If you’ve ever gone backpacking, you’ve probably heard that “cotton kills.” This is a reference to cotton’s hydrophilic nature which when combined with cold/wind leads quickly to hypothermia. The Supermarine shirt from Outlier proves itself the exception to this rule.
The shirt uses Ventile fabric, a tightly-woven cotton fabric with a storied history that traces its roots to World War II fighter pilots and even the summit of Everest. Nowadays it’s mostly a niche product, kept alive by bird watching enthusiasts, Antarctic explorers, and various air forces. Outlier claims that despite its obscurity, Ventile’s performance is comparable to that of GoreTex––and even more breathable! But don’t expect this revival to go mainstream.
At $US300 a pop, it has the highest end rain gear on the market to compete with. What’s more, the catalog states bluntly that “this shirt is a bit of bitch to take care of.” Stephen Regenold writing for the Outside Blog echoes this sentiment saying that in spite of its good performance, fit, and feel “in the closet, the Supermarine’s strange fabric is prone to wrinkling.” In light of the price tag, he suggests that this shirt is geared toward the well-off bike commuter who wants to show up at work looking fly, rain or shine. If that’s you and you have $US300 to spare on a finnicky shirt, then this is the shirt for you. I’ll stick to my raincoat, thank you very much. [Outside Blog, Outlier]