It’s often easy to spot rock climbers and hikers in London because there’s something they’re wearing that gives them away. Maybe it’s the Suunto altimeter watch worn with a suit, the alpine-style rucksack over the shoulder when walking to work or the top end GoreTex jacket worn in an April shower. I’m regularly outed as a rock climber in this sort of way. Maybe outdoors people like us use our outdoor gear in the city because we want to wear what’s practical and comfortable. Maybe it’s because outdoor gear is so expensive and we want to get full use of it. There could be a bit of brand loyalty to our favourite outdoor manufacturer in there too. Maybe, unconsciously, even a bit of us showing which modern tribe we belong too. Whatever the reason, outdoor gear manufacturers have tried to tap into this by making clothing and bags for the city. The idea is that the knowledge used to make something like a good mountain jacket can be applied to making a better urban jacket. This is the approach Arc’teryx has taken with their 24 lifestyle range. This includes some really interesting products, one of which is the Diplomat Jacket.
The Diplomat Jacket made of Arc’teryx’s Wollard fabric. This looks like wool but is a combination of a wool-synthetic face fabric (55% wool, 37% polyester, 7% nylon and 1% elastane) with a polyester fleece backer. Adding polyester and nylon to the wool apparently increases durability and wind resistance while the fleece backer is meant to add comfort and probably provides a bit more warmth. Slightly oddly for a wool-based jacket, the seams are fully taped. Arc’teryx say this is “to complete the jacket’s polished style” and I agree that it does make the jacket look clean and neat.
The Wollard fabric is comfortable and provides a surprising amount of warm and wind protection for a fabric that is fairly thin. However, it’s not enough warmth to make this anything other than a jacket for Autumn, Spring and cool Summer days, particularly as there isn’t enough space under the jacket to wear lots of layers.
At £300, this is an expensive jacket. This is the same price as many top-end mountaineering jackets. It’s so much that I wouldn’t necessarily have brought the Diplomat if I hadn’t found it discounted in a sale. However, I suppose the price may not be out of line with the cost of casual jackets from designer brands.
My guess is that a fair amount of the cost is the material, as the similarly cut, softshell Karda Jacket by Arc’teryx is about £100 cheaper.
What you are also getting for your money is an elegant and quality jacket that has been generally well designed.
The pockets of the Diplomat Jacket are one element of that good design. They’re nicely placed and discreetly hidden. Both the zips on the pockets and the main zip run smoothly and feel durable. The hand warmer pockets are warm, comfortable and fairly big. The chest pocket is neat and easily takes a smart phone. However, the pockets are likely to noticeably bulge if you put too much in them.
The sleeves of the Diplomat Jacket come with inner cuffs to seal in warmth. The outer cuff has a gentle V shape on the outside and this little touch adds to the interesting styling of the jacket.
The collar fits closely, is simple and of a height that is neither too high nor too low.
The Diplomat Jacket definitely sits at the smart end of the smart-casual spectrum. One of the things I really like about this jacket is that it looks good worn to work with a shirt and tie for work as well as looking good when worn with a smart top and jeans at the weekend. However, the Diplomat Jacket doesn’t look quite right with a T-shirt and jeans.
A big reason this jacket looks smart is the cut. This cut is, in some ways, one of the best things about the Diplomat Jacket, but this cut is unforgiving and I suspect some people will find that this jacket just does not fit them. I’m tall and slim and just fit into the medium size (the large size was a bit too long in arms and far too big around the waist).
Despite the articulated elbows, gusseted underarms and the Wollard fabric having 1% elastane, this cut is a little bit constricting. The jacket does rise up if I lift my arms above my head and I can feel the jacket pull tight if the main zip is done up and I put an arm fully across my chest. Conversely, the cut is too relaxed for my skinny waist and the wind can whip under the bottom of the jacket. This is made more noticeable by the Diplomat Jacket’s short length. A drawcord at the waist would solve this problem, but I guess that it might upset the line of the jacket and so I can understand why Arc’teryx didn’t put one in.
For £300 I might have hoped for a better cut, but there are a couple of reasons why these issues don’t bother me too much. The first is that a lot of them are due to my particular body shape. This often causes me problems in finding clothes that fit me well and the Diplomat Jacket fits me well enough (at least, I think I look good in it and my wife does too). People of a different shape will find the Diplomat Jacket a perfect fit.
The second reason is that, although this jacket may cost the same as a high-end mountaineering jacket, it’s not designed to be used like one and it doesn’t need the same freedom of movement. I’m not going to be reaching for high holds or swinging ice axes above my head while wearing it. This is a strictly smart-casual jacket and, compared against similar garments, the cut is pretty good.
This is a stylish, well-made and attractive jacket. The quality of the jacket just about justifies the high price tag if you compare it against something similar from a designer brand. Although the cut doesn’t work absolutely perfectly for me, it will probably work out fine for other people.
The Diplomat Jacket is an example of Arc’teryx putting their mountain gear know-how to pretty good use.
UPDATE: 25 December 2017 – Arc’teryx no longer make the Diplomat Jacket, but the new Cordova Jacket seems to be essentially the same jacket. The differences are that the Cordova Jacket has a hood and draw cords along the hem (which should help with one of the problems of the Diplomat Jacket).