It seems like there are more “stylish” activewear brands today than ever before. But how many of these companies that claim to make clothes that “perform as good as they look” really deliver? To answer this question, we’ve partnered with ultramarathoner Jason Brozek. Jason is currently training for a 100 mile race, and logging between 60 and 70 miles a week. We figured if these brands can withstand the abuse Jason puts them (and himself) through, they can withstand pretty much anything. With that said, welcome to the first installment of Sweated & Vetted.
There are long, cold miles to contend with when you’re a runner from northern Wisconsin, but Pettet Endurance Project’s merino wool gear makes the winter battle bearable. Named after a legendary hill in the middle of one of the nation’s oldest road race courses (the Bloomsday 12K in Spokane), Pettet Endurance Project, or PEP for short, started producing running shirts in Oregon in the summer of 2014. I bought a first-generation long-sleeve Shevlin Shirt when the weather started to turn chilly last November, and one quick 8-miler later, I was a convert.
I reached out to Greg Poffenroth, Pettet’s founder, to ask a bit more about the company’s commitment to sustainable, local production. According to Greg, “When we set out to build this business, one of the things that’s been non-negotiable to me is the fact that we needed to build a business with soul. To me, that means using the most ethical materials, locally sourced materials whenever available, local manufacturing, and not over charging for it.”
I own two Shevlins – navy and black – and they were my go-to running shirts over the Wisconsin winter as I laid down base miles before ramping up my spring training. The merino wool, sourced from Australia, is a sturdy 170gsm (they’ve since introduced the Shevlin+ which is an even thicker 210gsm wool). Flat-lock seams with raglan shoulders means there’s absolutely nothing to chafe or rub, and the wool is buttery smooth and breathable. It’s warm, too. I’ve run outside in temps down to the mid-30s wearing nothing but a Shevlin and thermal tights, and just this weekend, I raced a windy, 45-degree marathon in one very comfortably. I’ve washed each shirt around two dozen times (cold water, hang-dried) and they’re only getting better. They’ve had zero shrinkage, and the initial sheen of the material has given way to rich matte colors. Strangers have asked to touch me at races.
For me, it’s the fit and price that really make the Shevlin top-notch. I’m tall and athletic enough that ordering online is always a gamble (6’2”, 185 lbs with long arms / torso), but a large Shevlin fits better than just about any other running shirt I own. It has post-wash measurements of 28.5” in body length, 35” from the center of the back to the end of the sleeve, 22” across the chest, and 21.25” across the hips. The generous length and slight taper give it the ideal fit for a running shirt. And at sixty bucks (plus free shipping / returns), I feel like I’m getting away with something. I asked Greg why he’s charging prices straight out of the REI clearance section instead of a premium. “I think that all too often businesses are using the concept of ‘local’ as an excuse to charge more,” he told me. “That just doesn’t sit well with me, so we applied a different type of business model when creating PEP that allows us to give our customers all of these benefits without making them pay a penalty for making the right decisions about buying ethically sourced, locally made gear.”
My Shevlins have a small inner tag that reads “1st Run” and I have two minor quibbles I hope PEP will consider for the second generation. First, the neck opening is more generous than I’d like. Like a scoop-neck tee, it rides about halfway down my traps and shows quite a bit of chest hair. My concern is totally visual though – despite the large opening, it’s comfortable and I’ve never had any problems with the shoulders shifting or pulling while I’m running. Second, the size & care tag inside the shirt is made out of a thick, iron-on material that shrunk enough in the wash that it’s curled up at the edges and become wavy in the middle. Unfortunately, this isn’t just an aesthetic concern, since the wavy tag pulls noticeably at the bottom hem.
Overall, Pettet sets the bar exceptionally high for domestically-produced running clothing. Their merino wool gear is breathable, virtually odor-free, and cozy enough to get me out the door on days I’d rather be anywhere but the road – all made in Oregon and for a great price. With temps starting to feel almost reasonable, and hot summer days just a couple flips of the calendar away, I’m planning to order a short-sleeve Gresham or sleeveless Gaston soon. Greg says he’s working on half-zips and merino-lined tights for next fall, and I’m excited to see if PEP starts breaking into other categories of endurance wear as well (domestically-produced merino cycling jerseys, anyone?).
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.