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Surly's new t-shirt
Fancy, huh?

Not long ago the chief flack of Surly’s crack Product Design and Dog Grooming Team, Adam, gave me a new shirt Surly is making. This shirt…well, it’s something sort of special. You see, this is a t-shirt made of Merino wool. Wool is more than just a hipster’s paradise. It’s got some traits that make it well suited to persons who like to get out there and do things.

When I first got Pretty Baby, I immediately set my phasers to “not sure.” I like the idea of a merino wool shirt, but this one was red. Bright red. Beggars can’t be choosers, however, so although I would not normally buy myself a bright red shirt I resolved to give it the ol’ college try.

I put it on. I checked myself out in the mirror. Ugnh. Yeah. Git after it, tiger! It was not itchy at all, and was surprisingly stretchy. I wore it around the house with jeans. It was as warm as a regular shirt, and moved with my body better than many cotton Ts I have. I would have been happy enough just like this, but it was around this time that the polar vortex first descended. The polar vortex, as anyone living in Minnesota this winter can tell you, is a weather pattern which has brought the upper Midwest more than a month of ridiculous cold. Lows in the teens to twenties below zero Fahrenheit before factoring in windchill. Yikes. I have lived in the upper Midwest the vast majority of my life and I can tell you without hesitation that this is a not the sort of cold to be messed with. Dressing stupidly will get you hurt or dead. Since I have long lived where it gets cold in the winter, I have a lot of experience keeping the cold off my person. Being that wool is pretty much my main go-to in that regard I decided to let Pretty Baby have a crack at it, short sleeved though he may be.

Pretty Baby was next to my skin, paired with a set of polypropylene long johns. Over the course of this trial I wore these same underlayers every day. I wore that shirt for nearly a week straight in weather that it was later revealed was colder than Antarctica. However, i did not not merely sit around, oh no. I rode my bike around wearing it. I worked up a healthy lather shoveling snow in it. I slept in the shirt. I did my best to make sure that my fragrant personal oils had a chance to thoroughly penetrate Pretty Baby’s soft fibers. I gave it hell. Hairy, pasty, sweaty hell. Pretty Baby never let me down. I didn't think about my shirt, and that is a good thing. By the end of the week I unencumbered myself of the thin red wool and gave it a couple sniffs. Not bad. Just like wool is supposed to do, it remained unoffensive, in spite of my underarms being able to make no such claim. The same could not be said of the polypro pants, which I'm sure could sterilize mosquitos up to 12 yards away at this point. Wool, you see, is naturally antimicrobial, disallowing significant build-up of smells as occurs with other fabrics. I had bathed several times in the course of the week but Pretty Baby hadn’t. In fact, P.B. seemed entirely unfazed by the whole experience. After the first week I washed it and it retained its original fit, color, thermal, and odor-mitigating traits, just as you'd expect. I’ve been wearing it now for just shy of a month, and hot dog, we have a weiner!

My complaints are minor. First, I feel like the shirt ran a bit on the small size, and I run a bit on the large size, so I felt a bit like a clump of tofu in a sausage casing. But the person who led its design assures me that the cut is on par with other shirts and that the drape of Merino is more clingy than that of cotton, so perhaps I just don’t like the feel of it “touching me” (her quote). Perhaps not, so I will be ordering a size larger than usual when I need to replace it. For those who like to be touched on the skin you’ll be fine in whatever size you normally wear. Be careful washing it, of course, as wool is notorious for shrinking if not treated appropriately. Hand wash it or throw it in the gentle cycle with cold water, then let it air dry, and you should be fine.

My other gripe is the size of the front pocket. Some may appreciate that a front pocket on your shirt is nice for keeping glasses or potato chips handy. I found that this pocket did an inadequate job of keeping my glasses securely in place (it did ok with the potato chips). It is too shallow for glasses and too narrow to reasonably accommodate a celluar personal communication device. When I asked about the size of the pocket, I was told it was made on the small side to discourage using it to contain heavy or pointy things, things which could potentially rip the fabric. Seems to me that’s throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Why not just leave the pocket off? But in the larger scope of this shirt's performance it’s a minor thing and not a deal breaker for me.

All in all, Pretty Baby is one class act; stylish enough for casual wear, durable and stretchy enough for an active lifestyle. They are available even now in brown, red, or black, in unisexual sizes small through XXL. I encourage you to run, not walk, to your local bicycle dealer, cash in hand, and have them order you at least one.

Chest Rockwell's avatar

About Chest Rockwell

When not writing some of the words that Surly uses to convey information about their products and life position, Chest enjoys a stunning array of adventurous and rewarding endeavors. He is an internationally known entrepreneur and businessman, an award-winning architect, and has trekked the perimeter of China, unsupported, overland on bicycle, on foot, and on skis. He fluently speaks eight languages, including Icelandic, which is considered to be one of the world's most difficult languages to master. He is an avid skydiver. He designs spacecraft for NASA. He has been in no less than twenty-one feature films and is considered the world's leading authority on the healing properties of snake venom. He has built a popular reputation as a funnyman, appearing in cameo roles on various popular television shows primarily in the U.S., Europe, and Japan, and is the author of sixteen books about achieving one's potential. He is a motivational speaker drawing on his experiences in combat, for which he was awarded two purple hearts, and is a personal life coach to celebrities and notable figures worldwide. In his spare time he enjoys music, bicycles, writing, and spending time with his family. In other words, he's totally perfect, so don’t worry about it.

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