It’s a simple fact of life in this age of consumerism that some things are just more fun to shop for than others. Allow us to demonstrate using a one-to-ten scale.
Toilet paper: one. A particularly nice pair of socks: five, six at a push. A new jacket, on the other hand: ten out of ten every single time.
Nothing beats investing in a quality piece of outerwear, and as always, we’ve got your back when it comes to finding an excuse to buy one. Introducing the windbreaker: a functional piece of kit that is more deserving than most of a spot in your jacket rotation.
This lightweight transitional staple is perfect for anyone looking to inject a dash of retro throwback goodness into their lives. Plus, it has the added benefit of being infinitely more functional than a pair of chunky trainers or an ill-fitting Coogi sweatshirt.
What Is A Windbreaker?
In short, a windbreaker is what’s been missing from your wardrobe. It’s an ultra-light, packable jacket that has been purpose built to keep troublesome spring and autumn weather conditions at bay.
Though conceived for use on the track and field, the absorption of sportswear into mainstream fashion means you don’t have to be training for a marathon in order to wear one out and about.
As the more insightful among you may have deduced from the name, the windbreaker’s primary purpose is to take the edge off when it’s blowing a gale outside. However, in recent years, advancements in outerwear construction techniques have seen these wafer-thin wonder garments become water repellant by employing specialist coatings and in some cases, taped seams.
Why You Need A Windbreaker In Your Wardrobe
This is a jacket that’s got your back when conditions take a sudden nosedive. It will fold up to no bigger than a large slice of pizza, making it the perfect size for stuffing into a backpack or even a cross-body bag to combat that unpredictable transitional weather.
The Idle Man
That’s just the practical side of things – windbreakers have form as well as function on their side, too.
Most menswear types are hesitant to call retro sportswear a trend because it’s been lingering around for as long as most of us care to remember and shows no discernible signs of falling from favour any time soon. This type of jacket is rooted in the ’80s and ’90s, meaning vibrant colours and retro prints are par for the course.
If you’re looking for a sensible way to hop on the throwback sportswear bandwagon then, a windbreaker is the perfect garment for you. Let’s not forget though that before sportswear was even a thing this humble garment was a key piece in the mountaineer’s wardrobe, which is reflected in the brands that have made the windbreaker its signature today. But, even if you’ve never hiked and barely get to work up a sweat, you can still make it work for you.
The Best Windbreaker Brands
Created in the image of its founder, ageless mountain man and environmental activist Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia is more than an outdoors equipment label, it’s a key player in making the clothing industry sustainable.
The vast majority of the Californian climbing company’s hard-wearing and well-fitting products are made from recycled materials, and it has even run campaigns urging consumers not to buy a new Patagonia jacket, but to have an old one repaired instead. That said, if you don’t already own a windbreaker, these guys make some of the most durable (and colourful) to be found.
While it’s difficult to pin down any one brand as the creator of the windbreaker, it’s a safe bet to assume that Nike was one of the first to (just) do it. The Oregonian sportswear giant’s Windrunner Jacket was designed in the late ‘70s and quickly established itself as a sporting icon.
Swoosh aside, the jacket’s chevron colour-blocking has become emblematic in its own right. If you want to earn even more streetwear points, check out what the label’s ACG (All Conditions Gear) imprint and Undercover co-designed Gyakusou line have to offer, too.
Take the same surgically precise and laboratory-clean approach to construction NASA employs when building rockets and apply it to a range of outdoor clothing. You’re probably looking at something like Arc’teryx.
The Canadian mountaineering brand is one of the big hitters when it comes to technical jackets, and with the price tags to match. Even something as lightweight and basic as a windbreaker is likely to set you back a pretty penny, but the second you wear it for its intended purpose, you’ll understand exactly where your money went and won’t regret it.
Spanish fast-fashion giant Zara is infamous thanks to its lightning fast production chain and somewhat questionable approach to sustainability. However, strip away all the haute-couture ripoffs and luxe-streetwear copycats, and you’re actually left with a solid selection of stylish wardrobe essentials, windbreakers being no exception.
Granted, the label’s offerings are very much style over substance, so if you’re looking for something to take with you to the Himalayas, you may want to start your hunt elsewhere. If, on the other hand, you just need something good-looking for traipsing around the city streets, without breaking the bank, Zara should be one of your first ports of call.
The North Face
It’s impossible to have a conversation about outdoor brands without The North Face’s name cropping up pretty early on. The Cali-born mountaineering label has grown to become the most recognisable in the world, producing top-tier kit for everyone from Arctic explorers to your average Joe sipping a pint in the pub.
There’s good news for fashion aficionados too – TNF is no stranger to a high-end hookup, boasting long-running collaborations with labels such as Supreme and Junya Watanabe MAN, as well as its own fashion-forward offshoot with Japanese brand Nanamica, The North Face Purple Label.
When it comes to high-quality, low-fuss wardrobe basics, it may appear that the Scandinavians have the monopoly. Even so, Japanese high street chain Uniqlo is doing a pretty good job of giving them a run for their money .
The retailer has earned a loyal following of stylish supporters thanks to its tightly curated selection of stripped-back staples. Being the wardrobe essential it is, the windbreaker is a regular fixture on the Uniqlo rails. Expect to find simple styling, excellent build quality and prices so low you’ll have enough cash left to buy an extra one in another colour.
Given its status as one of the greatest sportswear brands on the face of the Earth, and the windbreaker’s as a sportswear essential, it stands to reason that Adidas makes some of the best around.
For a hearty dose of retro goodness, look to the German label’s Originals line for throwback styling and iconic Trefoil branding. However, Adidas is well-known for making the best football gear in the game, so if you’re more likely to be hitting the five-a-side pitch than the streets, you’ll be well catered for, too.
American purveyor of outdoor gear Columbia may not have historically boasted the same pedigree as The North Face and Patagonia, but recent years have seen the label focussing more on style, without sacrificing performance.
As a result, Columbia is churning out clothing you could nip to a fashion show in, before catching a flight directly the Andes for a spot of mountaineering. The Challenger windbreaker has become one of the label’s staple pieces, and with striking colour options and oversized branding, it’s a surefire winner as far as we’re concerned.
Heritage workwear label Carhartt’s WIP line is what happens when you take more than a century’s experience creating durable garments and filter it through a streetwear lens. The result is some of the coolest and highest quality clothing on the market, with prices that won’t leave you completely bankrupt.
The US brand’s Nimbus pullover is a key piece in its seasonal collections, and while created as a winter coat, the unlined version is about as good as a windbreaker can get.
H&M’s basic and affordable offerings have seen it become one of the most recognisable names in towns and cities all over the world. Whatever, you’re looking for, you’ll find it here.
While it may not use mind-blowing fabric technology, nor ground-breaking production methods, a windbreaker from this high street institution will do precisely what it says on the tin. So if what you seek is a fuss-free option at a fair price, that looks good and fits well, you know where to go.