Nau (pronounced “NOW”) is a Portland OR-based apparel company that wants to make clothing that you’ll wear in multiple activities both casual and active. Handsome clothes that aren’t too locked into the latest trend of the moment, so that you’ll want to wear them well beyond this season’s fashion. And they want to do it with an eye towards sustainability and social conscience whenever they can. They’re pretty transparent about it too. Nau contracts with factories that adhere to a code of conduct for worker conditions and rights, but Nau readily admit they haven’t been able to backtrack the goose down for their vests to verify the conditions (don’t worry about the wool, the NZ sheep are certified). Personally, I dig this company. They show that good stuff can be made with a proper balance of principle and pragmatism, that conscience isn’t solely a trait of out-of-touch zealots.
The Dualist Jacket takes styling hints from vintage cycling jerseys. It’s made from merino wool (Zque-certified) with stretch woven polyester front panels made from 88% recycled materials. The jacket looks low-key classy in black, and just as billed, the fit of this piece favours a slightly slimmer physique (by American standards, not emaciated ProTour Columbian climber standards). The cut is cycling friendly without having over exaggerated length at the back, so you don’t look silly standing with a straight back with cold air seeping into the gap between the jacket and the top of your pants. And the wind resistant front panels do a remarkable job at holding out the cold while riding as well as being sufficiently water-resistant for some light drizzle or heavy early morning misting. It is most definitely NOT a rain jacket though. That soft, cozy merino wool soon becomes saturated once the water is coming at you heavy and not just into the wind poly front panels. But aside from that, the Dualist is versatile in a number of settings and temperature ranges. A 20mile road ride during a Fall evening was pretty comfortable with just a single technical base layer. Indoors, it’s comfy just to lounge around with the Dualist by itself because the wool is soft and naturally good at regulating temperature. It’s not bulky, so it could be worn as a first layer under a heavy winter jacket once winter really gets ugly.
There are two breast pockets with snap closures, two front hand pockets with zippers and also two zippered rear pockets. I heartily approve of the hand pockets; in my mind any cycling jacket that doesn’t have them is pigeon-holed into a “bike-only” item. I need somewhere to put my hands if I’m not holding a handlebar. A jacket without them is like a road bike without water bottle mounts. The rear pockets are a little problematic because they open on the sides, so they’re not very secure if you forget the zip them back up. Perhaps if the pockets had a little more depth below the zipper opening I could put aside the nagging worries of losing something. On the other hand, the side zipper is a lot easier to open and close than would be a horizontal one. Finally, I think I would prefer a little heavier duty unit for the primary front zipper. There were no problems during the test period, but I just felt I’d like something more robust for the long run.
Overall, the $280 Dualist lives up to its name. Off or on the bike, it is a jacket with both looks and comfort, both class and performance.
By the way, if you’d like to know what Zque wool is about, this link will take you to a highly annoying website where 9 separate videos give the same amount of information as could be provided by one and a half paragraphs of text.