This is a product review. My first. I don’t write product reviews. I don’t write non-fiction. I don’t like writing when the thin sheet of protection provided by fiction isn’t there. It somehow seems indulgent and try-hard to me. Like, ok, why should anyone care what I think about anything in the real world? Why is my experience, in specific, important? I’ve thought about this in relation to fiction too but have decided that when making something up, or plagiarizing from experience, the writer is essentially making a deal with the potential reader. That deal, in my mind, goes like this: I’m going to give you an entertainment that we both know I believe speaks to a broader truth about either the way the world operates, or, how I, the writer, interprets the way the world operates through my very self-centered lens, and you, the reader, are either entertained or not. And that’s ok. But with this, this review of a product, I am essentially telling you, the reader, that my view on the way the world operates as it relates to this product, which I will tell you about in detail, has some inherent value and importance because I have taken the time to type it all out and put my name on it as my own true and sincere thoughts. Same goes for personal essays, creative non-fiction, memoir, etc. The writer doesn’t have to say it, but they know, and so does the reader, that they have to start from a place where they believe what they are writing has importance. A certain authority of experience that is unique and must be shared with the broader reading world. One could argue that the broader reading world, especially those interested in a product review such as this, is shrinking, and, as a matter of fact, has gotten so depressingly small that the inherent self-importance in this type of thing has undeniably diminished to the point where the self-important just come off as wildly ridiculous. I would not argue with one over that point; however, I would submit that the writer still has to believe their experience is important and must be shared, so others know, and won’t fall for the same tricks the writer did. The self-indulgence is still there. Buckle up. You’ve been warned.
During the first cold snap of winter in Wisconsin, sometime after Jan 1, I decided I needed a proper winter jacket. First, I should probably go ahead and explain to you my philosophy on outerwear for a winter in the upper Midwest. Now, before I proceed with that, I must also tell you I’m not a shorts-in-winter guy because you may be tempted to put me in some Fettermanesqe box where you are picturing me in basketball shorts and a hoodie in January, but that’s not it at all. I’m just not a shorts guy period. The reasons for that are too self-indulgent and tangential to the story of this product review and digressive to mention, but just assume it’s dumb and makes no sense. What I am that is relevant to this product review is a winter jacket denier of the worst kind.
The winter jacket I’ve been wearing for the past ten years is a Flying Man’s Jacket, Type N-5A, Stock NO. 1951-A-01, WPL 18606 by Schott Bros, INC., and I am led to believe is a recreation of some sort of Air Force Jacket from 1951. I noticed this jacket at the Wisconsin Veterans’ Museum and my wife got me for Christmas in 2014 because she notices when I notice things. This jacket can best be described as a light-medium jacket. Not the puffy, insolated things you see on television when Hollywood types want to demonstrate to the viewer just how cold the upper Midwest is. It is very cold here, and some people wear these puffy jackets and baklavas and gloves and hats and whatnot, but that’s always just seemed too extreme for me.
Anyway, I decided that this was the year I’d get a proper winter jacket again. I wasn’t colder than I usually am in the winter, I just thought it might put a stop to various friends and relatives asking me if I was cold all the time while also setting a good example for my son, who is himself becoming a grade-a jacket denier and is getting some grief for it from the same friends and relatives and teachers. So, I bought a Carhartt Relaxed Fit Washed Duck Sherpa-Lined Utility Jacket with a 2 Warmer Rating, whatever that means, and that’s where all the trouble began.
I bought this jacket because up until around Jan 1 I’d been wearing my black, oversized, Carhartt zip-up hoodie as a jacket and I really like both the look and feel of it. First, it’s baggy and I essentially can forget I have an outer layer on when I am wearing it. The cuffs are loose about the wrist too, which as it turns out, is something I value that I didn’t realize I valued. Next, the hood is big and wide and doesn’t hug the sides of my head, and when I put it up I can kinda hide in it a little bit. I have found myself wearing this hoodie pretty much 24/7 since I got it and have also been finding myself with the hood up more often than not, even while I am in my house with the heat on. I am not opposed to setting the heat to a reasonable temperature like some midwestern males, that is not a source of pride for me, and neither is not wearing a proper jacket, I do like feeling comfortable, and that is, I think, the biggest issue with the Carhartt Relaxed Fit Washed Duck Sherpa-Lined Utility Jacket with a 2 Warmer Rating.
