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As much as Oregonians speak of seasons in binary terms—it’s either summer or monsoon season- little is said of the weeks when mother nature is stuck between stations. If you’ve ever found yourself using your windshield wipers while wincing as the sun sets over the West Hills, you know exactly what I mean. While late spring and early fall are relatively mild, choosing the correct outerwear can be a real drag. It’s often too wet for a hoodie or fleece, but a proper rain jacket feels like overkill.
This is precisely when the Pendleton Board Shirt comes in handy.
Long beloved by ranchers for providing warmth without weight on those chilly nights in the high desert of its namesake, Pendleton exploded in popularity in the 60’s when SoCal surfers realized 100% virgin Umatilla wool is an ideal outer layer for retaining heat while schlepping one’s surfboard to and from the Woodie Wagon. Originally immortalized in early photo shoots of the surf pop band the Pendletones, later known as the Beach Boys, the look has since been co opted by urbane wannabe woodsmen known pejoratively in hipster enclaves like Portland and Williamsburg as “lumbersexuals.”
Assuming generations of legitimate surfers and outdoorsmen had the right idea regardless, I purchased the classic blue-and-grey checked version of the iconic shirt from a coastal Pendleton outlet with the intention of trying it out while hauling my own surfboard between my Subaru and Short Sands, a surf break in Oswald West State Park that’s now wildly popular amongst members of the aforementioned group who’ve traded their hatchet for a foam-top surfboard.
Priced at $135, the Board Shirt is not a purchase to be taken lightly. Anyone who’s been cycling through a closet full of cheap flannel will undoubtedly recoil at the price tag at first, but it shouldn’t take more than one occasion where you’re magically warm in the midst of a cold drizzle to realize the purchase was well worth it. For me, that occasion was on the mile-long hike back to the lot, when a brief squall penetrated the dense woods surrounding the Short Sands trail. Already cold and soaked in salt water from my wetsuit, the shirt did wonders in keeping the rain out and my body heat in.
An hour of rain probably would have led to diminishing returns, but the advantage of 100% wool in situations like these is not to be understated. Simply put, this is the highest quality shirt I own, and the its timeless, unmistakable look is unlikely to go out of style any time soon. The wool can be a bit scratchy at first, but most other pricey “investment” items one would consider alongside a Pendleton—Danner boots, selvedge denim, etc.—have a considerable wear-in period as well. If you’ve been in Oregon long enough to realize the necessity of a go-to outer layer for brisk days when the need for a coat is questionable, the Pendleton Board Shirt is a classic and functional purchase that will reliably and comfortably fill that need.