In the post-rave free-for-all of the 1990s, the fleece was a staple of the unisex wardrobe. Partly, it was a matter of function – before superclubs colonised nightlife and chain bars were the norm, an awful lot of socialising took place everywhere from abandoned buildings and semi-derelict warehouses to outdoor parties and impromptu raves. In short, places where a hard-wearing, brush-clean, wind-stopping top layer was a useful accoutrement.
While there was some variation in styles; Patagonia and Nike ACG for a slimmer, more functional cut, Stüssy’s oversized popovers, Vexed Generation with their asymmetric cuts and face-obscuring balaclava hoods, Technics-branded zip-through fleeces for the heavy duty ravers – the appeal of fleece was widespread. For scenes from skateboarding and hip hop, to the Japonisme around labels like Mo’Wax (where unisex styles were common and wide silhouettes were the norm), it was a key part of the everyday wardrobe.
Fleece comes in a variety of weights and thicknesses, from a semi-smooth microfleece base-layer to the deep teddy-bear plush pile of polar fleece. In each case it’s usually made with polyester, with cut fibres on both sides of the fabric trapping air, it is hugely efficient at retaining body heat and maintaining a steady temperature for the wearer. Additionally, it has an incredible natural softness, but without wool’s more intensive production methods it can be used more flexibly and in greater quantities. It’s also significantly lighter than wool and other natural fibres, meaning it can be used as a warm outer layer without the wearer feeling like they’re weighed down by the garment. Finally, fleece’s other advantage is that it’s hydrophobic – the threads are naturally non-absorbent of water, and even if properly soaked will dry out far faster than natural fibres.
This functionality has made fleece a popular fabric at all times, but with the ongoing Gen X revival – wider silhouettes, oversized hoodies, the outdoor technical edge of Gorpcore and Normcore – it’s once again taking centre stage. Both Vogue and Refinery29 have recently celebrated the return of the fabric, with the latter deeming it to have gone “from campsite to cool.” Currently at Studio Nicholson it’s been incorporated into several items: for men the ‘Face’ fleece in Teddy and Cobalt colourways; for women, the ‘Fell’ fleece in Teddy. For an extra soft feel, the specially made fleece goes beyond the normal composition and is blended with 25% wool, 19% silk and 10% linen mix, keeping all the qualities of traditional standard fleece, but with a more luxurious finish. Because the nineties might be getting revived, but we can definitely do things better this time around.