When we stopped by the Aether office and showroom in Los Angeles to take a look at the second version of the Alto ($395) jacket, their crew handed us a sample and sent us on to their on-site testing facility — an industrial walk-in freezer — where we got a preview of how it would perform in the wild. By “wild” we’re not talking about summiting Rainier; our adventures with the Alto would take us from chilly nights in Los Angeles to face-mashing wind in Detroit to a short stint inside New York’s polar vortex. And Vegas. Hey, we all have our own idea of adventure. That set of varying destinations is where the Alto, a true multipurpose jacket, is meant to shine.
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There is now a fully emerged category of well-tailored performance clothing fit for both the slopes and the street, and Aether has been a card-carrying member thereof since 2009. In Aether’s case, the idea was to create a line of clothing for city dwellers with a passion for the outdoors. On the other coast, NYC-based Outlier is similarly engaged, making, for example, handsome button-down shirts blazed with Nano-Tex to resist dirt and sweat. Giro, a cycling brand well known for helmets, launched a line called New Road that uses fabrics like merino and Pertex in apparel that functions on the bike and looks fresh off it. Even Levi’s has a whole line of clothing designed for bike commuters.
The Alto is inspired by the English quilted jacket classically associated with Barbour, Belstaff or Ralph Lauren, but it’s a bit more versatile, which is to say you can wear it even when you’re not holding a cricket mallet over your shoulder. It’s got the sharpness required of more formal dinner wear but also manages to look good as simple layering over a flannel or henley. In black or graphite it works over a t-shirt or with a shirt and tie; in poppy (red), it goes nicely with fast cars with tops that come off. At one point while walking in Venice a fashion photographer who commented on our look of jeans, a button-down, Vans and the Alto. Any way you wear this jacket, it works.
Aether creates a balance in their clothing between performance and presence — though the Alto leans toward the latter.
That’s especially true when you throw a little weather at it. Aether uses 100 grams of PrimaLoft One insulation to add warmth without bulk, and a Schoeller microfiber shell and inside storm flap keep water out. Articulated sleeves and an interior hem adjustment allow freedom of movement without sacrificing comfort or protection; an interior pocket with an audio cord valve lets you keep the music going while all that other cool stuff is happening.
Aether creates a balance in their clothing between performance and presence — though the Alto leans toward the latter. It’s a great city jacket or mid-layer heading to the mountains for a few days of snowboarding, but it’s not meant for expeditions, and the the modern cut is a little trim in the armholes and shoulder blade areas for some outdoor sports. Besides, at $400 — more than Mountain Hardwear’s Ghost Whisperer or Arc’Teryx’s Cerium LT — we’re not inclined to scuff it up or stuff it into the bottom of a backpack. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look to Aether for performance: their Altitude shell ($675) uses a three-layer Schoeller c_change fabric that’s windproof, waterproof and breathable, and sports a Recco reflector plus a three-point adjustable hood that’s helmet-ready.
Meanwhile, the city dweller who never leaves the metro area will stick to fashion-focused brands and hardcore outdoor enthusiasts will probably keep buying backcountry-focused brands. Those who are stoked on both of those worlds have a very good option in the Alto. We’ll certainly keep showing up in Instagram shots of all kinds sporting ours.
Additional Contribution by Bradley Hasemeyer.