Photos: Ben Kuhns
With today’s fabric capabilities, making something water- and windproof isn’t exactly an achievement. Instead, the true testament to design capability is incorporating the aforementioned into something that’s lightweight, comfortable, and breathable. Not surprisingly, though, this is where most manufacturing titans begin to wane. However, what is surprising is that the tiny, American-made first-timer, Search And State, achieved all of the above with its first time out of the gate. And gladly, all of these characteristics are housed in what I can only call, simply the best fitting jacket that I’ve ever ridden in.
It’s black. In fact, it’s very black, and I’m grown enough to admit that I love it. Out of the bag, it’s extremely lightweight, almost like a packable rain cape. My first impression of the design, which is one that I still carry today, is that it’s strikingly simple, yet undeniably sophisticated. In other words, I’m constantly reminded of Helmut Lang’s late nineties designs—sleek, understated, exceptionally fitted, and of course, black. And in an interesting comparative twist, both sets of designers are renowned for their matching of downbeat sophistication with fabrics that can only be summarized as high tech. In the case of Lang, he fearlessly approached the juxtaposition of tailored, historic designs with textiles that were purpose-built to not only withstand, but to also complement, the accepted conditions of their usage. In a way, Search and State has struck the same chord via the mix of a precise fit and the selection of Schoeller’s C-Change fabric.
As you’ve probably concluded by now, the fit of the S1-J is incredible. And though fit is highly subjective, I’ll provide some insight all the same. I’m 5’10”, 140lbs, and for the sake of clarity, here are my measurement: 14.5-inch neck, 38-inch chest, 30-inch actual waist, 12-inch biceps, 18.5-inch torso from hip to collarbone. I wore a size small in the S1-J, and it fit perfectly in the arms and across the chest. The jacket is only slightly elongated at the rear hem, and conversely, it rises slightly along the stomach. Overall, the jacket tapers from shoulders to waist, which when blended with the hem structure, creates a smooth transition from collar to hem when you’re stretched over the hoods. I found this to be especially true along the back, and even better, this design also eliminates bunching and the dreaded wind flap. And while many designers are only able to near this experience through the incorporation of, seemingly, dozens of panels, Search and State achieved the aforementioned with only a few. Accordingly, this eliminates the need for an excess of seams, which only serves to add to the comfort.
Without any hyperbole, Schoeller’s C-Change fabric is among the best in the world. For this reason, you’ll find it used by top teams of every discipline from skiing to Formula One racing. But what makes it so special? Well, as mentioned, it’s water- and windproof. However, what truly sets it apart is that it behaves almost like a sentient being. Schoeller draws a parallel between its C-Change and that of a fir cone. Whereas the cone will naturally expand and contract in response to its surrounding temperature, C-Change’s membrane will behave in much the same way. In theory, when temperature rises, the membrane expands to let core heat escape. And in the cold, the body of the membrane condenses to retain warmth. In practice, which is admittedly often divorced from theory, this technology is highly evident. I wore this jacket with nothing more than a summer-weight base layer in conditions ranging from 24 to 50 degrees, and not once was I either too cold or too hot. More importantly, though, I was never left wet from either external or internal moisture. In this sense, I find it easy to assert that C-Change is the ideal fabric for cycling in both cold and humid wet weather.
However, this level of quality comes at price—in the literal sense. This material is not cheap, and as such, neither is the S1-J. And given Search and State is only carried by a handful of brick-and-mortars, and Competitive Cyclist, it’s safe to assume that their reputation doesn’t always preceed them. And at $245 a pop, it’s easy to see why some might get a little gun shy when it’s time to pull the trigger. However, the selection of C-Change for the S1-J is what truly warrants the price tag. Admittedly, though, the price could probably drop a hair with the swapping of the RiRi Aqua zipper (about $30 at the consumer level) for, say, a YKK or Lampo. But, when it comes to reliability and durability, the zipper is worth every penny.
If you value the intersection of form and function, then you need this jacket in your life.