4.5 years with my Patagonia Better Sweater

2024-05-19

Those who know me have probably noticed that I wear a black fleece jacket almost literally every day. This jacket is a Patagonia Better Sweater that I bought in November 2019 to replace a Uniqlo black fleece jacket which I’d lost while moving out of college.

At the time, I was only dimly aware that Patagonia had come to be associated with Wall Street finance bro types. (I’m not sure if it still is.) I just wanted a sustainable and durable jacket to replace my lost one. My records show that I paid $151.51 for it—a steep price for me back then, just a few months into my first job.

Me trying on the jacket at the store, 11/17/2019

The jacket slipped into its role just as easily as I slipped into it every morning. It wasn’t perfect—not quite warm enough for very windy days or cold nights, a bit bulkier than some other jackets out there—but for 80% of life, it was exactly what I needed.

This jacket held up incredibly well over almost exactly 4.5 years of near-daily use. It has outlasted almost every other product that I wear daily, including shoes, belts, and jeans. I’ve also been through:

but only one black fleece jacket.


The jacket on its last day with me, 5/19/2024

A couple of weeks ago, a hole finally appeared in the right elbow. I ignored it and continued to wear it daily until today, when I took it to the local Patagonia store to ask about repair options. There, the associate informed me that I could either send it in for repair (turnaround time 8-10 weeks), or to my surprise, return it to be recycled and get store credit for the full original value.

I considered turning down the refund—I liked the principle of keeping my old jacket and repairing it—but 8-10 weeks is a long time and it’s hard to argue with a full refund. (This seems wild to me. How can Patagonia afford to let people use their products for years for free?? But they have 51 years of experience running their business, and I have zero, so they probably know things I don’t.)

So my trusty old jacket was unceremoniously slid across the store counter, never to be seen again, and in exchange I was given a gift card with the $159 post-inflation value of a new jacket.

I have some mixed feelings: On one hand, I’m amazed at how the company went above and beyond in standing behind their product; they really showed that they valued me as a customer. On the other hand, when I brought it in, I was expecting to fix it, not say goodbye to it. Having the jacket be unexpectedly recycled made it feel sort of disposable. Intuitively, repairing seems like it should have less environmental impact than recycling, though maybe that’s not actually true in this case?

Either way, I felt like there should have been some moment of silence or elegy or something, but there was not, which I guess is why I’m writing this.

I haven’t purchased the replacement yet because they didn’t have my size of Better Sweater in stock, but I’ll probably buy a replacement online soon. Not sure yet if it’ll be the same model or a different Patagonia jacket. I’m sad to say goodbye to my jacket, but I’m impressed at how well it held up and I’m looking forward to many years with the next one.