The alright outdoors

You get those outdoors coats, don’t you, like Swiss Army knives. Features on top of features, pockets inside pockets, and zips to who-knows-where lurking in places most coats don’t even have places.

The field coat tends instead toward traditional technical outerwear — which is to say, technical outerwear which has had all those fiddly parts sanded down by the common sense of a public wider than the professional hiking community. It doesn’t impose its features; doesn’t turn retrieving your mobile into a random-outcome memory test; doesn’t suggest you take a good look at yourself and make some serious changes if the relationship is to go any further. Like a well-mannered butler, it is ready and able to serve when called upon, but is most of the time quiet and modest and expert at minding its own business.

Spend some time with it and you’ll find the field coat has much to enjoy. It has shooting-shoulders for extended movement and playful springiness in the forward direction: built neatly into the rear side-seam rather than commandeering the entire back of the coat. The main pockets at the front, in no particular order, are bellows, enveloped, floating, and work as channels through which passes the belt. And the belt, it is a two-piece one, which means the wearer can adjust its total length according to personal preference — short and stubby vs. long and floppy — or abdominal girth. It can also be removed and, because belt-loops are pockets and pockets are belt-loops, nobody will ever be any the wiser. And, if the belt is to be removed, where better to store it than the large seam-to-seam pocket, built with but a series of folds into the coat lining? It follows in the traditions of a poacher’s pocket — for salmon, rabbits, or other things procured illicitly in the field — but does it in a way without evident opening or fastening, thus drawing little or no attention to itself.

Not so much a busy assemblage of features, then, in the manner of those army knives, but a more joined-up approach to outdoorsiness. Rather than striving for specificity — a coat for cycling, or for urban gardening, or for stalking grouse — it is more a merry generalist, whose design coalesces around the gentle ambition of going out and about once in a while.

It is all wrapped up in a fabric which also wears its sense of adventure very lightly. It is cotton, yes — but cotton brushed, sanded, washed, tumbled, washed some more, and then impregnated (unfortunately the term) with a high-performance wax to make it very good in the wind and rain. It is then washed and tumbled a few more times, until a handle is achieved so soft that the only thing worthy of comparison is a ripe peach. An outdoors cloth, then, for an outdoors coat — but one that’s happy to stay in for the afternoon, too.