We all know what looks good (though we likely have differing opinions on it), but your customers need you to be an expert on what they need in outerwear. Why is one better than the other? Why spend $1500 on a mono suit when you could spend $500. When they say “You get what you pay for” – what exactly do you get? Here we’ll walk you through the top five things you should be talking about when selling outerwear.
Waterproofing. Part 1.
There’s a graphic in the TOBE section of the MSD catalog that always made me scratch my head – go have a look – it’s on Page 111 of the English Version or Page 91 of the French version. It’s a graphic of a tent, a small person, a kneeling person, a large person and a TOBE mono suit with some numbers under them. Just what the hell does it mean, and how does it help anyone buy or sell outerwear?
Let’s talk first about the numbers. Each graphic has a number ranging from 3000mm (the tent) to 45,000 mm (the TOBE mono suit). These numbers refer to a Water Column Test.
What’s a Water Column Test?
During the Water Column Test, a 2.5cm diameter tube is placed on the material. Water is poured into the tube and the level to which that water is allowed to rise to, before is starts leaking through the fabric. This number (in mm) is stated to be its waterproofing level.
|Waterproof Rating (mm)||What can it withstand?||Conditions|
|0-5,000 mm||Not a lot.||Light rain, dry snow, no pressure.|
|6,000-10,000 mm||Light pressure rain||Light rain, average snow|
|11,000-15,000 mm||Everything except high-pressure rain||Moderate rain, average snow|
|16,000-20,000 mm||High-pressure rain||Heavy rain, wet snow|
|20,000 mm+||High-pressure rain||Heavy rain, wet snow, high pressure.|
However, let’s look at that number a little closer. TOBE has a waterproof rating of 45,000mm. That’s 45 METERS. A 45m tube set up vertically would effectively be a 15 storey building, so this has become unrealistic. Instead, testers usually employ water pressure equivalent to these numbers to get their reading.
So what’s up with the guy kneeling in the image? I think this means how much pressure he’s putting on his knee/the ground and telling us that water would soak through whatever he’s wearing at 13,000mm of pressure. What’s he wearing – I dunno. This part is a bit of a mystery to me. Moving on…
- The conclusion: The higher the number, the more waterproof the garment.
Waterproofing. Part 2.
Let’s talk about the areas of the garment that aren’t 45 meters of waterproof. It doesn’t matter if your jacket is made of roof shingles if the construction of the garment isn’t just as waterproof. Look at the zippers – if they’re not said to be waterproof, they damn well better be covered with something that is. What about the seams? Are they stitched up with a million little needle holes rendering every seam a sieve? Or are they something better – look for seam sealed/taped (which effectively covers all the tiny holes) and if they are – are they “fully seam sealed” or “critical seam sealed” (i.e. just some of the seams). Even more futuristic – look for fused seams, which don’t even use thread – just awesome glue and some serious planning when constructing a jacket.
- The conclusion: Make sure it’s not just the fabric – it’s the whole garment that is waterproofed.
- But don’t forget…..
Ok – so just buy the outerwear with the highest waterproofing and the best seams and zipper coverage – done and done.
Well, sort of. Until you start moving – then you’re a big bag of sweat. Like, sure your full waterproof rubber boots are great until it’s time to get moving. That’s where breathability comes in. Most outerwear products have two numbers with them – like “10K/10K,” which effectively mean “10,000mm waterproof/ 10,000mm breathable.
This “10K breathable” is this time in grams (unlike mm for waterproof) and represents how much water vapor can move through 1 square meter of fabric (from the inside to the out) in 24 hours. You better believe there’s a fancy machine for measuring that somewhere.
So, inevitably there’s a bit of a compromise. Make it as waterproof as possible from one side, but make it the opposite of waterproof from the other side. It’s the manufacturers challenge to figure that out so that your customers stay comfortable.
Breathability Rating (g)
|0-10,000g||Casual Jackets, Running Errands|
|10,000g-15,000g||Active Users, Skiing|
|15,000g+||Like REALLY Active Users (Hiking, Mountain Snowmobiling)|
Once upon a time, everyone wanted Gore-Tex and only Gore-Tex due to its properties as a waterproof, yet breathable material. Then someone cracked the code and figured out how to make super waterproof, super breathable fabric and call it by different names. Here are the key ones to know:
- Gore-Text – the big guy. Used by The North Face, Arc’Teryx, but no powersports brands if I’m not mistaken.
- eVent | The biggest Gore-Tex alternative, made with Teflon (like Gore-Tex). Used by Motorfist
- Sympatex | used by TOBE. According to Tested.com, “It differs from eVent and Gore-Tex in that it doesn’t have micropores for breathability–water vapor is passed through by way of an absorption and evaporation process.” As an added bonus – Sympatex has its Bluesign certification, meaning it’s 100% recyclable and is biodegradable – unlike Gore-Tex
- 509 | used by 509. Said to combine ultimate waterproofing and breathability, but with a much less-restrictive feel – a full range of motion and “wearability.”
So what’s the best to recommend to your customer? All are good, but in this case, you definitely do get what you pay for.
Finally, feeling confident in a purchase is the ultimate test. Feeling that you “got what you paid for” can be a really good thing. If you can close a sale with “any if anything goes wrong, here’s what happens – there’s a 2-year warranty on everything on the pant – zippers, seams and buckles. They’ll replace it immediately – their warranty department is in Canada…” your customer is going to understand that their $500 pants come with a promise.
A good company makes the warranty process easy for the customer and understands that providing good warranty service is an incredibly effective way to turn a customer into an advocate of the brand and to make sure they buy that brand the next time around. Learn what a company’s warranty policy is and test it out!