Just before we left Spain — about two months ago — I was asked to review a pair of Bluffs trousers. I couldn’t get hold of a tape measure and was unsure about my sizing, so they sent me two pairs. This is how they’ve stood up to a life of travel, work, and the promises they make on their website…
Bluff pants (trousers for us English-speaking people), are made in New York City using fabrics that are certified not to use any dangerous chemicals in their production; and they work hard at using recycled materials too. I’m no investigative journalist to be able to properly check on all that, so I’ll take it at face value and say well done for building an ethical production line.
They’re billed for use in the office, and for travel; trousers that are wrinkle-free, need to be washed less than standard trousers, and look good. Here’s the pitch they used on their highly-successful Kickstarter campaign:
So… What are they like?
When they arrived I was impressed by the light, recyclable packaging (cardboard and a little plastic). I was also impressed by the light weight of the trousers. Compared with a standard pair of jeans, you’re going to save about 1/3 of the weight; and because of the style, they’ll suit most of the occasions you’d wear jeans for too.
One of the first days I wore my Bluffs was when we visited the Pueblos Blancos in Andalucia. They fit well, even without a belt, and felt comfy. The day started with a long drive, a big breakfast, and then a hike in the mountains. This was the real test: would the khaki fabric show up dust and dirt from the trail? Would I sweat like a pig in 100% polyester?
It wasn’t the hottest of days, or the most arduous of tracks but they passed both tests with flying colours.
They also worked fine at the Azul Fit Yoga retreat where I wore them whenever I wasn’t in a session; and were comfortable on flights from mainland Spain to the Canaries to Italy, and long train rides across the continent. They did seem to last much better than jeans or other trousers I’ve had when it came to not smelling between washes; and olive oil, beer, and other stuff I’ve dropped on them during a meal or two has washed out well.
Travel trousers? So far, so good.
A month later we were in Austria where I had several important meetings lined up. My shorts were no good, my zip-off hiking trousers (which I’ve had since 2007!) were no good, and there’s only so much room in my carry-on sized backpack… Bluffs, do you work well in the office?
These weren’t suit-and-tie formal meetings: but I had to be a step above casual dress. The Bluffs worked perfectly and fit in with what other guys were wearing. With one exception…
I’ve had several pairs of wrinkle-free pants, but they never seem to work for me. Cold wash? Check. Clothes are either hand-washed in a sink of warm water or the shower; and if we put them in a machine, it’s set to 30 degrees celcius. But right from the start, Linda started to notice a few small wrinkles that stuck.
That was OK: I didn’t notice them, and I think only a wife’s critical eye would. But then the staff at HappyMit, a Vienna hostel/pension, did a load of washing for us.
We expected our bag of stuff to be washed and hung out in the afternoon sun, but they washed them late at night, and early the next morning were frantically trying to dry our things in a super-hot dryer. We rescued our clothes, but the damage had been done to my two pairs of trousers (and two shirts, one of which was brand new, and so badly shrunk it was returned to the store the following week).
The pockets are cleverly printed with inspiration and instructions: “Bluffs have memory,” one line reads, “start without wrinkles, and they’ll stay that way.” But now I’ve got massive wrinkles, I’ve been unable to get them out. Soaking in warm water, ironing, pulling frantically. They’re fading, but they’re still there.
Wear and tear
I’ve taken 2-3 months to review these trousers because travel gear has to be hard-wearing. It just has to keep on keeping on. The material is excellent, the workmanship is great too. I trimmed off a couple of stray threads when I first got them, and since then they’ve held their shape, and show no visual signs of wear – except in one small place.
Rather than a button to hold the trousers together at the front, they’ve chosen to use a tack — like on a pair of jeans. This is handy and functional and has a neat little imprint of the brand’s mountainous logo. But the metal has a thin coating on it which is nearly all gone now: belt buckles and pack harnesses are going to wear away at this super-quickly. This is something that could be improved in future models: make the ‘button’ all one material.
Should you buy them?
At US$80 a pair (plus postage of $25 outside of North America), these aren’t cheap. Are they worth your money?
I’m going to have to say “yes”.
I prefer them to jeans: they’re as comfortable, much lighter and faster to dry, and can be dressed up more easily. They will help you to not look so touristy in Europe, blend in with polyester trouser-wearing men all over Asia, and keep up with the fashionistas in Buenos Aires. Needless to say, they’re more stylish than zip-off travel trousers, but they do have similar anti-stain, quick dry, and wind resistant qualities.
Despite the wear on the ‘button’ tack, they’re very hard-wearing. Now, if only I could get those wrinkles out…