Winter is coming.
It’s not just a GoT quote. It’s a fact of life.
If the constant rain is any clue, this winter is going to be a wet one here on the east coast.
I moved from California, where rain was something I only heard about in stories. My parents would tell fables about “precipitation” when tucking me into bed.
But this year, I’m ready. At least I think I am. This whole “water from the sky” thing is still new to me.
I needed a few items to keep me dry on those few stormy days, so I reached out to Western Rise, a clothing brand focused on updating classic fashion with modern fabrics.
They sent me some of their favorite pieces to try.
So could they keep me dry during the first big storm of the season?
Keep reading to find out how Western Rise stacked up (and make sure you check out the killer martial arts moves in the slideshow at the end).
What is Western Rise?
To tell the story of Western Rise, I first need to tell the story of how a lot of other brands launch their first products.
A guy or gal sees a need in the market. They decide they want to build a brand to fix the need. They head off to China for a few months, design something, pick a fabric, and voila—their brand is born.
But Will Watters’ story is so different.
Growing up in Georgia, Watters started his career at his grandpa’s yarn mill. The yarn mill produced technical fabrics for a wide range of uses during the ‘60s and ‘70s.
From there, Watters went to work as the Head of Product Development for another technical fabric manufacturer. This next company, run by his dad, focused on creating durable, water-resistant fabrics for the marine and RV industries.
Watters spent years in Research and Development, testing the strength, durability, and resistance of thousands of different fabrics.
Driven by the desire to own less but do more, Will Watters and his wife Kelly set out to reimagine modern wardrobe staples, designed with modern fabrics as the original designers would have done.
Western Rise was born.
Take the Western Rise AT Slim pant for example. They imagined what Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss would have done had they the same fabrics at their disposal. With Watters’ experience, he knew the perfect fabric to enhance the function of the jean.
Same look. More lightweight, durable, water-resistant. Less stinky, uncomfortable, and prone to losing shape. Sounds pretty great, right?
Through Western Rise, Watters has gone on to reimagine several wardrobe staples in the same way—fashionable clothes, but with the best fabrics available.
I tried out nine of Western Rise’s best-selling items and here’s what I thought (Plus, figure out why these pants made our model feel like a martial arts master).
Western Rise Review
AT Slim Pant
Like I mentioned earlier, the Western Rise AT Slim is designed like a five-pocket pant. The big difference is in the fabric.
Made with 97% Air-textured Nylon and 3% Spandex, these pants have the look of jeans, but the feel of something lighter and stronger.
Nylon pants, you say? Did we time-travel back to the ‘80s?
This is where Watters’ long history of researching and developing new fabrics comes into play. The nylon used for the AT Slim is air-texturized to create a much softer feel and more natural look.
The Spandex addition gives these pants great horizontal stretch. Western Rise doesn’t advertise the vertical stretch on the AT Slim because there isn’t much—but it’s still there.
The pockets are all riveted for extra durability.
I have to say that these pants really do feel like they can go through pretty much anything. They’d be great pants for hiking as they’re comfortable, water-resistant, and have that odd ability to be cool when you want cool and warm when you want warm.
While doing some research for this piece, I came across a group I’d never heard of before. There’s a whole community dedicated to minimalist packing—they’re called “one-baggers.”
They practice the art of extended travel while only carrying one bag. Pretty simple.
Naturally, if you’re going to travel for a month and you can only bring a few items, those things need to be light, sturdy, and they can’t pick up stains or smells.
Going through Reddit forums, I saw the AT Slim pop up time and time again. In fact, the only pair of pants that showed up more often was the Western Rise Evolution pant.
What I like most about the AT Slim is that, while they’re definitely my go-to outdoorsy pants, they fit well and look good enough to wear out on the street.
For a lot of backpackers, their style is a reflection of their hobby. They wear their climbing gear everywhere. I have nothing against the style because I believe fashion should be an extension of who you are. But I don’t dress that way.
The AT Slim pants have the same function and durability of hiking and climbing clothes but are styled in a way that I’m happy to wear with a fashion-forward outfit. As we head into cooler and wetter months, I’ll definitely be getting good use of these pants.
The Western Rise Evolution pant is a lightweight update to the AT Slim. With virtually the same design, WR wanted to make something tailored for warmer months.