But first, I think I oughta tell you a little bit about how excited I was to get the Carhartt Relaxed Fit Washed Duck Sherpa-Lined Utility Jacket with a 2 Warmer Rating. You see, lately, I’ve been trying to only buy things that make me feel good when I see them. I’ve been stuck the last few years in a sort of panic-buying state when considering anything that I have to wear. It comes from years of working in a place where there was a certain expectation for how males dressed and that expectation not fitting what makes me feel good and comfortable and confident. And, it’s not as if I was trying to wear sweats and flip-flops to the office, but my style, what I gravitate naturally to, has always had a bit of a skate punk edge, and as the years went along that was just sort of eroded, and this also coincided with meeting my wife, who got to know me in the great middle of my career and thus only knew my professional look. But now I work in beer and they don’t care how I dress as long as it’s clean and put together and not like outwardly offensive, which is not too much to ask of adults. So, I’ve been relaxing a bit back into my natural state. But it’s been a journey and I’ve found myself panicking in stores because I no longer know what I like, but also because now there is a false expectation of what I like that my family is coming to realize is no longer the case. So, for like two years I’d just panic and buy stuff that fit the old paradigm and then be discontented when I got the stuff home and then had to wear the stuff. But the Carhartt Relaxed Fit Washed Duck Sherpa-Lined Utility Jacket with a 2 Warmer Rating looked exactly like something I’d never regret buying. I ordered it and was very happy waiting for it.
Between the time I ordered the jacket (directly from Carhartt) and the time it arrived, the weather had warmed up enough to stay somewhere between 25 and 35 degrees fairly consistently. Which is not Winter Jacket Weather as far as I am concerned. I continued to just wear my hoodie for some weeks while my brand new Carhartt Relaxed Fit Washed Duck Sherpa-Lined Utility Jacket with a 2 Warmer Rating hung in the closet, and, in all fairness, did look really cool.
The problem arose after it got cold again.
Another thing you might need to know about me as some necessary context for this product review is that I never try on clothes before I buy them. This used to be a huge issue back in the day when I had to go to a store, look for things I may like (always a struggle), and then purchase them and take them home. Moms and wives always want you to try on clothes before buying them in a store. And that’s fair. It makes sense. But something about it makes me deeply uncomfortable. Maybe it’s the small changing rooms. Maybe it’s the getting nearly naked in public. Maybe it’s the feeling of being put on the spot and having to decide right then and there that this is something that I not only like but would wear consistently, at least often enough to justify the cost. And what if it doesn’t fit? I might feel bad for disappointing the people waiting for me to try it on. Or what if it does fit but feels odd against my skin or pinches in at weird places and that makes me aware of the garment I am wearing and then I feel odd while wearing it, but it’s something that my wife picked out for me and then said how nice it looked when I stepped out to show her the thing on me but hadn’t yet gotten the chance to say anything about how I am aware that I am wearing it in some way that makes it uncomfortable for me to wear, and that I am not sure if the awareness and discomfort simply stems from the fact that the garment is new to me and I am unused to it, and, I feel that since she took the time to come shopping with me and help pick out clothes she thinks I’d look good in that I am obligated to buy the thing and wear it, but I can’t keep up the wearing it because of how aware I am that I am wearing it when I am wearing it and then she’ll eventually ask me why I don’t wear it and when I say it’s uncomfortable she’ll ask why I didn’t say that in the store, and she has a point, but also it’s just not something you can explain, this awareness of wearing something, so I never articulate the feeling. It’s probably that, which is why I began ordering things I know I need online and having them delivered. I buy the same two pairs of Dickies (one brown one black) and Levi’s about once a year on average. I can get tee shirts at target because I’m either a Goodfellow medium or large, depending.
This brings me to my product review of the Carhartt Relaxed Fit Washed Duck Sherpa-Lined Utility Jacket with a 2 Warmer Rating.
Ok, so like three or four weeks after I got the jacket it got really cold in southern Wisconsin, like between -1 and 10. Which is when I think it’s appropriate to wear a winter jacket. And I was very excited too because this winter jacket had the looks of like just a beefed-up version of my hoodie, and that’s where all the trouble began. The first thing is that when looking at the Carhartt Relaxed Fit Washed Duck Sherpa-Lined Utility Jacket with a 2 Warmer Rating the sleeves appear to end in a loose cuff. This is ideal in a jacket for me because I don’t like the feeling of things binding me at the wrist. However, what is not readily apparent is that that loose cuff is, in fact, hiding a much tighter cuff that is not visible when just looking at it and a person can only really tell it’s there when they put the jacket on. Which, when I did that day, I was unpleasantly surprised. But I told myself this was ok; I’d spent a good amount on the jacket and it had arrived weeks ago and I’m pretty sure even if I could return it I wouldn’t because I’d feel awkward about it and it would take me figuring out Carhartt’s return policy and then finding a box or like a bag or something as I’d thrown the original packing material away the day I got it. I made a conscious choice that I would deal with the wrist-cinching-in thing and live with it. but then I zipped it up.
