I’m sure Outlier’s no stranger to regular readers of this site. Founded in 2008 by Abe Burmeister and Tyler Clemens, the Brooklyn-based company makes pants, shorts and shirts that serve dual duty – stretchy and durable enough for active wear like cycling, but traditional-looking enough to wear in conservative office environments. In the past couple of years, Abe and Tyler have been pushing beyond chinos and button-downs and experimenting with more active-focused techwear like the Rainshirt, non-traditional gear like the new Cowlhood, and one-off “public prototypes” like the Blocked Crewneck. The coolest part of Outlier’s approach is the way they blend inspiration and information – stunning product photography from far-flung locations, grounded by hyper-specific details about fabric and construction.
They sent me two new products to review that may signal a forthcoming expansion into workout gear – a pair of Runweight Shorts and a breathable Openweight Merino Tee. After putting a few weeks of wear into both, I can say pretty confidently that they’re solid, thoughtfully-designed pieces and worth the pricetag. I’m more of a traditionalist when it comes to straight running clothes, but the Runweights and Openweight tee became my go-to gear for cross-training. And it doesn’t hurt that they look good enough to grab a drink in on the way home from the gym without changing first.
The Openweight merino tee is made from a 67/33 wool/poly blend, but most notably, it’s woven with what Outlier calls “eyelets”. Abe described the choice on the Outlier subreddit: “The Openweight Merino we just did is a knitted blend where the poly is used to hold open the eyelets making a lighter more breathable fabric with incredible airflow.”
My experience running and working out in the Openweight tee echoes that. Although the fabric felt unexpectedly thick out of the box, the airflow through the eyelets was terrific and the thickness of the knit didn’t trap heat or sweat. I found the texture really attractive, although it is a bit see-through. Definitely not an 80’s hair-metal mesh crop-top, but you can see a bit of skin through the weave.
Both the website and packaging note that the Openweight tee will shrink after washing. I loved the generous unwashed length though, and I was curious whether careful washing/drying might prevent (or at least minimize) the shrinkage. My medium tee had pre-wash measurements of 21” across the chest, 29” rear length, 17” across the shoulders, and 7.75” sleeves. I’ve hand-washed it five times using luke-warm water and a dime-sized drop of detergent, then laid it flat to dry. Wool doesn’t trap much odor in the first place, so that was enough to clean it, and it kept shrinkage to a minimum. Post-washing, it measures 20.75” across the chest, 27.75” rear length, 17” across the shoulders, and 7.5” sleeves. Success.
The Runweight shorts are made from 145gsm 4-way stretch cloth (the same fabric as the discontinued Ultralight pants). The fabric is substantially thinner than my (now discontinued) Three Way shorts (240gsm) or the current New Way shorts (200gsm), but each model’s fabric also has distinct handfeel and visual texture. Other folks reported pilling between the thighs of the old Ultralight pants, but whether it’s a change in the fabric or something different about the cut, I haven’t noticed any pilling on my Runweights.
As far as fit, these are slimmer (10” leg opening versus 10.5” for the Three Ways and New Ways) but a hair longer (9” inseam versus 8.5” for Three Ways and 8” for New Ways), and the New Slate color is a rich greyish-blue.
Slimmer, longer shorts in a thinner fabric would presumably get caught on my quads when they ride up my legs. But, I cross-trained in them twice a week, including squats, agility work, and bootcamp at my wife’s Crossfit box, and surprisingly, I never had a problem with these riding up or getting caught. According to Abe, that’s because of the way the inner surface of the fabric is finished, which is the kind of attention to design that makes Outlier stand out.
Quite a few design choices went into minimizing weight, from taped & welded seams to the tied-off drawstring. There are also two hidden pockets under the rear waistband, that are just large enough to hold an iphone 6 in a waterproof case, with plenty of room leftover for cash, cards, energy gels, and keys.
This is mostly me being a traditionalist, but here’s where I’d push Outlier a bit on these – I’m all for Outlier introducing running gear, but I think they can go one step more conventional and still be in their wheelhouse. My all-time favorite running shorts (which I realize are directly counter to Well Spent’s ethos) are Nike Instincts. They have waists sized by inches rather than alpha S/M/L, a trouser-style waistband, a seamless inner brief liner, a mesh gusset, and a pretty typical poly/spandex blend. Given Outlier’s attention to detail and access to cutting-edge fabrics, I would kill to see their version. The Runweights are dual-use shorts that land just on the post-workout side, while something like Outlier’s version of the Instincts would be a step or two in the other direction. I’d buy every color and donate my Nike shorts without looking back. Abe & Tyler: Public Prototype 006?
Jason Brozek is an ultramarathon runner, lapsed Ironman triathlete, and professor at a small liberal arts college, where he teaches courses on sustainability and international politics.