The temperature has finally dipped below 70 degrees, which means one thing: It’s officially fleece season. To find the coziest options, we asked 15 fashionable people — including stylists, bloggers, and our own writers and editors — about their favorites, from trusty Patagonias to this season’s new crop of stylish jackets. But first, we wanted to chat about the enduring appeal of fall’s fuzziest jacket.
Dominique Pariso: So, I’m sort of surprised by my conversion to fleeces. In high school, I feel like everyone had North Face Denalis —
Jordan Bowman: I always really wanted one.
DP: And I did not. Then I went to college in New England and everyone had a fleece, and I lasted four freezing winters — still never bought one. But then last year, I finally broke down and got a Uniqlo one.
JB: My first fleece was also from Uniqlo. I really liked it, but I decided to level up last year and get the Patagonia Snap-T fleece, and it’s just so much better. It really has this perfect one-two punch of style and function. It’s super-warm and it looks nice, but most importantly it’s cozy. It has these dope ASMR-style snaps (that’s where it gets the name from) that are just so fun to pull apart. It’s the clothing version of popping bubble wrap. What do you think made the fleece “cool” again?
DP: Sandy Liang definitely made the fleece cool again. And now a million retailers have followed suit. Many women still recommended the classics like Patagonia and North Face, but then there’s also this feeling of wanting the coziness of a fleece with a little more style. Some of them are definitely teddy-coat adjacent or take the fleece material and update it with different silhouettes. And obviously fleeces fit right in with pandemic comfortwear.
JB: They’re for real like sweatpants for your upper body. I know some people are going to say “Just buy a sweatshirt,” which is fine, but, you know, when that wind really starts blowing, a sweatshirt isn’t going to hold up (or keep you warm) like a classic fleece. It’s perfect fall-to-winter transitionwear.
BEST FLEECES FOR WOMen
Best under-$100 fleeces for women
According to actress and blogger Marie Zoumanigui, “You can never go wrong with a simple brown fleece, and this price point is hard to beat.” But if you prefer a less neutral choice, this lightweight, quick-drying yarn fleece comes in 12 other colors, including yellow, light blue, and green.
Stylist Kiarra Logan just bought this zebra-print jacket from Bershka. “I think it’s a great stylish option for the price,” she says. Her styling tip: “Wear it with black, shiny Commando leggings, an oversize T-shirt, and stylish sneakers.” The jacket also comes in tan, which Logan says she’d “wear with jeans and cute ankle boots.”
If you want a fleece “that’s on trend and does not break the bank,” Logan also suggests this cozy ASOS option. The jacket is also available in petite and curvy sizes. “Plan to rock this with a cozy sweat suit and a moto boot,” adds Logan.
While you may associate Abercrombie & Fitch with your teenage mall days, style blogger Bethany Everett-Ratcliffe told us to check out the brand’s asymmetrical fleece, which feels surprisingly sophisticated. “I have had this fleece for years, and there’s a reason it keeps restocking after it sells out every year,” she says. “It’s cozy and fitted, which makes it easy to look cute while staying warm.” There are nine different styles to choose from, including solids, two-tone colors, and even prints.
Best under-$200 fleeces for women
“When I think of winter fleeces, the first one that comes to mind is the North Face Denali jacket,” says Everett-Ratcliffe. While she does note that, at $179, it’s certainly not cheap, “you are truly paying for the quality.” The fleece is also among the most size-inclusive on this list and is available from an XS to a 3XL. “For $20 more, there’s one with a hood,” she adds.
Strategist junior writer Chloe Anello owns more than ten different fleeces, but the only one she owns multiples of is this pullover from Patagonia. “These are definitely the warmest,” she promises. Plus, “they allow for easy layering underneath, without giving you that overstuffed feeling.”
For a slightly more retro take on the Patagonia pullover, Zoumanigui suggests this one because she loves the pastel colors. “A fleece like this can give you the mood booster you need on gloomy fall days,” she notes.
“Let’s not kid ourselves: The only fleece that matters (and the one that everyone seems to be trying to rip off these days) is Patagonia’s Sherpa fleece,” says Strategist deputy editor Maxine Builder, which also might explain why we have three of them on this list. For a zip-up option, she bought the Retro-X jacket back in 2009 at the Patagonia outlet in Freeport, Maine, and she says she fully expects “it to last many years to come.”
Both Zoumanigui and Everett-Ratcliffe told us that Free People is making plenty of fun, fashionable fleeces this year. Zoumanigui has her eye on this “very cozy” fleece available in five different prints. Everett-Ratcliffe prefers a different option from Nordstrom Rack because “it’s looser and a little cropped.” (It is also on sale and a third of the price.) “If you like bright colors, this one has options,” including lime green and violet.
While Strategist contributing editor Jessica Silvester doesn’t go to SoulCycle anymore, after seeing this “cuddly yet not too boxy looking” jacket in an email, she couldn’t resist snapping it up. “It’s nice and roomy — big enough to layer over a thick hooded sweatshirt but without feeling bulky,” she says. “Plus, it has plenty of space to hold my phone, credit-card case, keys, lozenges, etc. (I hardly notice they’re on me in this thing.)” And if you’d rather not advertise for a fitness studio you may (or may not) go to, fear not: There is “zero visible SoulCycle branding.”