When fully zipped the Carhartt Relaxed Fit Washed Duck Sherpa-Lined Utility Jacket with a 2 Warmer Rating’s neckline comes all the way up to the chin. This is something some winter jackets do so that when the hood is deployed it kinda sorta protects the lower half of the face as well, creating a sort of baklava, but not really. And in the Carhartt Relaxed Fit Washed Duck Sherpa-Lined Utility Jacket with a 2 Warmer Rating, what with its stiff outer material, just sort of sinches and then pokes at the middle of the throat, especially when seated. When things are tight at my throat it makes me feel like I have to puke. Couple that with the whole wrist sinch thing and I am completely aware that I am wearing the jacket at all times it is on. But I persist. I decide I can just zip it up to the collar bone, leaving the top bit unzipped, and that does work in minimizing the whole throat-choking sensation thing. But now I can feel the metal of the zipper on my neck, which makes me aware of the coat, but at least I don’t feel like I have to puke, though it still feels a bit like being choked.
It takes me three weeks of wearing the Carhartt Relaxed Fit Washed Duck Sherpa-Lined Utility Jacket with a 2 Warmer Rating to get used to it and forget I am wearing it when I am wearing it. And that is when the trouble begins… again.
So, I have this forty-minute commute to work, it’s an odd commute as far as commutes go. I commute from the city to a small town where my office is. This gives me time in the car to listen to podcasts and stop at Kwik Trip and eat boneless chicken wings for breakfast. I was pulling out of the Kwik Trip when I grabbed at the drawstrings on my Carhartt Relaxed Fit Washed Duck Sherpa-Lined Utility Jacket with a 2 Warmer Rating’s hood. I was doing this without thinking about it and my hand followed the string up to the neckline of the jacket, still seeking, subconsciously, some solution to the whole not being able to zip the jacket all the way up thing. And that’s when I found it, just beyond the little metal ring the Carhartt Relaxed Fit Washed Duck Sherpa-Lined Utility Jacket with a 2 Warmer Rating’s hood string is fed through, the little plastic clicky thing. I have theories on what it is. The most obvious is that it’s one of those pressure spring button jobs designed to pinch the hood’s string and prevent it from coming out. But the string itself doesn’t seem to be fed through it. Also, after countless moments of feeling compelled to touch it, it doesn’t seem to have a top button one would depress to alleviate the tension. There is a hollowness to it, though. When pressed, over and over, it clicks. This seems to be its function.
There is a matching clicky thing on the other side, but its click is not as satisfying as the original clicky thing. It’s more just like a misshapen odd bit of useless plastic stuffed into the jacket for no reason at all.
So now whenever I wear the jacket I find myself clicking the clicky thing on the left side of the hood, trying to suss out its function and failing. It’s likely a manufacturer’s error. It’s likely I’m not supposed to touch it and play with it and become obsessed with it every time I wear the jacket.
I can’t wear the Carhartt Relaxed Fit Washed Duck Sherpa-Lined Utility Jacket with a 2 Warmer Rating without being aware I am wearing the Carhartt Relaxed Fit Washed Duck Sherpa-Lined Utility Jacket with a 2 Warmer Rating.
My wrists sweat.
My neck feels like I’m being very lovingly and softly strangled to death by metal teeth.
And my mind becomes a mess of clicky thing possibilities.
And when I take it off, I feel the sweet relief of freedom and understand what it must be like for POWs to walk free.
Bottom line: if you want a winter jacket that’s not too heavy but still does a good job of keeping you warm even through Wisconsin’s bitterest of winter days, you could do a lot worse than the Carhartt Relaxed Fit Washed Duck Sherpa-Lined Utility Jacket with a 2 Warmer Rating.
7/10. Would buy again.
Scott Mitchel May is a writer living in Madison, WI. His work has appeared in Bending Genres, WAS, HAD, Maudlin House, Rejection Letters, Misery Tourism, and The Bear Creek Gazette, among others. He was the winner of the 2019 UW-Madison Writers' Institute Poem or Page Competition in the category of literary fiction, and his unpublished novel, Bridgeport Nowhere, was shortlisted for the 2022 Santa Fe Writers' Project Literary Award. His debut novel, Breakneck: or, it happened once in America, is forthcoming from Anxiety Press in early 2023. He is also the author of the novelette, All Burn Down, forthcoming in October 2023 from Emerge Press, and his second novel Awful People: a ghost story is coming in early 2024 from Death of Print Books. He holds a GED from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and a BS in English Literature from Edgewood College. He tweets @smitchelmay.