I’m a consummate over-packer when it comes to planning for a trip. Nine times out of 10, I’m probably checking a bag if I’m staying anywhere for more than a couple of days. While it’s not the most convenient way to travel, it’s been the same way for the majority of my adult life. Recently, though, I’ve tried to shed a few extra days’ worth of clothes and find ways to re-wear an outfit here and there. While checking a bag isn’t the most inconvenient thing in the world, I’m finding more and more that the $70 can be better spent on cocktails or a good dinner and less on the four pairs of jeans I (mistakenly) thought I should bring along for a weekend trip to, say, Mexico.
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Because of my desire to pare down my wardrobe, I’m looking for brands that not only are neutral enough to pair with anything but also can stand up to a few days between washes. On my hunt, I came across the British brand, Vollebak, and their Wooden T-Shirt. With its sustainable composition, generous cut, and soft feel, I think I found the best shirt for traveling for any season.
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Vollebak: A brand with a unique story (and even more unique products)
Vollebak is a British clothing company founded by twin brothers Nick and Steve Tidball in 2015. The brand has gained significant attention for its innovative and boundary-pushing approach to outdoor and adventure apparel, testing the limits of what’s possible in garment engineering with almost hyperbolic promises like the “100 Year Pants” or “Clothes for the Next Century.” By working with an array of engineers, extremophile athletes, and even NASA scientists, Vollebak’s line of clothing is at the intersection of fashion and science in a way that, personally, I’ve never seen done so successfully.
By utilizing engineered garments and naturally derived fabrics, Vollebak is as much a sustainable company as it is a forward-thinking one. The brand partners with a global supply chain that works to create indestructible, timeless pieces that can withstand the impending climate disasters to something less foreboding, like brunch on the weekends. It’s this ability to balance all aspects of one’s life that has made them a brand worth taking on the road and packing in my carry-on as often as possible.
The best travel-friendly t-shirt
Vollebak offers a few varieties of t-shirts, each made from a surprising fabric. From ceramic to carbon fiber, the range of shirts available shows the ingenuity behind the brand and a sense of real leadership in the adventure-wear space.
I was attracted most to the Wooden T-Shirt for its breathability and comfort, as well as its being made from wood pulp derivative. The black color of the shirt is made from black wood ink, made from wood waste, and printed onto the fabric. Speaking of the fabric, the shirt is extremely comfortable due to the break-down of materials used to create the shirt, including a mixture of 75% lyocell (a cotton alternative made from the cellulose of wood pulp), 19% SeaCell (a biodegradable clothing fiber that comes from cellulose or tree fibers and organic seaweed), and 6% compostable elastane.
From a fit perspective, it’s roomy without being boxy. I usually opt for a size larger than my normal size with t-shirts, as a personal preference, so that I can get a little air flowing on longer-haul flights and warmer days. The fit of this shirt is perfect for that, while also not too bulky to be layered under a jumper or even a blazer and tucked into trousers. The neutrality of the black shirt also adds to the overall versatility of the garment, meaning I’m not having to pack three shirts when one can do just fine.
Long travel days, sweaty and smoky nights
So how does the shirt hold up to regular wear while on holiday? Pretty well, I have to say. Being a matte black shirt, it’s easy to hide a bit of sweat or perhaps a spilled drink from a crowded bar when wearing the Wooden T-shirt out at night. It’s also fairly wrinkle-resistant, given the bit of elastane in the fabric, making it easy to throw on after it’s been bunched up in your carry-on for a few hours.
I found that, given its roomy fit, it hangs loosely off the shoulders and torso as well, meaning it isn’t sticking right to your armpits or back, reducing any areas where sweat may cling too much. Most importantly, I found that continued wear doesn’t mean the garment is holding an odor. That’s always my fear when I’m traveling: that I’m going to end up wearing some stale clothes by the end of the week. But, luckily, it seems this wood pulp-derived lyocell has some natural odor resistance, making it easy to wear a few times on a trip without dowsing yourself in cologne to hide any odors.
When compared to merino wool t-shirts or others with the promise of extended wear between washes, the wood pulp derivative seems to put the Vollebak Wooden T-shirt ahead because, as I found, it airs out well, and rather than simply absorbing sweat, it filters it.
Vollebak Wooden T-shirt’s travel upkeep
While the recommended washing instructions from Vollebak say to wash inside-out at 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 Celsius), that’s not always feasible on a trip when staying in a hotel. I found that a light rinse under hot water under the arms and around the collar brought the shirt back to life after laying it flat overnight. Alternatively, I’ve had success with steaming the shirt to bring a bit of life to it after it’s gone a bit limp from extended wear. Due to the nature of this shirt and Vollebak’s mission to make sustainable – and durable – garments, I’m not going to baby these clothes too much. And neither should you.
Final thoughts on the Vollebak Wooden T-shirt
While you may balk at a shirt that costs $125, I think this is a bargain for the amount of cost-per-wear you’re getting out of the Vollebak Wooden T-Shirt. Not only are you getting a totally sustainable garment, but you’re also getting one that’s built to withstand whatever life throws at you, making it a great option for those who have a varied itinerary while on vacation – or maybe even when back home. While I may not be the core demographic that Vollebak markets to (they tend to appeal to adventure-seekers and extreme sports enthusiasts), I can still appreciate the ruggedness and resilience imbued into the brand and how even a simple t-shirt has been elevated to another level.