Clean Clothes is a series examining the fashion industry’s impact on our planet, and the brands, technologies, and people helping us toward a cleaner, more environmentally conscious future.

Despite international growth since its founding in 1914, Swedish outdoor gear maker Haglöfs remains focused on the place it's been for more than a century: the demanding climes of Northern Europe. Haglöfs best-known products include the hardcore all-in-one Selja jacket and the Roc Rescue, a GORE-TEX Pro jacket developed with Swiss Alpine Rescue. Its Eco Proof jacket ($310) is one of the brand’s newest, a three-layer waterproof with a twist. And as its name implies, the Eco Proof is designed entirely with sustainability in mind.

Swedish sustainability

The jacket is built like it followed a checklist of sustainable best practices. The materials used to make the Eco Proof are bluesign-certified for reduced environmental impact. The Durable Water Repellant (DWR) coating, which makes water drops bead up, is made without fluorocarbons. The absence of these toxins means a huge pollutant decrease over the DWR’s lifecycle. The jacket even features one of the few bluesign-approved YKK zippers.

Haglöfs has also been given “Leader” status by the Fair Wear Foundation, a non-profit that audits members' factory working conditions.

Highsnobiety / Bryan Luna
Highsnobiety / Bryan Luna
Highsnobiety / Bryan Luna

The jacket was designed with its lifecycle in mind. The body fabric is made from 52-percent recycled polyester and is abrasion-resistant so plastic shreds don't enter the environment. Elsewhere, the waterproof laminate is designed for ease of recycling and hardware such as zippers and closures are made for quick replacement.

Unfriendly environments

The first thing you notice compared with other three-layer jackets such as The North Face’s 1990 Mountain Jacket GTX is the detuned DWR. To anyone familiar with water streaming off GORE-TEX, the Eco Proof’s tendency to absorb drops might seem like a liability. For short exposure to rain, it's no big deal. For longer journeys, the three-layer membrane's ability to “breathe” is affected. The jacket feels cooler, heavier, and wet to the touch when you take it off — but only on the outside.

I wore the Eco Proof around New York throughout September 2018, a month of downpours that saw subways swamp and more than one regional flash flood. Multiple times, I got caught in monsoon rains for up to 30 minutes at a time. Every soaking the Eco Proof took left the inside cold but dry.

The jacket’s recycled polyester laminate is rated to 20,000 millimeters of water entry pressure, two and a half times the international standard for “waterproof.” This is the standard expected of conventional performance outerwear. From a jacket that literally puts the word “Eco” before “Proof,” it’s remarkable.

The jacket isn't designed for sustained activity, however. Having won an ISPO 2018 Award for a 3L Outer Layer under the "Urban" segment, and with its casual wear cut and lack of vent zips and body adjustments, it's clear the Eco Proof isn't seen as something for hardcore outdoor activities. It has an unfortunately bulky interior construction compared with user-friendly jackets such as the Arc’teryx Beta AR. I got the zipper caught on inside flaps a few times — no damage, just mildly frustrating.


How does it look?

Overall, the Eco Proof's look is solid — just in all the expected ways. Its retro performance aesthetic is a refined, technical interpretation of classic outdoor wear along the lines of Fjällräven’s Greenland No. 1.

The anti-abrasion fabric brings a level of rich textural detail to a category often defined by polished matte nylon, with the “Deep Woods” colorway I tested a smoky, ashen peat moss reminiscent of old waxed cotton jackets. Worn open over a white tee with black, it's perfect. But wouldn’t any military-inspired field jacket look about the same?

Regardless, the Eco Proof is a good shout for those turned off by triple-black GORE-TEX. It does, however, lose many of the polished, uber-techy quirks that make outerwear by brands such as Goldwin and Snow Peak so exciting.

Highsnobiety / Bryan Luna
Highsnobiety / Bryan Luna

Final thoughts

Let’s compare the above to a similarly styled, similarly priced raincoat: The North Face’s $300 1990 Mountain Jacket GTX. Performance-wise, they’re essentially equal. The Mountain Jacket has the edge in extended exposure, but for anything short of winter hiking (i.e. your commute), there’s no real material difference.

For styling, this is purely subjective. The Mountain Jacket is gorgeous in its original red and blue but generally less wearable. The Eco Proof is rather standard for a $300 jacket and versatile as a result. Just go with your gut.

As for sustainability, The North Face is no slouch environmentally, but this is where the Eco Proof takes the prize. For a retro performance jacket, it’s impressive to see a sustainable design go toe-to-toe with one of the legends. Haglöfs hasn’t reinvented the wheel, but it has made a bang-up jacket that leaves no stone unturned in terms of sustainability best practices.

Some parts need improvement. The less-effective DWR does impact performance at times. And while the styling is dramatically improved through a rich, tactile external fabric, it’s otherwise what you’d expect of a monochrome rain shell. That said, this effort deserves recognition. For $10 more than one of the most famous pieces of gear ever, the mid-price outdoor jacket market finally has an eco-friendly heavyweight.

For more sustainability coverage, here's how Copenhagen's Soulland is overhauling its production processes.

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