In my previous work life, I was fortunate to be able to wear shorts and wool tee shirts pretty much year 'round. In the cold months, I could commute in whatever nasty mud-caked warm clothes I had around. Ah... life was simple.
I quit that life about 18 months ago and traded it in for an academic life. In this life, shorts and mud-caked nasty trousers are generally frowned upon. So I have to wear pants. That jarring change took me about year to really get comfortable with. This academic year, I decided to step it up and wear some ties and look a bit more respectable.
I commute home from school about three times a week. It's a 20 mile, fairly boring, mostly flat commute. Figuring out a way to look nice and still ride home without packing gobs of riding clothes has been sort of a challenge -- especially in the shoulder months, where the ride down to the bus (about 3 miles down hill) in the morning can be below freezing and the ride home in the afternoon might be drizzly and 40°F or so. My basic approach is to be cold for the quick commute down to the bus in the morning so that I can optimize for not over-heating on the way home.
|Commute format: wear it o'er a thin wool shirt.|
So that's the back story for why this cardigan has been a great thing for me. The folks at Ibex sent this to me at the beginning of the school year, so I've had a couple months to work it out.
The verdict: it works well for me.
The specs: this is a US-made (from New Zealand wool) cardigan that retails for $175. Reading the Ibex site for this sweater, I'm noticing that it's specifically made/marketed for cyclists, which explains how I ended up with it.
First off, the fit is a bit snug. I'm a big large and this cardigan keeps me standing tall in its slim-fittedness. But I'd not want it much bigger since it's nearly always a mid-layer on the commute to the bus in the morning.
It's super nice looking -- finished in that Ibex-perfect way: big smug buttons and even faint elbow patches. A half century ago the guy buying this would want to accessorize with a pipe and ascot. But today, the website shows a hip looking brickwaller sporting a beanie and perfectly-coiffed whiskers. Apparently times are a-changin' in the cardigan world.
Anyway -- as for function, this cardigan delivers as Ibex almost always does: I can roll down to the bus in the morning wearing this over my fancy shirt/tie combo -- generally, I'll have a vest of some sort over this combo.
It's pretty thick wool by most Ibex standards, so I don't wear it indoors often. But during normal shoulder-season temps, it's a perfect only-layer for tooling around campus. For the ride home, I'll swap out the fancy button-up shirt and tie for a thin wool t-shirt. So with thin wool under this sort of thicker wool cardigan, I get warmth with tons of breathability. If things get too chilly, I always have the super-amazing, can't-shut-up-about-it Houdini shell in my bag, which makes for a perfect commute setup in temps over freezing but under 50° or so.
As for care: it's wool -- it's easy. I wear a backpack on my commute now, so there's always some sweat happening. This cardigan has seen its share of sweat, though I've never soaked it out completely. I just hang it out to dry. I've not washed it and it's still passable in the increasingly cultured company I am keeping.
I'll have this for a while.