly neutral and comfortable design, these are indeed shorts that can hit the road or the trail with equal aplomb. But, we also think they work just fine for sailing on the Cape, a heavy day of yard work, or simply hanging out with your dog.

TAD Recon Short in Desolation_4

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Father’s Day Find: Equmen Fitwear

equmenLooking for something new to add to the undershirt drawer? Sydney, Australia-based Equmen has ventured into the brave new world of men’s compression garments; a.k.a, “shape wear.”

While more familiar at the gym, these products are designed for everyday wear. We like to refer tothis category as “fitwear.”

Their core compression singlet style undershirt which we tested helps support your body, including your back, shoulders, and stomach. It is made from an engineered compression fabric and has an ergonomic design meant to optimize health and well-being, from the boardroom to the running track.

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The singlet’s design gently pulls your shoulders back to help provide better postural and reduce back pain. The unique mesh fabric cools your body by wicking away heat and moisture. The fabric also has embedded anti-microbial properties that help you feel fresh throughout the day.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the second-skin fit of the Equmen singlet provides targeted compression and does indeed visibly slim for a more tailored look. “Compression” is a key word here, so be aware that it’s an unusually snug fit if you are not used to this type of garment. However, we found it to be generally comfortable and fine for all-day wear.

The product’s HELIX-MAPPING™ technology has built-in physiotherapy techniques that are designed to help your body with support and healthful compression.

After testing it out for some time, we have to agree that it does a pretty good job.

So, yes gentleman, if you are looking for men’s shape wear, it does indeed exist. And, Equmen is a great place to start.

 

Go Take A (Day) Hike

Now that the endless winter weather that has gripped much of the Northern hemisphere appears finally to be receding, it’s time to head outside for some much needed sunlight and fresh air.  One of the great pleasures of outdoor activities, apart from actually being active, is acquiring new equipment and gear designed for your back-to-nature inspired endeavors.

Purpose-built bags, clothing, and accessories help to orient your thinking and get you in the mood for day hikes, longer runs, or just an urban adventure to the cool section of town.

We have had the pleasure of recently checking out a few pieces from three great performance-driven brands; Granite Gear, Vasque, and Timex.  While they do possess a certain color-coordinated outdoor performance look, it was pure – if inspired – coincidence.  And, although each has great technical eye appeal, what ultimately matters is how the products perform.

DSC_0607We have actually been testing out the Timex Expedition Shock Chrono Alarm ($58) for about two months and find it to be a fantastic timepiece for everyday informal and active wear, be it working out, running, hiking, or any other activity where the possibility of deliberate or accidental watch abuse exists.

The moderately-sized watch is very lightweight but also sturdy and extremely comfortable on the wrist.  Its soft rubber strap is flexible, unlike the G-Shock’s, and gently hugs your wrist, keeping the watch in place without bulk.  A pleasingly functional case, clear and easy-to-read negative display, and one-touch Indiglo illumination, all make this a true favorite.

The Granite Gear Athabasca 24 day pack ($129.95) is another item that combines technical capability with functionally cool style.  First and foremost, this company makes gear for use in the actual great outdoors.

Athabasca 24Every strap, tab, zipper, pocket, and loop on this bag is there for a reason and built to withstand the abuse of serious backwoods tracking.  At the same time, their days packs are infused with features that work in a more urban, less mountainous environment.

The sturdy hip belt, perfect for supporting a fully loaded back for an afternoon on the trail, is also removable for everyday commuter use.  There is a sleeve designed for a hydration insert that doubles a secure slot for a small laptop, and an easily accessible outer pocket is equipped with key lanyard and assorted pockets.

A good pair of sturdy shoes is vital to a comfortable and safe trek, whether on a trail or down the block.  These Vasque Grand Traverse kicks ($129.95) are a nice hybrid multi-sport shoe designed to handle true back country trails and daily errands with ease.  It’s the performance of a hiking boot wrapped in the comfort of an athletic shoe.

The dual-density EVA footbed and molded EVA midsole provide superior support over rough terrain while the Vibram® Ibex sole gives you stability and grip, even on wet pavement.  It’s even a comfortable choice for going sockless and walking the dog on a warm evening – we’ve tried it.

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Triple Aught Design, based in San Francisco, is a favorite of OTC because they make unique and functional gear that works in the real worlda nd with real wardrobes.

A perfect example of this form-follows-function approach to TAD design is the Preatorian Hoodie.  As with most of TAD’s apparel, there is a decidedly tactical and military-inspired look to this layering piece.  That said, what really shines through with this 100% merino wool hoodie is it’s clean and straightforward design, functional details, and solid construction.

As with other TAD products, this one received many unsolicited compliments from guys who typically commented on its style, design, and overall wear-ability.

There is something inherently functional in all of their designs that speaks to a masculine aesthetic built on practicality and use.  These are core elements of East Coast style and the preppy ethos; stuff built for work that has been appropriated for everyday use.

Some of the key elements that we like in the Praetorian Hoodie are the trim but comfortable fit, study and smooth zippers, and solid feel of the merino wool construction.  Warming or cooling as needed, the wool has a natural stretch and softness that makes it a perfect, and dressier, sweatshirt stand-in.

The hoodie’s hood is big and deep, almost a cowl-line; but nonetheless practical.  The two hand warmer pockets are well-sized and have an angled shape that creates a safe spot for keys and your phone.  The zippered chest pocket is a great design element that is unexpected in a zippered sweater.  And, even with a smartphone in there, no sagging or pulling.

As with other active life tops, the Praetorian Hoodie’s sleeves end with discreet thumb holes in the even you want to take out for a cool weather run, layer under a shell, or just keep your wrists warm.

Lastly, one feature that really makes us happy, especially with this winter’s spate of cold, windy weather, is the elongated zipper that runs well up the neck to your chin, closing out the cold and keeping you warm.  This feature also explains the wider than average hood design.

When this hoodie arrived at OTC headquarters, it went right on and has been a daily choice ever since.  Part sweater, part workout gear, part travel buddy.  The Praetorian hoodie is another win from Triple Aught Design.