There are few sights as magnificent as an LA beach.
Four foot waves all day long. Bat rays soaring through the water. Millions of mackerel schooling around the piers. The beautiful yellow and powder blue skies.
Random strung out guys on tiny bicycles screaming the same Sublime song over and over again.
It’s one of the strangest eco-systems on the planet. But when you grow up near it, it’s easy to love.
California has been leading the way in blending ethical manufacturing, sustainable business practices, and wicked stylish clothing. And after coming across Outerknown, the surf-culture inspired brand owned by Kelly Slater and based right near Venice Beach, I decided to give them a try.
I picked up their heavy hitters and have gone on a few adventures in them. So how’d they hold up? Keep reading and get the full story.
What Is Outerknown?
Outerknown is an ethically-minded clothing brand founded by world-renowned surf champion, Kelly Slater.
The brand began as a challenge from Slater to the other founding members: could they make clothes that look and feel awesome, while embracing a radical commitment to sustainability all the way from recycled materials to how their workers are treated.
That challenge launched a two-year journey to discover what would be the heart of the brand: finding partners that shared their values and vision for more accountability in fashion.
It’s been six years since they launched their first product, and they’ve been growing steadily ever since.
Things to Consider Before Buying Casual Clothes from Outerknown
Outerknown is unrelenting in their pursuit of better fabrics, sustainable manufacturing, and ethical treatment of their workers. And because they don’t cut corners, their clothes are more pricey.
The way I see it: it’s not that sustainable brands cost more. It’s that brands that squeeze every nickel and dime out of their manufacturing process at the expense of the environment and their workers are able to make their clothes a little cheaper.
But what’s the true cost of that mentality?
Also, their clothes fit really well, and I think it’s because they know they need to justify the cost of their product.
For some, it may seem crazy to spend over $40 on a t-shirt. But when I consider how much more often I wear my Sojourn tee compared to my others, it’s actually more cost effective. Funny how that works, right?
Outerknown doesn’t launch too many new products. And when they do, they make a big deal of it. I picked up their most popular pieces to get a good representation of everything they offer.
The Blanket Shirt is Outerknown’s most popular item, and they say it “may be the coziest damn shirt ever made.”
To be honest: it might be. It’s certainly the coziest shirt I’ve worn.
I recently took this camping with me on a rainy spring day in the North Carolina mountains, and I was surprised at how warm it is. I wore it while building my fire and the weather was a damp 45 degrees (~7 degrees Celsius), and I didn’t feel a chill at all.
But what I like most about the Blanket Shirt is the fit. Despite being a larger “flannel” style shirt, it has a slimmer fit through the mid-section, and it’s longer than average, so it has better coverage in the back and helps make you look taller and leaner.
The shoulders also have a nice, masculine fit, but the arms are nice and slim so you’re not swimming in extra fabric.
It hits the perfect balance of burley and masculine, while staying trim and modern.
The fabric is really soft and has a ton of give, so I wasn’t worried about tearing the seams when throwing on a backpack or taking a manly hatchet swing.
With 20 color options (and 10 for the ladies, too) at the time of writing, you’ve got choices. Plus, Outerknown is always adding new colors to the lineup, and there are more options to come.
After agonizing for twenty minutes, I went with Pumpkin Hermosa Plaid because it seemed versatile as a spring and fall piece, and lighter colors work better with my skin and hair tone.
Overall, I’m really happy with the Blanket Shirt. It fits well, and it’s surprisingly versatile. I felt that it looked at home in the mountains, but it’s ideal for summer nights at the beach when the wind picks up off the shore.
S.E.A. Ambassador Jeans
Between pesticides used in growing cotton, dying wastewater, and the water-intensive washing process, denim is actually pretty environmentally hazardous.
Outerknown’s S.E.A. Jeans are made with organic cotton denim in a Fair Trade Certified factory. And not just any FTC factory, but the cleanest denim factory in the world.
I picked mine up in the Ambassador slim fit selvedge. It’s a bit more expensive to go with selvedge, but the character of the fabric is a little more pronounced.
What does that mean? Well, selvedge denim is made on special looms that move slower and put less tension on the fabric as it’s being woven. So there’s more “slubs” in the yarn, or texture in the fabric. That translates to a richer texture in your jeans, which is a very subtle detail, but is worthwhile in my opinion.
The seams are also finished (selvedge= self-edge), which supposedly helps durability in the long run, though I’ve never had a problem with the seams of my regular jeans unravelling.
I love the deep indigo color of the Ambassador jeans, and the fit through the thigh and down the leg is spot on.
I picked mine up in a slim fit, but Outerknown also offers two other fit options: The Local Straight fit is more standard, and a better option for guys with thicker thighs and glutes. The Drifter is even more relaxed if you prefer more room in the seat and thighs.
I also picked my wife up the S.E.A Suit, just to check out the women’s line. Made with 51% organic cotton and 49% linen, this piece looks and feels great. She loves it, so if you’re looking to pick up something nice for your lady, the S.E.A Suit is a cool laid back piece she can rock at the beach.
Before I get into the gritty details—let’s just cover how they feel: these are the lightest board shorts I’ve ever experienced. The fabric is super thin, stretchy, and comfortable.
I wish I was more of a surfer—I’ve tried four or five times without much success. But I can see what Outerknown means when they say these are the most high-performance trunks on the market.
The fabric is made with 100% recycled water bottles, and the seams are all taped and double-bonded. So while the fabric may feel light and thin, there’s basically no way you’re going to tear through these shorts: they’re super sturdy and durable.