They put up an offer on Kickstarter and reached their goal of $20k in ridiculous time. Before the 30-day window closed, Western Rise raised almost $600k.
I was on the phone with Watters and he mentioned that he was concerned at first—the AT Slim was their best seller, but would anyone want a lighter version? He laughed when he recalled those initial fears. The Evolution pant now outsells the AT Slim, and by a good margin, too.
Part of this is due to its popularity in the hiking, travel, and one-bag community. The other part is the love from the tech community.
It seems like everyone can get behind quick-drying pants that are comfortable, don’t stain, and rarely need washing.
I’ve enjoyed wearing the Evolution pants for the past few weeks.
The gusseted crotch gives extra room downstairs for extra stretch and comfort. I can see it being perfect when spanning between boulders during a hike.
The fifth pocket (on the right, stacked inside the main pocket) actually has a use, too. It’s large enough to fit my phone. It was interesting to see Western Rise’s design principles come in here: classics reworked for the modern man.
The last detail worth noting is the “secret” sixth YKK zippered-pocket on the back right. This little benefit is actually a make-or-break point for a lot of travelers as some common tourist areas are pick-pocket magnets.
I haven’t had the chance to take these on an adventure yet, but when the time comes, I’ll be calling on the Evolution pant.
In February 2020, Western Rise released a line of Merino wool shirts and the new Diversion pant.
It has the same five pocket construction as the AT Slim and Evolution pant—the difference is in the fabric and the cut.
The Diversion pant is the softest and stretchiest of WR’s offerings. It’s also the slimmest fit. While the AT Slim and Evolution fit well, the leg openings were a bit larger than I prefer. The Diversion has more taper below the knee, which I love.
Like their other pants, the brand has coated these with a water repellant that keeps them clean and stain-free.
As for their wrinkle-resistance—check them out for yourself. I pulled these out of my drawer just a few minutes before shooting some photos and didn’t steam them or anything.
The interesting thing about clothing photography is that wrinkles are always obvious. You really have to steam or iron the heck out of anything you’re wearing so you don’t look like a slob. So considering that these were folded up for a full week or more and they look this good without any help is a true indicator of their wrinkle-free nature.
Of the three Western Rise pants I’ve tried, the new Diversion pants are my favorite. They’re softer and have less “pant swoosh” than the other lines. Plus, I like the extra taper below the knee.
The TechWool Flannel is Western Rise’s newest addition in their journey to remake the classics. Made with a blend of moisture-wicking, odor-resisting polyesters combined with fine wool, the TechWool Flannel is a great choice for the modern traveler.
I like the slim cut on the flannel. I’m usually between sizes, so I opted for the medium. It fits me well in the shoulders, but if I were to order again, I’d size up. If you’re like me and you’re never sure what size you’ll be for a specific brand, go up a size for Western Rise’s shirts.
The TechWool is fairly soft, but it’s no substitute for wool. It still has a little of that “catch” typical in polyester.
But I don’t think peak softness is really what Western Rise is after here. This shirt is designed to look good and stay fresh even after five or six wears. It’s meant to go the distance for travelers and look fashionable at the same time.
The TechWool product page boasts that it’s “incredibly soft.” It’s decently soft, but I’ll reserve the “incredibly” for other shirts. Again, this isn’t a deal-breaker because I’m not really looking to Western Rise to give me outrageously soft clothes—I want them to give me something durable, fashionable, and tailored for travel.
Also, a quick shout-out for the hidden button-downs. I really like this touch. It keeps the collar sharp looking, which is my number one issue with flannels.
Both feature Superfine Australian Merino wool, which is some of the best performing fabric you can find.
Western Rise blends the wool with polyester for extra stretch, durability, and wrinkle resistance.
The Button Down has the look of an oxford shirt, which I like. Oxford-style shirts are super versatile, working in both summer and winter, buttoned or unbuttoned, sleeves down or sleeves rolled. Plus, they can float in most offices, and they’re an excellent casual look.
The Polo is another classic cut, with longer shirt sleeves and a nice, sturdy button-down collar.
My first impressions with both of these shirts is that they’re very soft and comfortable. I also love the shape of the collars—they’re structured well enough that they don’t bacon-out, warp, or wrinkle in the wash.
I chose a large size which fits my shoulders well. The sleeves on the polo are a bit long for my taste, but I’ve found that a quick roll is enough to get the look I like.
