Early last year, a wide-encompassing trend emerged. In the wake of normcore—where plain clothes with heavy dad-vibes became a hot commodity—brands with ethical inclinations, practical provisions and a sustainable bend suddenly took center stage. No doubt a response to world politics and the fragility of the environment, brands including The North Face, Columbia, Arc’teryx, Birkenstock and most importantly Patagonia climbed into the fashion consciousness. Dubbed “gorpcore”—for many of the brands crunchy granola leanings—the trend saw gear most often associated with hippies and University of Colorado Boulder undergrads suddenly considered fashionable. Everyone from A$AP Rocky to Shia LaBeouf embraced Patagonia 5” baggies and Birkenstocks (Rick Owens even released a collab with the iconic sandal producer). More than a year in—and as winter approaches—many of these adopted styles are losing steam. One in particular, though, shows immense staying power: the fleece.

Patagonia introduced their signature Pile High fleece in 1977 and the versatile jacket has been a brand staple since. Though relegated to climbers and college kids for the majority of its existence, through normcore and gorpcore the inimitable garment is suddenly a style staple with offbeat prints and rare colorways lusted after. Everyone from style documentarian (and, style icon in his own right) Mister Mort to Drake has at some point been spotted championing the humble Patagonia fleece.

Supreme, for one, recognized the fleece’s importance years ago, and regularly releases its own iterations, most recently a reversible vest as part of the Fall/Winter 2018 collection. While Supreme is not directly influenced by the trend—its first Patagonia knockoff was released 20 years ago—its continued embrace of the fleece speaks to both its immense respect for both Patagonia and the styles inherent practicality.

Supreme’s long string of releases notwithstanding, the fleece is now being embraced numerous ways, from cult Japanese reinterpretations to full-on runway appearances. The long line of technical brands in Japan that embrace and elevate the Patagonia aesthetic is immense. This notably includes Needles—who have produced a fleece of some fashion for the past several seasons—crafting this season’s tribal and tropical prints. Cult camping brand Snow Peak—whose designer, Lisa Yimai, is former employee of The North Face Purple Label—makes premium zip-up and pullover fleeces with a streamlined design integrating high-grade PolarTec and taped seams. Yuki Matsuda’s US-by-way-of-Japan brand Monitaly made fleeces a prominent part of its Fall/Winter collection, both in a wild leopard print and an animated forest print reminiscent of RealTree camo.

While those Japanese brands all rework American classics in premium fabrications—American and European fashion houses are also warming up to the traditionally collegiate garment. This season Matthew Williams presented a series of camouflage patchwork fleeces (also in Polartec) as part of his Fall/Winter 2018 Alyx “Relentless” menswear collection. Unlike the Japanese elevated Americana iterations, Alyx’s fleece is full-on premium luxury featuring custom metal hardware, asymmetrical construction, hidden interior pockets and handmade in Italy. Considering Patagonia is one of Williams’ favorite brands—for years the Grade VII Down Parka was his go-to winter coat—the upward trajectory of influence is quite clear.

Always with her finger on the pulse, Martine Rose’s ongoing collaboration with Italian outerwear producer Napapijri, Napa by Martine Rose, produces a massively oversized sherpa fleece in a slew of colorways, a comment on both her sense of elevated British streetwear and the surging interest in the inherently utilitarian garment. New York darling Sandy Liang’s calling card is her wildly popular 203 Fleece, which due to surging demand, she now offers in men’s sizing.

Even Virgil Abloh presented fleeces in his debut Louis Vuitton Spring/Summer 2019 menswear collection, showing that the humble style has pierced the highest heights of luxury.

While the fleece will never fully dissociate from it’s outdoor origins, in a fashion space where both brands and consumers are increasingly questioning production chains, eco-footprint and the intent behind a garment (not to mention an overwhelming lean towards comfort) items like the fleece will no doubt continue to thrive. As ugly fashion surges and “normal” items are suddenly covetable, the “Silicon Valley dad” closet will only receive more attention. If this trend is telling us anything, it’s that relevant fleece jackets are piling up.

Tags: martine-rose, supreme, patagonia, alyx, fleece