I admit it. It’s an unhealthy obsession. And with close to 30 years of one-of-a-kind mouth watering colors and patterns, there’s just too many to choose from. So far I have four trophies. A normal person would say that is enough. Why have so many of the same thing? Jeez, is that a new one? But the mind of a deranged fanatic doesn’t quit. There is always one more victim waiting to be hung on the wall.
It can be traced back to the pre-CT days when I was just getting into our beloved style. Wasn’t long before coming across a few threads at AAAC about the forefather preps of the 80′s and what they wore when they were undergrads. Before then, I had never heard of it, and never knew what to look for if ever chanced upon in public.
But now, it’s one of the few clothing items I’ll instantly give respect to if seen across the room. To put it simply, the Patagonia Synchilla is the original fleece outerwear. A portmanteau of “synthetic – chinchilla” (homage to the fiber’s acting like a second skin, keeping you warm like a chirpy animal in the Andes), famous rock climber and Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard helped usher in the era of fleece, with the Synchilla being introduced in 1985. It soon became associated with the prep scene and the likes of LLBean and Gap grabbed on with similar styles, with the path eventually leading to the tech prep fleece minefield of today. With these kinds of yuppie roots and longevity, it wasn’t long before I was scouring eBay.
While everyone had their North Face Denali, I wanted to bring back the true champion, and found my first Synchilla for a cool ten bucks (top left in the title picture).
I’ve noticed that they’ve made a faithful resurgence. It’s why you’ll see me have an erection every time I find one in the wild in my Campus Pervert articles, as if I am trying to convince you of their awesomeness. But it’s not as out of the ordinary these days in my area compared to even a few years ago, since I can spot a middle schooler fresh from soccer practice at my Whole Foods wearing them, thanks to his older sibling who just pledged St. Elmos at UVA no doubt. But you can still see the divide between those who are and who aren’t cheekily “in the know” crowd. The Synchilla definitely goes with the imagery: the God Mode Prep kid driving his ’98 V70 wagon to the aquatic center at Choate, his Synchilla, passed down from his Dad who wore it in his pub crawling during b-school at Wharton, laying next to his goggles and jammer, ready to warm him up for the cool Connecticut evenings after the meet. They may not be truly “trad” as synthetic outerwear, but with each new generation of preps, yuppies, fratdaddies, and neo-trads, the word will evolve with its meaning. Surely the Synchilla will cement itself into our history with a final transcendence from prepdom to tradom.
And what’s not to love? The frocket to hold your sunglasses and chapstick. The bright, alternate coloring of the piping and patch pocket. The somehow majestic mechanism of the pullover itself, and not some dime a dozen fleece zip up, especially with the oh-so-lovely touch of croakies and Costas peeking out the neck. It comes in an array of different colors each season, and with the return of the Native American prints two years ago (the vintage ones go for over $100 on eBay) for the frattier-than-thou folks to GTH each other out, yours truly guilty, it would be a crime to just have only one! I decided to break the basic color spectrum for my third, the Yanaba Forge Grey pictured bottom right, which was the phoenix flagship of the patterned Synchilla in 2012.
Dress them up, dress them down (given the appropriate kind of formal occasion of course- think brisk walk to the family reunion dinner at the beachside restaurant). They look good with a bow tie and an OCBD for the weekly brother’s meeting. Or to the gym. Or out with the guys. The Synchilla is my mainstay casual jacket, worn the most out of anything else in my closet for day to day wear. Shaggy dogs and Synchillas: these GMP-level items debut each new F/W season with a limited assortment of colors offered that often may not appear for a long time again…these are my drugs.
As alluded, I don’t own any North Face gear, and especially keep away those black jackets with a white logo. They’ve overstayed their welcome and have lost its preppiness, best left for the sorority chicks in their “don’t wanna dress up for class” uniform of NF, Uggs, and yoga pants [pumpkin spice chai latte optional]. So don’t be like this guy or this guy playing that guy. North Face lost it’s cool somewhere in the mid 2000s, because that’s when I remember them making its way into high school. Same could be said with the Synchila of course, but it’s the original fleece, man, and Patagucci is hard to beat in terms of frattytude legendary status. So leave the Denali to “it’s cold enough to wear a jacket but warm enough to wear flip flops, or my body has blood circulation issues ” guy or “baggy jeans with running sneakers because I’m a guy who just doesn’t care about money, fame, and looks” guy.
Although that Zuckerberg guy wears NF and he shouldn’t be made fun of. He has billions you know.
Where to buy
If you’re a Synchilla virgin waiting for marriage, I’d suggest buying your first wife on eBay, where you can find vintage ones for under $25 (wait for the warmer months where demand is not as high). It’s also my resource for finding the hard to get colors, like the Rust with blue piping, top right in the title, that took me almost two months to find. I’d also suggest buying a coveted “Made in USA” for your first, before Patagonia made the switch to off shores.
My most recent buy, the Oatmeal with dark green piping at bottom left, is especially tough to find and took me almost a year (unhealthy obsession, I tell you!) of varied searches. I’ve seen them go well over $100, and I was luckily enough to score mine for less than $50 ;). Sadly, the American made Oatmeals only come with the dark green piping, while foreign made ones come with blue or red which I preferred if not outweighed by the country of origin. But can’t have all the luck I suppose! The reason the lighter colored Creme and Oatmeal Synchillas are so prized is because they hadn’t been offered for the mens collection in probably over a decade, and while everyone has a black or navy blue, I have yet to see any guy with a clean, crisp shade, great for matching with dark colored chinos or athletic shorts. However, for those of you not wanting to put in the relentless work that I did, lucky for you there is a “Bleached Stone” offered for the 2014 Spring. Good for Patagonia to recognize the demand. The only difference between mine and the newest appears to be the coloring of the snap buttons and the white gradient variation. Oh, and mine is Made in USA, yours in Nicaragua. Suck it.
Along with the callback of the sweet Native American patterns (the newer ones have the patch frocket, the older ones do not), Patagonia also introduced a Lightweight version, less by about 4 oz than the original. If you want a popular color or pattern, I’d suggest buying them brand new for $99, and since we are nearing the end of F/W season, you can buy the winter weight for $83 if you can find your size, discounted from the regular price of $119. Otherwise, hunt for deals with several third party retailers, such as AfterSchool and 6pm.
I was able to buy my Forge Grey, the only one I purchased new actually, from ShoeBuy which usually offers 10-20% discount off of regularly priced items plus free shipping if you do an internet search for a code. So I was able to get mine for under $100 from the regular $119 at the start of the season for maximum savings.
Turns out I’m not the only one with this obsession after all. A few more readings for your unabated pleasure: A Trip Down South, Dreams of Perfection, Red Clay Soul, and good ol’ Muffy.