Discover the History of Fleece

Text by: Kelsey Begg

Arc’teryx, Norrona, Patagonia. Discover the History of Fleece

There are many reasons fleeces are a wardrobe staple. They are a cozy stand-alone layer and also make the perfect layering piece for a chilly, fall or winter day. With so many fleece styles available, you’re sure to find one that you’ll love.

The popularity of fleece took off when a company called Malden Mills invented the Polar Fleece, which quickly changed the way people layered for outdoor activities and chilly weather. When the company first began, they encountered some a variety of hiccups, but their invention of Polar Fleece kept them afloat, and they remain a leader in the outdoor industry today. 

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Where it all Began

Malden Mills Industries is a company that manufactures textiles for a variety of apparel. The company started making wool bathing suits and sweaters in 1906 and eventually moved towards more modern textiles as advances in fabric technology began with the invention of nylon and spandex in the coming decades. 

Malden Mills took the opportunity to rise above their competitors, becoming the first company to spin plastic into yarn and creating their fleece products from polyester and recycled plastic bottles. Polyethylene terephthalate, commonly referred to as PET, is the raw material in polyester which comes from the recycled plastic bottles. This manufacturing method was considered more sustainable and also improved the appeal of these recycled products, as shoppers and brands began to focus on more sustainable apparel and practices.

Nowadays, brands like Patagonia are stepping up their environmental initiatives and switching from regular polyester to recycled polyester. This transformation decreases the dependence on petroleum and eliminates excess waste entering landfills around the world.


The Rise of Fleece

This new high-tech fleece was not only popular among outdoors enthusiasts, as its benefits began gaining popularity among other brands and consumers rapidly. Once other companies began recognizing the potential of fleece, they began creating their own fleece apparel. Now you can find fleece garments all over the world, in clothing ranging from outdoors apparel to dresses for runway fashion.

women's better sweater 1/4 zip fleece


Women’s Better Sweater

arc'teryx delta lt zip fleece


Women’s Delta LT 

norrona trollveggen thermal pro jacket


Men’strollveggen Thermal Pro 

patagonia lightweight synchilla snap-t pull over


Men’s Lightweight Synchilla Snap-T

Malden Mills eventually rebranded itself as Polartec, which is a commonly known product within the outdoor industry today and a material that makes up many treasured fleeces. The significance behind Polartec is that is it not only lightweight and warm, but it is the only fleece fabric that is also water-resistant. It is known that when you wear a Polartec garment, you are wearing a true, quality fleece product.

During the rise of fleece, Malden Mills partnered with Patagonia and assisted in the development of the Synchilla fleece which is currently one of the most popular fleeces on the outdoor market. Available in a variety of colours, this classic fleece is a must-have for any fleece lover.

Fleece, Retro Colours & Après Ski

In the 80s, Patagonia’s popular Synchilla fleece was a hit with the skiing crowd because of its warmth, shape, and colour selection. Those who wanted to, could easily stand out from the crowd on the slopes and be spotted at aprés being congratulated for their epic riding.

This retro sweater is as much of a classic today as it was when it first came out. It is now making a comeback with an improved design and even more funky colours to choose from. It is the perfect lightweight layer for outdoor adventures at any time of the year.

Fleece Today

Today, fleece is a popular fabric used in a variety of garments from cozy apparel and outerwear to accessories and blankets. It provides lightweight warmth and is exceptionally breathable making it ideal for a variety of activities.

While not all fleece fabrics are water-resistant, Polartec products are which gives them that extra boost in selling. This retro classic is a timeless garment that never seems to go out of style. 

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