Summary: Scottevest, now known as SeV, continues to refine its much-hyped clothing line. Their first line was famed for its multiple pockets and high durability, and now they're up to version 4.0. Christiaan takes some of the gear for a spin and gives us a verdict. Maybe getting clothes for Christmas won't be so bad anymore?
FiringSquad readers are sure to have other interests in their life beyond the latest games and technology, right? Yah, we didn’t think so either, which is why we still felt fine about reviewing this particular line of clothing.
That’s because this line of clothing is built around the ominpresence of technology. Cellphones, PDAs, PSPs, cameras, TV remote controls - it’s hard to live in the 21st century without carrying around at least a few things that beep or light up. And that was the motivation that drove the company’s founder, Scott Jordan to come up with the first product – the Scottevest. When it was released in 2001, it was a “must have” for well-heeled geeks, techies, and gadget aficionados. It got a lot of attention in the press for its intelligent design and carrying capacity, but its price kept it out of the hands of the common folk.
The Secret Service and the C.I.A. aren’t common folk though. So with a government that spends $700 on a toilet seat, it’s not surprising that intelligence, military, and undercover law enforcement units began buying them in spades.
Since that first vest, each subsequent generation of the clothing has undergone various improvements and cleverly been given version numbers like software releases. It’s primarily the latest version, 4.0 and its unique internal systems that we have evaluated here.
And what do we mean by “internal systems”? Well, while the first Scottevest was really just a very durable vest lousy with well-placed pockets, most version 4.0 apparel have more sophisticated features like the patented “PAN”, magnetic closures, and a weight management system.
The PAN is an acronym for your Personal Area Network. Regardless of the proliferation of Bluetooth headsets for cellular phones, the majority of us still haven’t gone completely wireless. Many PDAs, audio monitoring devices (remember - CIA agents wear these things), push-button detonator switches (so could sleeper agents), MP3 players, and handheld TVs still benefit from the use of wires. So with the inclusion of the PAN, Scottevest (SeV) clothing has its pockets, collars, inner lining, and even sleeves, all given small strategically placed holes and conduits. This allows you to keep your ipod nano in the sleeve pocket of the Tactical 4.0 jacket and have the headphone cord be entirely hidden until it emerges just beneath your ear. You could also pull on the jacket’s hide-away hood and keep it entirely concealed.
In addition to the PAN, Scottevest clothing boasts magnetic closures (patent pending) and their DeepPockets™ which claim to ensure your valuable gadgets don’t fall out during strenuous activity even when you forget to zip them closed. I have to assume this was an innovation inspired by the needs of law enforcement, as most tech-enthusiasts aren’t exactly known for their athleticism. But a jog around a local park with an old Palm in my pocket, gave me the confidence to try dropping my Creative Zen MP3 player in the clothing’s different pockets and then jumping on my inversion table without going to any special effort securing it. After all the trials, not only did the player never fall out, but my face is all red and my back feels much better. But seriously, having lost my last Pocket PC and at least two cellphones to accidental dropouts, I now get a measure of peace from hearing the satisfying snap of the magnets pulling my pockets closed by themselves.
Another touted feature of the Scottevest line is the previously mentioned weight management system. In spite of the name, it has nothing to do with your growing gaming gut and everything to do with your keys, wallet, PDA, pocket knife, and cellphone all weighing up to 3 lbs.. And since society is still saying no to purses for men, and fanny packs have become the exclusive province of the Europeans, we don’t have many places beyond the standard four pant pockets to place these things. The result is our pockets bulge terribly and make us look like we are smuggling bricks. The Scottevest solution is to attach pockets to the waistband of the pants and even to each other, supposedly allowing the contents’ weight to be borne be the other pockets and the waistband or belt. In the shirt and the jackets, their solution is to allow the pockets to either be attached at the shoulder or to hang free without being sown to the lining of the jacket. Supposedly this keeps your toys and tools from pulling at the jacket’s seams and distorting your silhouette. So that is the idea, but does it work?