The seams are also stitch-free and welded, so there’s no friction inside the short, which basically eliminates the possibility of chafing. Even the most comfortable board shorts can start to wear down your inner legs after a while, but not the APEX.
I spent a full weekend camping on the North Carolina Outer Banks while wearing the APEX Trunks, and even though I was in and out of the water throughout the day, I never had an issue with chafing.
One cool feature is that the trunks fold up into the back pocket.
This was super handy on my camping trip, especially after I’d used them for a few days and didn’t want to fold them up with my clean clothes—I could just scrunch them in the pocket and toss them with my other beachy items that needed a clean before coming back into the apartment.
The back pocket also has a bungee cord and an AquaGuard zipper, which offers peace of mind if you need to bring your keys or credit card with you on the waves. The zipper is sturdy enough to keep the blast of a six-footer from opening up your pocket, and the bungee is a second-line of defense to ensure nothing ever falls out.
If I were to pick again, I’d opt for a darker color than the Blue Foam Block color option because the fabric is lightweight for performance purposes. That said, these are my go-to trunks every beach day.
Outerknown also offers other trunks that are a touch thicker (though the APEX are designed by one of the greatest surfers of all time, and made purely for performance). The brand’s other trunks are designed more for beach days and pool hangs.
The Outerknown APEX is an eco-minded board short for serious wave pounders, but they’re especially well suited to guys over 6’ tall. Why? Well, they’re on the longer side with a 19” outseam, but they’re still fairly trim and tailored with a 22” leg opening.
As part of my ongoing quest to find the best t-shirt, I picked up the Sojourn Tee (by the way, the quest never ends, because until I try literally every t-shirt, how can I know?).
Upon unfolding and feeling the shirt in my hands for the first time, I had to double check the tag to see if it was really cotton. And yes, it’s 100% organic Pima cotton. But it feels so buttery-smooth, and the knit is so tight it almost feels like a performance fabric.
What I like most about the Sojourn Tee is the fit—broad in the shoulders, tapered through the mid-section, a little extra length in the torso, and slight cuffs at the sleeve. For a lot of my t-shirts, I like rolling the sleeves once so my arms don’t get swallowed up in the large arm openings, but with the Sojourn Tee, there’s no need.
I picked mine up in the Bright Black colorway, which is basically a washed out (or worn in) black. The other five colors are all muted neutral tones, which is my jam, but I went with the black because that’s what I needed most in my wardrobe.
I’ll be ordering another Sojourn Tee in the future, because the fit is on point and the fabric feels incredible.
Is it the best tee of all time? It’s hard to say, but I put it in the top three that I’ve tried so far. That said, there are many more tees to go before I can give a final verdict here.
What do Other Reviewers Say About Outerknown?
Between individual product reviews and overall brand reviews, Outerknown has racked up over 7,000 high-ratings from previous customers at the time of writing.
I kept seeing the word trust pop up: reviewers seem to come back again and again because they trust Outerknown’s design sense and commitment to quality fabric.
It was interesting, and a little unexpected to see that not so many people were heaping praise on Outerknown for their sustainability efforts. It’s like their eco-conscious business practices are the cherry-on-top, but many folks would shop with them anyway for their quality, fit, and style.
If I’m honest, I’m in the same boat: I love brands that give back, but their clothes need to fit well and look cool for me to support them often.
My Thoughts Overall On Outerknown
What I Like
The Blanket Shirt is soft and warm, but it still has plenty of structure in the shoulders for a masculine and flattering fit.
With arm cuffs and a slim, longer fit through the torso, the Sojourn Tee has a unique cut that seems universally complimentary.
For Outerknown’s most popular items, they offer a huge variety of colors (20 options for the Blanket Shirt)—it’s difficult to choose because there are a lot of unique styles, but ultimately, it makes it easier to find something that matches your skin and hair tones.
I love supporting a brand that actively pushes itself to be more sustainable, ethical, and clean the ocean’s for a more trash-free future.
What I Don’t Like
The S.E.A Jeans Ambassador fit was snug around my glutes as the fit is more tailored for skinnier guys—the Local Straight Fit would be a better choice for an athletic body-type like mine.
Who is Outerknown for?
Outerknown is a must-know brand if you prioritize fit and quality over price. And it’s a cool bonus that you can trust their clothes to be made sustainably and ethically. If you don’t mind investing in high-quality pieces that will last for years and you like the laid back beachy vibes of Outerknown, you’ll definitely find a few items worth getting.
After taking the plunge with Outerknown and trying some of their most popular pieces, I’m a big fan of the brand. The Blanket Shirt blew my mind—it’s so soft and warm, but the collar and shoulders have plenty of structure to them. The fit is wide and masculine in the shoulders, and the torso is slim and flattering. I’ve never tried a heavy overshirt with all those qualities.
Sure, I had some issues with certain items: If I were doing it all again, I’d get a darker color APEX Trunk just for personal preference.
I’m loving the slub cotton selvedge denim on the S.E.A Jeans—that fabric has a rich texture, and is soft and sturdy.
If you’re curious about shopping with Outerknown for the first time, I say go for it. They’re one of those brands that, when you shop with them, you may get three pieces, and one of them becomes your absolute favorite thing to wear. Like my Blanket Shirt: I’m going to wear that thing until it’s completely destroyed.
So even though the prices are higher than what you might find elsewhere, their quality, fit, and mission make Outerknown a fantastic choice for laid-back casual clothes.
Is Outerknown a good brand?
Where is Outerknown based?
Outerknown is based in Culver City, California, which is just near Venice and Santa Monica.
Who founded Outerknown?
Outerknown is founded by surfing champion Kelly Slater to create sustainable clothes that look and feel great.