If you’re looking for a more technical fleece to work out in, Anello suggests this one. “After a workout, I’m typically pretty warm already, so this is a great lightweight fleece to throw on,” she says. “It protects me from a breeze, but I also won’t overheat.”
And a fleece worth splurging on
While pricey, Sandy Liang can probably be credited as the designer who shepherded fleeces from collegiatewear to their more stylish revival. “A fancy fleece was never something I thought my closet was missing,” says Strategist beauty writer Rio Viera-Newton, who impulse-bought her Sandy Liang fleece with some Le Point store credit she had saved. “I have since fallen deeply and madly in love with it,” she says. “It’s cozy and casual enough to wear lounging around my house on a cold morning or over workout clothes en route to the yoga studio.” Catherine Xiang, digital product designer at Modern Citizen, is also a big fan of Liang’s “unconventional fleeces,” which is why she bought one of them two years back. She still wears it all the time because it is “very cozy and never fails to boost my mood.” She pointed us toward this leopard-print option (which is quite similar to the one Rio bought last year), but also noted that if leopard isn’t your thing, you should check out this “happy-colored number” or this more neutral option.
THE BEST FLEECE FOR MEN
Best under-$200 fleeces for men
“Patagonia’s Retro-X Fleece Jacket is pretty much the OG,” says Kevin Kafesu, marketing manager for Wood Wood, a design and clothing retailer based in Copenhagen. “The Retro-X fleece marries both form and function and is the best in the class if you want something that not only performs but looks great with your preexisting wardrobe,” he says. Plus, Patagonia gives you the option to “buy a brand that matches your values environmentally and socially,” he says.
Aaron Levine, SVP for men’s and women’s clothing at Abercrombie & Fitch prefers vintage Snap-Ts because they’re heavier. “You can be really hard on it and beat it to death and it just gets better and better and has more character.” (He frequently sources his rare finds from a small Instagram vintage shop called fbvtg.) If you prefer to buy new, he says the modern Snap-T is still worth the money.
“The Denali is made to be compatible with the North Face Mountain Jacket,” says Jian DeLeon, the fashion editorial director of Nordstrom. “Worn alone, it’s a great compromise of quality and classic style,” he says. “It’s great, but when zipped into the equally inimitable Gore-Tex shell, you end up with a modular piece you keep for life.” He also offers this pro tip: “The retro fit runs a bit baggier, which you absolutely want.”
Jared Johnson, co-founder and chief marketing officer at Season Three, recommends this fleece because “it’s cut like a liner jacket, similar to how the Patagonia Retro-X used to be made. Nowadays, you’ve got to spend wild prices to get one of those vintage beauties.”
Best under-$300 fleeces for men
Streetwear brand Brain Dead recently collaborated with the North Face on a colorful and fun collection, says Federico Barassi, vice president of menswear buying for SSENSE. “I like the contrasting panels of nylon against the fleece in bright colors, which adds a twist to the in-demand fleece pullover style,” Barassi says. It’s a transitional piece perfect for fall weather that can be dressed up or down, he says. “It’s also an effortless option for keeping warm, thanks to the elastic details at the sleeves and waist.”
Outside of his collaborations, Kyle Ng at Brain Dead is making some of the most underrated apparel right now, DeLeon says. “I still gravitate toward some absolute bangers from his main line, like this Frankenstein fleece meets fishing vest. It’s got all the gorpy psychedelic appeal that summarizes what makes the brand stand out.”
“Half-zips are prime errand attire,” says Jordan Bunker, a writer and menswear blogger. “If I know I’ll be heading out later in the day, something like this from Oliver Spencer would be ideal. Made from a recycled-cotton blend, it comes with a high neck to bury your head in three Zoom meetings in.”
Kafesu says the Wood Wood Hannes fleece represents all things Scandinavian: “functional and minimal in design.” He’s a fan of the “muted colors, discreet pockets, and minimal branding.” Plus, he says, “the pile is low, making it ideal for layering when you’re not making the most of the water repellence and windproofing.”
Best fleeces worth splurging on
“This is the closest fleece to actual vintage high pile that I have seen reproduced,” says Timothy Grindle, co-founder of Canoe Club. “The neppy-denim reinforcement hits on the shoulder and arm and really sets it apart from other fleece jackets” — while still managing to maintain a classic feeling, Grindle says.
If you’re looking for a more stylish low-key twist on the classic Patagonia Snap-T, then the Nanamica pullover should do the job. “The silhouette is clean and familiar, but the fabric is an acrylic mohair, making it feel a little more luxury but still allows it to be worn hard,” says Grindle.
Sandy Liang’s fleeces caught on with men because of popular models like the “Smiles” and “Checkers,” DeLeon says. The brand has a button-up trucker-jacket silhouette but with a cozy fleece. “I got this oversize checkerboard version at her Vans pop-up in Williamsburg in the Before Times. The collarless shape makes it easier to wear over a hoodie, and it also works as a layer underneath an oversize coat.”
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