— I don’t know about you, but I feel like my list of essential gadgets keeps growing, and it’s weighing me down.
It’s really only a pain when I travel. But I travel often.
In my backpack: my laptop. In my purse: a video iPod, a smartphone, Bluetooth headset and digital camera. And wherever I can fit them, the cords and units for re-charging everything.
But there is help. One of the first companies to design apparel to accommodate tech gadgets was the SCOTTeVEST/SeV gear management clothing company (http://www.scottevest.com).
Scott Jordan, a former attorney who used to commute weekly to and from Chicago and New Jersey, came up with the idea to create clothing to hold all the different devices needed by travelers, commuters and active people who want their technology close by all the time.
The line was so successful he quit his law firm seven years ago to go full-time with the venture, which is based in Idaho.
“This was born out of my own frustration to carry all these devices,” Jordan said. “My wife suggested I go buy a photographer’s vest or a fisherman’s. But I said they’re butt ugly.”
The eVest was his first product. (The Classic Vest, version 4.0, is $140.) And soon, Jordan had a whole line of clothing — mostly for men — put together by both designers and engineer.
From pants to hoodies
The line evolved way beyond vests. Pants, pullovers, hoodies and shirts all have the innovative design built in, with concealed pockets that are padded and built to carry gadgets – but not to add bulk.
The Tactical 4.0 jacket is $230; the Hidden Cargo Pants are $60; the Ultimate Hoodie Microfleece is $70. The garments, with their own “personal area networks” — ingenious channels built into the lining of the jacket from various pockets — hide wires from earbuds and headsets (if you haven’t gone Bluetooth yet).
To counter the perception that “anything designed to carry electronics has to be geeky-looking,” Jordan says his gear emphasizes style. “It’s got to be good looking,” he said.
The engineers help make sure that looking good doesn’t mean sacrificing the utilitarian value of the clothing. In this business, fashion has to follow function.
That means making sure the expensive camera doesn’t fall out of pockets; or ensuring the fabric is resilient, but also thin enough, so you can hear your phone vibrate; or trying repeatedly for a design that keeps an 80-gigabyte iPod from feeling like a yoke when it pulls down the jacket around your neck.
It also means using fabric that is waterproof and has wicking for the active person who doesn’t want to haul all their essentials around separately.
Some of Jordan’s products have as much as 42 pockets; others have a more manageable 25. With all those storage possibilities, the clothing is another carry-on that you don’t have to carry on. Instead of emptying your pockets at the airport security checkpoint, or throwing all your gadgets into a bag, consider this: just take off your jacket, something you have to do anyway.
Ladies, Jordan didn’t forget you. But his first attempt at incorporating women’s design didn’t go so well.
“Fashion plays a much bigger role” for women, Jordan said. “I had figured — incorrectly — that women have purses.” But now he realizes, sometimes, we don’t want to carry them around.
Jordan tried again, and now he’s got a vest and a jacket as part of his women’s line.
Loaded with the Ammo bag
When I want to run some errands around my neighborhood and get some exercise in, I want my phone and my iPod with me. But I also need my wallet and my keys. I could throw on the vest over my shirt and boom! I’m in business. No extraneous bag.
But, since I live daily in a bag/purse world, I knew I had to find some alternatives to holding my gear.
I found Silent Revolution (www.silent-revolution.com/home.htm ) a little while ago. This Los Angeles-based company produces stylish bags and clothing “reflective of the digital age in which we live,” according to the company’s Web site.
My brother bought me the Ammo bag ($78), a lithe bag that is clutch size but soft, and lets me be hands free since I can sling it across my back. Inside, the padded pocket holds my phone or iPod. But more than just being functional, it looks hot. I wear it everywhere. (Thanks, bro!)
Another bag, the Saturn ($98), is not your ordinary clunky, chunky laptop bag. Its futuristic, tubular sculptural vinyl makes it a standout as a fashion accessory that also happens to be functional.
For a more messenger-bag look, the Tektonic ($246) accommodates laptops in again, a more club, kid style with a little sci-fi twist.
I could do another column just on bags and luggage for gadget gear, so I’ll stop here. But one piece of advice I will give the fellas: those holsters you wear on your hip to carry your mobile phones? Not ever cool. I promise, I’ll give you other alternatives in a future column, especially as the weather gets nicer and jackets and vests less necessary.