“We dragged it at high speeds behind a 4×4 and motorbike on dirt tracks, through rivers, over roads and gravel. We towed it behind a speedboat, dried it with a blowtorch, and basically exposed it to the harshest possible treatment. While the tests killed our Special Forces tactical rope, the hoodie was fine.”
That’s Steve Tidball, talking about his company’s latest extreme fashion invention: the 100 Year Hoodie ($295). Created by the artisanal athletic wear brand Vollebak–makers of both the most relaxing sweatshirt on earth, and the most visible running jacket that the human eye can see–the 100 Year Hoodie appears to be a perfectly pedestrian hoodie available in charcoal or yellow. In fact, it’s woven from a Kevlar knit–a plush version of the super material used in armored vehicles and motorcycle racing suits.
“If you didn’t know what the hoodie was made of you’d think you were wearing a soft cotton sweatshirt,” says Tidball.
The difference is that this soft cotton sweatshirt should never tear through the elbows. It’s designed to capture a quality lost in the era of fast fashion and disposable Zara-infused wardrobes: durability.
“The 100 years idea started as a conversation between us and our friends . . . about how long clothes could or should last. The one story that everyone shared was the pieces in their wardrobe that were getting really old, and they really loved, but that their partner really wanted to throw away as they’re looking battered and worse for wear,” says Tidball. “It got us thinking about whether you could make a piece of clothing that was not only designed to have a really beautiful aged and lived-in look, but also designed not to fail. It’s much harder for someone to argue that a piece of clothing should be thrown away if there are simply no holes in it.”
To make the garment inhumanly durable, the Kevlar fleece is just one part of the equation. The stitches are conventional, but promise to be super high quality–less likely to fail than components like glue, the team argues. The zipper is shortened from full-length, meaning it has less room for mechanical error, and it’s encapsulated in rubber to stave off corrosion. As for the strings, those are not your typical shoelace-level pulls, but woven like rope.
But what may come as a surprise is, while the hoodie promises to never die, it is designed to age. The yellow version is actually the raw color of Kevlar, while the charcoal version is designed to fade after just a few washes rather than survive in an ever-pristine state. Tidball says this approach was inspired by brutalism–specifically Le Corbusier’s 1952 Unite d’Habitation social housing complex in Marseille, France, which birthed the architectural movement–and its unapologetic use of concrete as both building and decorative material.
“There’s an amazing quote from one of the original inhabitants we drew on: ‘What the outsider sees is a harsh, brutal, concrete exterior, now dirty gray; but as occupants, we are looking out secure in our citadel,'” says Tidball. “That’s kind of how we think people will feel about their hoodie.”
Take that, pre-distressed jeans from the Gap.
But while Vollebak promises a 100-year life cycle on its hoodie, the company admits that it’s an untestable benchmark. “After talking to a series of advanced testing facilities early on in the project, we found that this idea was so far outside normal parameters that testing would be much more subjective than objective. There is no machine you can put this in to see if it’ll last 100 years in every different scenario and come out with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no,'” says Tidball. “So the idea of 100 years is a moonshot. Our aim has been to take the best possible materials available today that have stood the test of time and therefore have the highest possible chance of outliving you.”