AirLoft Quilted Jacket
When I first put on the AirLoft, it was clear that this was a performance jacket. By that, I mean, it’s one of those super-technical, cutting-edge fabric jackets.
Like I said above, I have no problem with guys who like to wear their mountain climbing jackets, but it’s not my personal style.
Well, I guess it is now.
But they’re chemists. And they’re really good at making super-lightweight materials with amazing temperature control.
I’ll be honest. I went for this jacket simply because I liked the way it looked. I thought it’d be a light option for fall, and a solid go-to for something different for the colder winter months.
After wearing this out a few times, I can tell this will be the only jacket I need for the southern winter.
It’s surprisingly warm—especially for how lightweight it is.
Like I said with the Evolution pants, I haven’t gone on any cross-border travels since I’ve got my Western Rise haul, but this jacket is definitely coming with me when I do.
It looks great, and it’s comfortable and warm. I especially like the cut of the sleeves. They stay slim through the arms, which keeps it fashion-forward.
Of all Western Rise’s clothes, the AirLoft jacket does the best job of being a fashionable piece made with highly technical fabrics. Even with both pants, there’s just a hint of “hiking-enthusiast” look to them.
But the jacket is just classic looking. It also happens to be a great choice for backpackers, campers, travelers, and rock climbers.
X Cotton Everyday Tee
The fabric isn’t Merino wool, but they’ve done a lot to elevate this standard tee.
It features a blend of cotton, polyester, and elastane, and is treated with something called Polygeine. The coating gives this shirt anti-microbial properties so you can wear it multiple days in a row without the smell.
Again, this t-shirt fits really well. I like the thickness of the fabric and collar. If a t-shirt doesn’t scream “quality” from a distance, it’s hard to justify spending anything over $20 or $30. But this tee is solid, sturdy, and doesn’t lose its shape after washing.
StrongCore Merino Socks
I needed a break from writing so I jumped in my car to go to the grocery store.
Like a fool, I wore my favorite track shoes, which are built with summer in mind. They’re perforated all over and offer no protection against rain at all. I didn’t think about that.
As soon as I stepped outside, my foot went about six inches into a puddle.
Great. Wet socks.
To my surprise, about ten minutes later my feet didn’t feel wet at all. The moisture-wicking socks really worked. Plus the padding on the bottom is really comfortable.
My Overall Thoughts on Western Rise
What I Like
Technical fabrics made for rough outdoor weather but styled in a way that city-dwellers can get behind.
I like the reimagining of the pockets on both the AT Slim and Evolution. A few thoughtful additions really make these pants fit for the modern man.
Nothing restricted my movement at all, even with a snug fit.
The AirLoft Quilted Jacket is so light, you wouldn’t expect it to be so warm. Plus, it has a classic, stylish look. You’d never guess it was so rugged.
Everything is wrinkle and odor resistant, so it’s perfect for extended travel.
What I Don’t Like
There aren’t many styling options on the AT Slim and Evolution, and only even sizing. I’m really a size 33, so I was caught between a 32 and 34. I landed on the 34’s.
The Merino sock was a surprise hit with me, but there is only a no-show option. Since I wear sneakers and boots more often, these no-show Merino’s might not get the love they deserve. (Nov. 2019 Update: A crew version will be available late 2019/ early 2020)
On the surface, Western Rise looks like they’re just another fashion brand.
Once you try on their clothes, you realize they’re much more than that.
Considering the experience the founder has with years of research and development—a more accurate label for Western Rise is that they’re an expert in modern fabrics.
The good news is they’ve taken materials you’d normally only find in the hiking, climbing, and skiing world, and applied them to classic style staples.
They’re still growing, so they don’t have perfect sizing for everyone—but they’re getting there.
Western Rise passed my city-dwelling tests. Luckily, I’ll have these pieces for years, and I’ll get a chance to test them on the trail and throughout the world.
The team behind Western Rise are experts with technical fabrics, and they’ve reimagined wardrobe staples with the modern world in mind. Though they have somewhat limited sizing, you can take these light, packable, and fashionable clothes anywhere.
Bonus Martial Arts Throwdown
Halfway through our photoshoot, we realized just how flexible these Western Rise pants are. This led to an intense martial arts display (with a little Parkour tossed in for good measure).