Review by Jian DeLeon (@jiandeleon)
When Levi's first announced their Commuter Series last summer, we got very, very excited. Initially comprised of a Levi's Trucker Jacket and 511 jeans, both items were modified for the convenience of the urban cyclist. Yet, it wasn't until we saw the spring collection that our jaws dropped. Sure, denim products made for cycling are not a new thing (Rapha's rather pricey performance jeans come to mind), but this season Levi's introduced the Commuter Trousers.
A beefed-up version of a slim chino, Levi's takes the form-fitting 511 silhouette and translated it into a hardy twill/cotton blend, with just a hint of stretch and a slightly higher rise (because as many cyclists know: crack kills). Like the Commuter Jeans, the fabric is treated with Schoeller Technologies' NanoSphere finish, giving them excellent resistance against water and dirt. After a solid week of riding about 9 miles a day on a fixie — including a pretty gnarly fall — we haven't noticed any stains or tears in the fabric. During a light drizzle, water noticeably beads on the pants.
Of course, riding that much in a week definitely works up a sweat, which is why we're thankful that the fabric is also treated with Clariant's odor-resistant, anti-microbial Sanitized technology. Despite the relative toughness of the fabric, we found there isn't really a breaking in period required, and it's actually quite breathable, so you don't have to worry about your legs getting sweaty. They also retain their shape after numerous wears, although we would still recommend washing them cold and hanging them to dry — like you would with any pair of pants.
The devil is really in the details on trousers, and there are plenty of bells and whistles included. First, there's the 3M lining on the side. The stuff is really super reflective, and looks cool cuffed, like a techy selvedge line. Unlike the Commuter Jeans, the trousers have decidedly roomy back welt pockets, including a smaller flap pouch above the right pocket, perfect for stashing a tire patch kit, and easily reachable when you're seated on the bike. Above the left pocket is a strap perfect for a U-lock.
For riders worried about the fabric wearing down over time, there's reinforcement in key areas like the crotch, and elastic gussets on the side pockets. The reinforcing stitches are surprisingly subtle, and thanks to the higher rise, people that work in less casual environments will have no trouble tucking in their shirt. That isn't to say you couldn't wear them on the weekends with a graphic T-shirt and Vans Authentics either. Currently available in three colors, the Levi's Commuter Trouser retails for $78.
Next up, we also tested out the new Commuter Workshirt. A lightweight answer to the first season's Commuter Trucker Jacket, we loved the slim but not skinny fit of the fabric. It also utilizes Schoeller's 3XDRY technology, where the outside of the fabric is water-repellent, while the inside absorbs perspiration, resulting in a moisture-wicking effect that cools the body and dries quickly. We worked up a sweat during the bike to work, but found ourselves feeling fine and dry within fifteen minutes of arriving at the office.
Be advised: due to its nature as a lightweight denim shirt, we wouldn't recommend wearing a white T-shirt underneath. While the workshirt possesses moisture-wicking qualities, we found that there is some color bleeding that occurred. To prevent this, consider laundering it once before wearing it out, it'll also take away some of the stiffness.
There are practical details designed into the shirt like a water-bottle sized pocket at the back right of the shirt, inspired by cycling jerseys, and a hidden zip pouch in the left arm. If you prefer to rock it with the sleeves rolled, there are straps under the arms that attach to buttons on the upper sleeve, securing your cuffs in place while you ride. We also appreciated the open underarm ventilation, a functional design choice that reminded us of designer Patrik Ervell.
Some other design details include a covered placket, a front flap pocket, and a longer tail to accommodate riding posture. The result is a modern-looking aesthetic on a workwear staple. Made of 100% cotton, we found the shirt fits true to size, so whatever you wear in the Levi's Trucker Jacket would be the same case for the Commuter Workshirt. It retails for $88.
All in all, we were really surprised with how well these two items performed. Levi's has managed to combine style, function, and affordability with its new Commuter Series, and they've definitely stepped up their game this season. We can't wait to get our hands on more pieces, and are definitely excited to see what else is on the horizon. On our wish list? An array of moisture-wicking button down shirts made from the same cotton/twill blend as the trousers, and we wouldn't mind having navy versions of the pants either. Shop the full Commuter Series here.