- Buyer's Guide
If You Need to Pack One Plaid Shirt, Pack Heylow
Heylow is a fresh take on a clothing company from the mind of Patrick Healy. You might not recognize his name at first. But if you’ve spent any time in the bag world, his work at Modern Industry and most recently as the Director of Product Design and Development at Tortuga Backpacks probably rings a bell. Years ago, Patrick envisioned that one day performance fabrics found in sportswear would make it to casual, everyday clothing. While not the first to make this transition, Heylow’s Out of Office Button Down (OOBD) is quite the formidable contestant in this new arena. Coincidentally, an everyday shirt with athletic performance features makes an ideal travel shirt.
The OOBD features 86% post-consumer recycled polyester and 14% Lycra. What this means to you in practical terms is it has some degree of stretch, for comfort. It also means that it’s primarily polyester which you might recognize from some of its key features: notably the weight (or lack thereof) and handfeel. I think it most closely resembles silk but man-made instead of harvested. Polyester is very commonly used in sportswear. If you have any running or gym shirts in your wardrobe that are slightly shiny and drape over your body loosely, they’re probably polyester.
What’s important about polyester is it’s naturally hydrophobic, which means it does not attract or absorb water. This is wonderful because it means if you get caught in a downpour or, in my case, don’t pay attention while washing dishes, any liquid you get on your shirt dries quickly.
The OOBD also has great anti-wrinkle properties. It doesn’t mean you won’t see some crinkles from time to time (especially right after a tumble in the washer). But a light application of heat flattens it.
It’s also very breathable and is rated at UPF 50+ for sun protection.
Heylow reached out to a well-known manufacturing partner with experience in producing men’s suits (among other sartorial items) and together they collaborated on producing the OOBD. The experience shows. Upon arrival, I could not find any evidence of a bad stitch or loose thread. I did have a small issue with a buttonhole not fully punched but it was an easy, 15-second fix. With each shirt being fully reversible, you now end up with double the hardware. For example, there’s a full secondary set of buttons along the placket and dual cuff buttons, one on each side.
Speaking of the front area, it along with the collar are lined with a thin mesh material to add structure and a bit of heft. The challenge with button-downs or dress shirts made with non-traditional materials is they often don’t have the natural weight to keep structure or form (collars) or pull down (placket, bottom hem) properly.
There are a lot of wonderful details I appreciate on the OOBD. First, as I’ve mentioned, it’s reversible. On the Fall Harvest Plaid colorway I was sent, the opposite side is a subtle emerald green thinly striped pattern. I really like that the design, in addition to the colors, is completely different on each side. I feel like the green side looks more dressed up. So I can imagine doing some city exploring on the plaid side and then reversing the shirt before I head to dinner.
The buttons are beautiful on the Heylow Out of Office Button Down. Harkening back to my mention about Heylow’s manufacturing partner, they remind me of something you’d find on a nice dress shirt. They are not mother of pearl but have a wonderful iridescent quality to them. On my shirt, they are a deep blue, reminding me of the ocean when you are out at sea and the only light is from the moon.
Speaking of buttons, I love the use of them on the collar. There’s even one in the back. Having worn a lot of collared shirts, I cannot stand when they are not crisp and folded properly. While some might like the cleaner look of collars without buttons, I think it’s a small price to pay to look put together.
The way Heylow handles the buttons is great but takes some getting used to. Like I mentioned, every button has a twin. So, at first, you cannot rely on your muscle memory of buttoning up your shirt or cuffs. It doesn’t take long to adjust but there’ll be some fumbling initially as your fingers feel the buttons on the opposite side.
One thing that I came to appreciate after a few wears is how clever the pocket placement is. There’s a single chest pocket and as you guessed, there’s one on the reverse as well. The stitching here is a light-colored thread and it is of a very fine pitch. That means you can see the outline of the reverse pocket but it’s barely perceptible. It almost looks like a design element, to be honest.
Lastly, Heylow includes three extra buttons sewn into a seam-tag; always appreciated given how easy buttons are to lose. In this case, you must remove the tag if you plan on reversing the shirt. This means cutting it off with a pair of scissors but I hope future versions have a more fun way of removing it like a perforated tear-away or a thread that will release when you tug on it.
When I congratulated Patrick on the fit, he told me his approach was simple. He just measured a bunch of shirts and took the best parts of each to come up with his sizing. Well, for my 5’8″ frame, the medium was spot on. The shirt isn’t meant to be fitted but it is much more flattering than many of the shirts out there. It’s described as being Tailored Fit and I tend to agree. One thing to note: because of the light weight of the fabric and the Lycra stretch, it feels very comfortable and you may get a sense that it’s baggy. However, if you take a look in the mirror, you’ll find that it is more fitted than you think.
If I had one complaint, it would be that the arms were a little long on my shirt. But I also am the first to admit, I probably have shorter arms than a typical person wearing a medium. Luckily, with the cuffs buttoned, your wrist is a natural barrier keeping the sleeves from getting into any trouble.
Who It Suits
The Heylow Out of Office Button Down is perfect for the one-bag traveler who is trying to pack light and get the most versatility out of their clothing; after all, that’s the motto of one-bag travel, right? It’s ideal for someone who wants a single shirt that can go from city to trail and back down to a backyard BBQ. It’s also ideal for those who travel or live in warm environments or for those who want to use it as a light layer.
Who It Doesn’t
This shirt is not great for those who need more structure or weight on their button-downs. This would not pair well with a suit in my opinion and would not be my first choice as a solo shirt for late Fall or Winter outings. It also has no natural wicking abilities so it can feel clammy depending on the weather and your activity level. Polyester is also oleophilic which means your skin’s oils readily absorb into the fibers. And in some situations it can get stinky, so don’t buy this shirt to work out in.
Modern everyday clothing is going through a revolution right now. Small brands are taking the technical materials designed for performance sports and pairing them with practical designs and excellent tailoring. Heylow wants to be your weekend uniform and I think their Out of Office Button Down really meets the brief in this regard. It’s like buying two shirts in one and it’s reserved a spot on my packing list.