To test this feature, I followed Scottevest’s advice to the letter. As a help to new owners, every SeV product comes with all of its pockets containing a card suggesting what it can be used for, like your keys, cellphone, PDA, or laptop (more on that later). I selected one of the items for every pocket, placed them inside and strolled around. I then took the same items and tried to fit them all into normal pants. This I tried with all of the SeV pants I was testing – the Hidden Cargo Pants (khakis stylish enough for church and job interviews), the Ultimate Cargo Pants (with the zip off pants to shorts capability) and the Lounge Pants, each of which have between eleven and eighteen pockets. Then I repeated the process in front of a friend who had stopped by.
For the test on the jackets, the results were the same, with one note. In the Classic Vest and in the Tactical, the entire lower half of the garment’s back area is a pocket – which the included card says can hold a small laptop. Amazingly, it actually can! An Averatec Tablet PC fit in there just fine, but you can see its outline on the back of the jacket. You could count it as a strike against the SeV line, or you could just marvel that you are comfortably wearing a laptop over your ass.
In addition to these features, there are quite a few more, I won’t go into the specifics of here, but every one of them is useful and well thought out. They have also been extended to other items like ties and hats with success. But the one I was most skeptical of was the t-shirt. I have used a few of the Scottevest products for a while and always appreciated their cleverness, but when I heard of the t-shirt, I feared the concept was being pushed a little too far. I thought to myself, “next thing I am going to end up hearing about are SeV socks.”
After wearing it for some time, I stand corrected. The quality of construction and the usefulness of the pocket shouldn’t be underestimated. The shoulders are cut broad which helps to make you look like you have spent a little more time at the gym then you have been. It’s the cut of the shirt that also keeps the zipper on the front from looking obnoxious. A poll of five members of the opposite sex ended with the same conclusion. And at 19.95, it is only a dollar or two more than the screen-printed T’s at most clothing stores.
“Testing” of the Lounge pants, Ultimate Hoodie, and Ultimate Cargo pants left me with the same conclusions. The lounge pants are much more than just a multi-pocket replacement for your sweatpants. Besides the concealed eleven pockets with magnet closures, they have a cut and style that is equally at home in your bed watching TV, as it is in the dojo, or for a run to the store – all without complaints from your significant other. The Ultimate Hoodie is perfect for pulling on as you head out to take the dog for a walk, or for wearing to a LAN party with your pockets securely holding your cables, thumb drives, and best gaming mouse.
The Ultimate Cargo Pants are easily the coolest of the new version 4.0 line. Besides having the quality and comfort of the others, the legs zip off and transform your investment into shorts. Also, the outside leg pockets have to be the most utilitarian of any I have seen so far. While most SeV pockets are very specialized (some even designed to carry open cans of soda without spills), the Ultimate Cargo pockets have enough elastic straps, magnets, webbing, and zippers internally to carry 007’s entire inventory of spy tools.
But there is more variety out their with traditional non-tech friendly clothing. Most SeV products come in only one or two colors, and if your personal style adviser has told you to stay away from greys and blacks, you are might be out of luck. There are also other things that may go against your personal taste. For example, the Cargo pants while primarily tan, have touches of orange stitching that is a little more hip-hop than the rest of my wardrobe.
The last hiccup is to be expected. Because these precisely are not the screened t-shirts and store-brand jeans you find in the mall, the sizes aren’t always what you may be used to. Though I wear a medium t-shirt normally, the SeV t-shirt fit perfect at Large. Also, the pants I have tried tend to size a little differently. But since all the pants come with internal drawstrings, little adjustments can usually get you the perfect fit. If a return is necessary though, all my experiences with Scottevest customer service has been outstanding and I have never heard of anyone having an issue develop into a problem.
Once only for the wealthiest of geeks, it is good to see the designers at SeV set their sites on the next-generation of technophiles with the 4.0 line - those of us with a little less pocket protector and a lot more processing power. Not to mention some understanding of style.
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