From the Trenches - Where'd my jacket come from and what's replaced it?
Our Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) are our front line of communication with Patagonia fanatics far and wide. The crew here at our Call Center in Reno, NV are at it seven days a week, taking orders, helping with returns, and most importantly, answering the astonishing range of questions our customers fire at us. Like flocks of swirling swallows or shimmering schools of tropical fish, our customers swoop in with mysteriously synchronized concerns and questions on a regular basis, prompting the need for ready answers. Times like these, nothing would be more handy than magically beaming knowledge out into the ether. Our very own Old School is here to do just that. He's stepped back from the front lines to answer some of these popular questions, straight from the trenches.
You've had your Patagonia jacket for years, so long, in fact, that you can't remember when you picked it up. Had to have been at least 10 years ago. Come to think of it, wasn't it a a present? No matter, the problem you're facing right now is that last god-awful trip you took, the one that left your beloved jacket looking like wearable swiss cheese.
You made a lot of memories in that thing - it saw you comfortably in some of the most amazing places, kept you dry in that ridiculous downpour a few years back . . . there was even that stretch when you thought it was lost, only to find it stuffed deep into the bottom of a pack that you never fully emptied after that one epic trip . . . oh man, you were so happy when you found it. It was one thing to nurse that fussy zipper along for the past few years, but with the whole shootin' match now looking like something pulled out of the garbage disposal it's time to face the inevitable - your jacket is DONE.
So you give us a call. You know it's past repair, and you're too honest to think what you did with it would be covered by our warranty (I mean, using it as a tie-down was one thing, but the drunken fire-walking?). With emotions still raw from the loss, you ask the next most logical question: What's the closest current equivalent? And with that, your search begins . . .
We’ve been making jackets for about 30 years now. During that time, we’ve managed to create some well-loved classics – and some true dogs, too. Folks still get a chuckle out of Doug Robinson’s story about the first Chouinard Foamback Cagoule.
“Congratulations, Yvon,” he’s purported to say, “you’ve just created the industry's first non-breathable, non-waterproof jacket!”
It’s been a while since the Foamback days. Since that time, a number of our greatest jacket achievements developed something like a cult following. Consider the Infurno Jacket. Inspired by Chouinard’s early climbing ventures in the alpinists’ crucible of Ben Nevis, insulated, full-featured alpine jackets with weather-resistant but breathable outer fabric first showed up in the line in the early 80s (pre-dating modern soft-shells by almost 20 years), and morphed eventually into the Infurno of the late 90s - still requested by customers 10 years later.
Customers also still ask for the Super Pluma, which was the lightest waterproof - breathable jacket on the market when launched in the 90s. Die-hards still remember—and ask for—the closest modern equivalent to the Pneumatic Pullover, an ultra-light “windbreaker” that quietly earned vehement allegiance for its smart design and stealth waterproofness at a time when breathable and waterproof were terms manufacturers were still hesitated to use together.
Improved manufacturing techniques and state-of-the-art fabric technologies have only served to accelerate product development toward the cutting edge. Today’s Patagonia jackets are a new breed, but make no mistake: they have roots in the designs that put Chouinard and Patagonia on the map. Long-time customers frequently request the closest modern equivalent to one of their old favorites. These dedicated users have been known to get 20+ years of use out of their Patagonia gear, so it’s no surprise when our Customer Service reps have a hard time matching their old favorite with the closest offering from today’s lineup.
Enter our friend, Old School. With a virtually encyclopedic knowledge of Patagonia jacket history, and one of the only people I know who can guess airflow transmission through fabric down to within a few points of accuracy, he’s the guy to call when it comes to questions like these. But with only one of him to answer all these questions, we needed something more. What he came up with was a complete shell lineage, from Patagonia’s first jacket to this season’s latest.
The job wasn’t easy. But more challenging than tracing back all the relationships and changes, was fitting all this information onto an easy-to-reference sheet. With the help of our map-printing friends over at Nevada Wilderness Project, we’ve managed to do just that. All that's lacking now is a wall big enough to hang it on.
So go ahead. Give us a call with a question about your favorite Patagonia classic. Thanks Old School's hard work and the generous cooperation of the tenured braintrust in Patagonia’s Ventura headquarters, all of our Patagonia staff now have the full jacket archives at the ready.
[Top: O.S. points out the Pneumatic Pullover's place in the jacket continuum. Bottom: The line from one jacket to the next is not always a straight one. Sometimes we combine features of older jackets to come up with a better updated version. Photos: localcrew]