Outdoors gear is made for out there. As trends take wilderness apparel from the summits to the streets, Highsnobiety is recasting a seminal part of the outdoors for its new home. Trail Mix is a wear-test series, by Highsnobiety. Instead of climbing mountains, we put gear through tests that ring closer to home. Is a down coat too warm for the subway? Will mountain boots slip on iced-over streets? Each month, we’ll take on a new category, testing 5 pieces in the wilds of New York City to answer questions just like these.
This month, we’re testing out anorak jackets, the deceptively-simple garments known best as “pullover shells.”
Half poncho, half parka, the typical anorak is a hip-length rain jacket with a half-zip across the chest and a pouch pocket just below. Deep roots in sailing and the outdoors have given the garment a special place in culture. While their full-zip cousins may make for easier wearing, there’s a reason Frank Ocean’s Met Gala ‘fit included one, not the other.
The anorak is the Porsche 911 of outdoors gear. Over a long history of good looks and high performance, its one engineering blemish (the Porsche, a swinging rear engine; the pullover, that pesky pulling-over) has become its singular charm. But neither has remained frozen in time.
Modern Porsches feature mid-engines in all but name. Modern anoraks feature side-zips and a bevy of wearability hacks. And yet, through all the renovations, both car and coat have retained their defining shape.
If you’re shopping for a functional spring jacket, give one of these a whirl.
The North Face Silvani Anorak ($180)
The North Face Silvani is a high-performance ski shell built for cutting fresh powder. Switch chairlift lines for subway lines, and the Silvani’s black-on-neon colorway goes from bright snow day layer to the coolest The North Face around. Essentially, it’s an anorak version of the brand’s iconic Mountain Jacket — just swap out GORE-TEX for The North Face’s own DryVent technology.
The Silvani is an exceedingly comfortable jacket for wearing around town. A brushed tricot lining and roomy fit make it perfect to throw over hoodies and tees alike. Its DryVent breathes well in rain while keeping water out. The only real frustration is its packability: because the snow skirt isn’t removable, it’s harder to fit in a backpack than commuters might like. The Silvani may not be the perfect anorak, but for $180, it’s a great combination of fresh, functional, and frugal.
Arc’teryx Venda Anorak ($399)
Cut from a pliable-yet-sturdy GORE-TEX 3L “C-Knit,” the newest Arc’teryx anorak brings the brand’s outdoors technology to a decidedly urban setting, with coated zippers, a side-entry kangaroo pocket, and Arc’s signature “StormHood.” It’s technically a women’s jacket, but if Nike’s “1 Reimagined” launch is anything to go by, prepare to see a lot of guys sizing up.
In the true tactical spirt of stealth, the Venda’s most important feature is what it does not have: Short of small logo details on the sleeves and some micro-seams, the face of this smock is unblemished nylon. Take the function-meets-fashion of Arc’s Veilance line. Chop the price tag in half. Et voilà: an anorak guys will buy a women’s XL for.
Arc’teryx Alpha Pullover ($499)
Arc’teryx’s Alpha Pullover is a curiosity. Hip-cut and roomy in the shoulders, this 3L GORE anorak flexes with the wearer like a nimbler version of the brand’s famous hardshells. A shorter chest zip makes it easier to stuff into a backpack. But between the bold color-blocking and the fact that it’s a pullover, one can’t help but feel like Arc’teryx — not Veilance, but Dead Bird proper — set out to just make something cool.
All the bells and whistles are there: side-zip, adjustable hood, waterproof chest pocket, to name but a few. Worn with black chinos, the Alpha is a cutting statement piece, its jagged lines an aggressive reminder of the pure capability a GORE-TEX 3L alpine jacket offers, with a heavy dose of Visvim-like retro-futurism.
Holden 3-Layer Anorak ($500)
Holden was founded in 2002 by an athlete-designer team based in Venice Beach, CA. Before “functional fashion” was a buzzword, the brand introduced the sports world to outerwear that worked as good as it looked. Case in point: the 3-Layer Anorak, a high-performance multisport jacket with a highly waterproof shell.
With the side-zip up, the 3-Layer moves like a runway piece. In fact, swap the tech package for a glossy ad campaign, and Holden’s $500 anorak could easily pass for lux sportswear. But why even swap it? With a legit-to-outdoors-guys 20K/20K waterproof/breathability rating, the 3,-Layer Anorak chugs through weather without breaking a sweat. Between removable snow features and an eye exam’s worth of adjustments, the entire jacket can be styled out and packed down to the heart’s content. The internal construction isn’t as pretty as some others, but that’s not what really matters here.
Stone Island Nylon Metal Ripstop 65136 ($518)
The term “Spaghetti Western” refers to a sub-genre of Western movies filmed by Italian directors like Sergio Leone, the man behind 1966's The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Stone Island’s latest anorak may be tipping its hat in this direction — and oh, is it good.
The Nylon Metal Ripstop 65136 (hereby known as “anything but that”) is a hoodless anorak from Italy’s famed sportswear house. The key feature of this Stoney jacket is its cinched collar — a short, circular edge ensconced by a black cord and pull tab. Yes, it’s a bolo tie. And against the rich hues of Stone Island’s signature Nylon Metal, it pops like a corn stalk in a heat wave. This is not a performance piece, but as a clever genre-crosser, the 65136 has all the glitz of Lil Nas X on the red carpet.
Musto MPX GORE-TEX Pro Offshore Smock ($700)
Founded by Keith Musto OBE, a British Olympic sailor, the Musto name stands in rare company as both an official supplier to the Queen of England and a foul-weather “first choice” for Arctic seamen. Its kit is pricey, even for the yacht crowd, but with reports of jackets lasting through 20 years of cold and salt, Musto’s garments have certainly earned their place.
From the funnel neck collar to the rubberized internal double cuffs, every single feature of this anorak is tuned for open water. It’s essentially a giant sheet of GORE Pro with a hole for your head — a waterproof X-ray vest, with almost comparable heft (wearing this around New York City is a struggle, to say the least). However, as a statement piece, the MPX really sails. With sail-safe hi-viz and a contrast hood, this suit of North Sea battle armor might just be one Young Thug festival appearance away from a place in culture.