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Everyone knows the whole “no white after Labor Day” edict is bogus. No one follows that rule anymore, except maybe certain country clubs and boarding schools. The much more common bylaw men adhere to as we swing from summer into fall and beyond — though one that isn’t printed in any style commandments I know of — is “no big prints after the fall equinox.”
You’ve never read that rule before (I know, I just Googled it to make sure), but you know what I’m talking about: Once autumn blows in, the tropical-patterned camp collars are banished to the back of the closet and out come the grayscale and earth-tone ensembles. The ubiquitous fleece jacket is a particularly egregious offender, the most popular styles coming in an array of colors so drab you’d think everyone was shopping at Home Depot. I’ve fallen into this trap myself, as the kookiest fleece I own is a two-tone green and brown midlayer from Melanzana.
I guess I should say “owned,” because currently sitting in pole position in my front hall closet — in front of my brown trucker, green waxed jacket and grey topcoat — is a cozy sherpa snap-up that can go toe-to-toe with any of my summertime prints: the Parks Wonderland Trail High Pile Fleece Pullover from Parks Project.
I’ll admit it up top: Parks Project has three new fleece pullovers this fall, all inspired by landscapes in certain national parks, and I wasn’t sure I could pull off any of them from looking at the styles online. The Yellowstone Geysers Trail is a green and tan print that could read amoeba or camo depending on where you lie on the urban-rural spectrum. The Acadia Waves Trail does go for a black and white color scheme, but there’s no confusing this for your office bro Patagonia. I opted for the Parks Wonderland Trail, the most vibrant of the bunch, and named after a 93-mile jaunt around Mount Rainier, because something about the print spoke to me. It’s part kaleidoscope, part butterfly garden, part Yellow Submarine movie.
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My trepidation of breaking the mundanity of traditional fall style norms, or standing out amongst the masses in J.Crew, L.L.Bean and Barbour, didn’t abate upon receiving said fleece. In person, it’s even more vibrant. And yet, upon slipping it on (yes, it’s a pullover, a severely underrated fleece option) and stepping out the door, the unspoken autumnal rule was quickly flipped on its head. I found myself wondering, why are we depriving ourselves of bold prints just because we switched from Kona Big Wave to bottles of Oktoberfest?
These Parks Project fleeces are a prime example of the problem with online shopping. Looking at them through a screen, I feel like retreating into the safety of my traditionally masculine browns and blacks and denims; but sliding it on in person, feeling the heft of the high-pile fleece between my fingers and looking in the mirror to realize that, yes, I can pull this print off, is as sweet as a PSL.
It should be said that these pullovers are focused on two things: the chunky fabric choice and the “saw you coming from a mile away” prints. The particular fleece was chosen by Parks Project not just for its blanket-like texture, but for its environmental cred, as it’s a 100% recycled fabric. But if you are indeed looking for a highly technical jacket that will survive in the worst seasonal elements, you’ll want to look elsewhere. Here, you’ve got unlined pockets, a snap collar and no drawstrings or other enclosures around the wrists or waist. It’s a Big Fit™ with a summer-level print inspired by Mount Rainier, not a jacket you should wear to the summit of Mount Rainier.
Do I love the earth tones of autumn that I unfairly maligned earlier? Of course I do. But that’s the other wonderful thing about these fleeces, my Parks Wonderland Trail style in particular: throw this fleece on, and you don’t need to think about the rest of your fit at all, and you’ll still get compliments hurled at you like a tree getting TPed on Halloween. Jeans or 5-pocket pants, sneakers or boots, beanie or wool snapback — none of these need absolutely any thought. Keep things boring, because this fleece does all the heavy-lifting.
If you need me this fall, you know how to find me. Just look for the one colorful fleece in a sea of monochrome. Or maybe the whole autumn/winter print thing will catch on. If it does, someone call up the folks who do national surveys and see if cases of seasonal affective disorder dip.
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