Spring isn’t known for its outerwear, but it’s useful to have a rain coat or jacket this time of year. Something lightweight and comfortable, but will also keep you dry during those intermittent spring showers. On Monday, we covered five options I think are particularly useful – especially if you need something to go with casualwear. Today, we cover four more.
Ten C Fishtail Parka (Japanese Jersey)
The problem with a lot of rain jackets is that they’re short. Unless you’re going with a trench coat or mac – which can be too dressy or conservative for some people – most outerwear designs will leave your legs exposed. Not a big deal in a light shower, but a problem if you’re walking through downpour.
If you want something causal, but long, try a fishtail parka. The coat’s name comes from the unique “tail” at the back of the garment, which has two fins that you can tie around your legs for insulation. The oversized design goes great with everything from textured sweaters to tailored sport coats. In the 1960s, British Mods used to raid military surplus stores for fishtail parkas they could wear over suits.
Mine is from Ten C, an Italian outerwear company that mixes classic military design with techwear fabrics. The use a bunch of different materials, but they’re most known for their water-resistant, nylon-polyester jersey (known as their Original Japanese Jersey, or OJJ). It’s somewhat stiff, which helps give their garments shape, and patinas nicely.
Ten C is dearly expensive, but like with anything nowadays, you can find them for less-than-retail if you scour eBay. Timberland also used the same fabric last season for an M-65 jacket, which I thought looked pretty good. It was on sale last season for $200, but no longer looks to be available.
The other option is to get a regular fishtail parka and just treat it with a DWR spray (see Nikwax or Revivex, which are mentioned in our last post). Original military versions fit huge, but you can find more street-friendly versions from brands such as J. Crew, Sandro, NN07, and Alpha Industries (although the last one is a bit short).
Sierra Designs Short Parka (60/ 40 Cotton-Nylon)
A great piece of spring outerwear for that “rugged Ivy” look – to be paired with five-pocket cords, LL Bean boots, and Shetland sweaters. Sierra Designs makes one of my favorites, which they call their short parka. As a reasonably lightweight piece of outerwear, it’s comfortable enough for springtime, while also giving you plenty of room to layer as needed. Maybe the only limitation: mountain parkas often look best with somewhat traditional looking clothes (basically that rugged Ivy look or the sort of things you’d find at Ralph Lauren). Not for everyone, but perfect for some.
The 60% cotton and 40% nylon blend also isn’t as shower proof as many of the options on this list, but it’s reasonably water resistant and much more affordable. Sierra Designs’ short parkas can often be had for less than $200 when they’re on sale. Vintage mountain parkas are also worth a look, especially those from old heritage brands such as LL Bean, Woolrich, Eddie Bauer, REI, Holubar, Alpine Designs, and Wilderness Experience (search eBay and Etsy). Many of those will be a bit longer, which means they’ll be easier to wear over a sport coat.
Arc’teryx Gamma MX Hoody (Softshell Fabrics)
Few of the designs we’ve been talking about in this guide are meant for real aerobic activities. If you’re off hiking in the springtime and want to prepare for any possible showers, you’ll want to pack a much more breathable jacket.
Softshell jackets are perfect for this kind of thing. They’re stretchy, comfortable poly-nylon blends, which are often backed with an interior, micro-pile fleece that helps wick sweat. Of all the options mentioned in this series, they’re typically the most breathable. The knitted fabric lets heat escape; the interior fleece keeps you dry; and the DWR treated, synthetic fibers keep light showers at bay. You can find softshell jackets from brands such as Buffalo, Marmot, Patagonia, and Arc’teryx (mine is Arc’teryx’s Gamma MX Hoody).
The downside to many softshell jackets: they’re not terribly stylish looking. If I were going for one today, I’d probably pick up this Goldwin funnel neck pullover, which looks a bit lighter weight, but nicer for off-trail use. Pair it with tapered chinos and sneakers.
LL Bean Trail Jacket (Ripstop Nylon)
Along with the DIY durable-water-repellant spray we mentioned in Monday’s post, you can check out LL Bean’s no frills Trail Jacket for an affordable solution. It’s made from a ripstop nylon, comes with a hood, and is available in a bunch of playful colors (nice when the weather is gloomy). The fabric here isn’t anything special – it’s somewhat stiff and rustles easily, and the Velcro closures aren’t that comfortable – but it’s also not something you have to baby. And for the time being, LL Bean’s lifetime satisfaction guarantee is hard to beat. I wear the yellow one on occasion with Shetland sweaters, OCBDs, and jeans. Just be sure to size down if you want a slimmer fit.
For alternatives, check out Patagonia’s Torrentshell jackets, which are made with armpit zips and 2.5-layer waterproof/ breathable fabrics. They’re a bit cooler wearing and better built. North Face’s Venture jackets are also slightly slimmer fitting, while also featuring mesh pockets that allow wet items to dry easily. For something really affordable, consider Peter Storm’s pullover cagoules. That’s a bit more straightforward – no fancy tech features or details – but I think pretty stylish when worn with jeans. A favorite of British soccer fans and nicely priced at $20.