You read that right. This is a hoody. It costs £170. It has some zips and a hood. But the Chrome Industries Cobra Hoodie is really, really good. It might even, justify its price tag. Might.
Chrome Industries sprung up from the US fixie-messenger scene in the mid-90s, and has since built a near-cult level following amongst hipster urban types, and wannabe hipster urban types.
Which is probably where I come in, a roadie who does occasionally ride in civvies to places such as local pubs and other people’s local pubs. But I do not have any tattoos (my mum said they would make me look like a thug), and I gave up riding fixed-gear just after I finished building the bike.
I have a lot of love for fixed gears, but brakeless fixed-gear bikes are inexcusably dumb, and I was inexcusably dumb for around 45 minutes one afternoon in 2004.
So that’s where Chrome finds itself, with a reputation for making solid kit but also as being something of a boutique brand. It’s a bit like how Dickies and Cahartt used to actually be worn by car mechanics and carpenters. Trouser hammer loop anyone?
I do not mean this in a disparaging way, because the upshot is the Chrome Cobra Hoodie gets the best of both worlds, fashionably stylish, functionally functional.
I can tell you this because, to my eyes, this hoody looks good on just about everyone, even me. It has a form-following but not skintight fit, is crisp enough to look smart, understated enough to look casual and all-round brilliantly versatile, including being perfectly cut and fitted for cycling.
From top to bottom the Cobra comprises hood, generously high collar with drawstring closure, tucked away zipper pocket on the right sleeve, two pockets on the sides and a two-sided, zippered ‘pass-through’ pocket that runs across the small of the back. There are also little thumb loops to make the sleeves act like half-gloves to keep hands warmer, especially when riding.
Usually, I’d baulk at that rear pocket – those ‘cycling inspired’ casual tops with jersey-style rear pockets are just… no (despite their eminent practicality for carrying two cans of Stella and a kebab wrap).
I’d also turn my nose up at thumb loops because usually you can see them. But like the rear pocket, that when empty and zipped up becomes invisible, the thumb loops are craftily cut so they disappear into the cuffs unless you push your thumbs through them.
The main point is the Cobra hides its cycling-specific features well (you can get at least one pint can of Stella or a rolled-up Sunday paper in that rear pocket), and this I like very much.
You would not know it had been designed with anyone but a fashionista in mind. A rich fashionista, of course, because back to that price, the Cobra costs a huge amount of money – more than twice what I’d ever consider spending on a hoodie. But wait one English minute…
Applicable to all
I have found myself wearing the Cobra Hoodie everywhere. Like all through the British summer for those less than summery days and evenings everywhere, in Iceland where the temperature dipped to low singles, up windy and rainy Pyrenean mountains, on oddly chilly Brazilian nights, and now, as I type this and the Great British Winter is hoving into view, cold, overcast London, with every intention to ride home in it later.
The Cobra has become my go-to piece of kit, stashed in a day-bag or suitcase even if I think I won’t need it, because it suits such a wide variety of conditions.
It is that heady blend of being breathable and really quite lightweight, but also really warm – pair it with a lightweight waterproof outer shell and you’ll survive a nuclear winter.
How? Because the Cobra Hoodie is beautifully made from 100% Merino wool.
Merino – from Merino sheep – is good. It is naturally anti-microbial, meaning odour-making bacteria doesn’t hang around (so less washing), it is much more breathable than other natural yarns, much softer and more water-resistant and less absorbent than regular wool.
In the Cobra the weave of the Merino is dense enough to offer good wind protection, and importantly, to provide natural elasticity that doesn’t get baggy and saggy when wet or through repeated washes.
This last point is perhaps the most important, as many’s the lovely svelte jumper I’ve tried on in a shop that ends up hanging off my frame like an old pair of curtains some months later. Washing seems to kill cheaper jumpers.
Of course, you would hope all this from such an expensive garment. But if you can stomach the price, I’d go as far to say this is the perfect hoodie for any cyclist or any one, whether on the bike, off the bike, hiking in mountains or just sitting in a pub.