Being from California, I don’t do well in the cold — which I define as anything below 60 degrees — and with five New York City winters under my belt, I’ve tried just about everything to stay warm, from wool underwear to ski masks. But for years, there was one part of my body I could not figure out how to keep toasty: the upper-thigh-to-calf portion of my legs, between the hem of my down jacket and the top of my wool socks. It’s very specific, but as an extremely cold person, it was problematic. From November to March, walking outdoors with friends or waiting in line outside — activities that are now commonplace because of the pandemic — were uncomfortable.
But then I picked up a pair of men’s hunting jeans at a women’s clothing exchange in Park Slope. They’re from Cabela’s, the Nebraska-based outdoor store that’s now owned by Bass Pro Shops, which isn’t a typical purveyor of nice-looking clothing, especially among the Park Slope set. But these jeans look like a regular pair of mid-rise, straight-leg boyfriend jeans (in part because they’re made for men). They sit lower on the waist, below my belly button, and are loose through the hip and thigh.
Since being acquired by Bass Pro Shops in 2017, Cabela’s has phased out their in-house line in favor of RedHead, a similar brand owned by their parent company. For all intents and purposes, the RedHead fleece-lined pants seem to be made of the same 100 percent cotton exterior and 100 percent polyester-fleece interior as Cabela’s brand, though reviewers say they run slightly smaller, which is convenient for petite-sized buyers: I’m five-foot-one, and my current 30-inch-waist, 30-inch-inseam jeans are ever-so-slightly too loose and too long. They’re also available up to a 40-inch waist, and 34-inch inseam.
What really sets them apart from other pants is the polyester-fleece lining. Like sweatpants, they’re cozy enough to wear while padding around the house, but like Levi’s, I can pair them with basically anything in my wardrobe when I go on a walk around the park, or wait in a two-plus-hour, cold and rainy line to vote — which can’t be said about most other garish-looking pants that are intended to keep you warm. The synthetic fleece lining also wicks away moisture, which is especially useful on walks or bike rides, where some insulated layers will make you feel uncomfortably sweaty (like you’re “boiling in a bag like potatoes,” as one outdoorsy expert told me). I’ve also found that most denim is too thin on its own to keep you warm in freezing temperatures but is too thick to layer on top of long underwear without bunching (something I’ve tried and failed to do successfully several times).
And no one has ever caught on to the fact that these jeans were intended to be worn for hunting. I often wear them with my fall uniform of clogs and neutral-toned cashmere sweaters, and no one assumes that they’d look better if paired with an orange hunting vest.
The now-discontinued pair of jeans that I own, with a red, fleece-lined interior, are for sale on eBay (and a cursory search reveals that many other pairs of Cabela’s older line of fleece-lined jeans are also for sale on eBay).
For a more form-fitting option, L.L. Bean has some fleece-lined jeans made for women.
Or this looser-looking, and cheaper, men’s pair.
If you really don’t believe that outdoorwear companies can make comfortable and stylish pants, Uniqlo has also added their proprietary Heattech fabric — which isn’t exactly fleece, but is a synthetic fabric that recycles your body heat — to some of their business casual pants and this pair of stretchy, high-rise jeans.
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