If you haven't heard of God and Famous (GAF), you definitely will. Started in 2012, they are an independent label based in New York City. with a focus on cycling, both track and road. Their shop stocks small run productions of essentials for on and off the bike.
Fair warning that their limited release small runs don't last long, so sleeping on one is likely going to cost you the opportunity. Why do they sell out so fast? Because they are smart enough not to over produce, GAF promote themselves very well, and their designs are next level rad. So act fast or no regrets.
It's mid season here in North America right now which means they have been rolling out new items and restocking a few of the popular basics like the 5-panel. Visit their site to see what's up.
When the Smoke Shell jacket arrived I was really stoked to pull it out of the package. Let's be honest, it's not overwhelming because it's a lightweight foul weather shell and its functionality should reign supreme. That said functionality shouldn't come at the cost of style. This is where the Smoke Shell stands apart. The more you look over the jacket, the more you're going to find an attentive focus on the details. The quality is crisp, the details are slick. So much radness that I immediately looked forward to the first chance to ride it in appropriate weather... and I hate the rain.
While detail, construction, and style are all important, the fit matters most. Why? Well just like your bike, if it doesn't fit, it will never be right. On their site, GAF include a sizing chart found in the images of the shop page. To be honest finding the right size tends to be a struggle for me because I'm shaped like a human triangle. My shoulders are significantly broader than anything else. So I have to fit for the shoulders and chest and deal with any excess material around the mid section. My 41.5" chest means I am usually an XL jacket or jersey, sometimes large. Based on the GAF sizing chart the sizes would fit big. The XL would have been right for the sleeve length and back, but too long in the chest. Where the Large would have been the inverse. Hmmm....
I contacted GAF through their site with my situation and included my measurements. They promptly responded and recommended the large if I intended to ride in it and XL if I was going to chill in it. I chose the large and it fits perfectly.
The jacket fits really well over a jersey without excess, the sizing chart was spot on. If you're wearing a race fit kit, I'll be loose enough to give you breathing room and keep air moving around a bit in sticky weather.
design & Construction
The Smoke Shell is lightweight, and minimal with all the essentials you'd expect. No nonsense gimmicks here. The jacket does includes a full zip front, a roomy rear pocket and a stow away hood. I'm not sure what specific material is used in the jacket but according to GAF it's a got wind resistant, showerproof membrane. It's colour is a semi translucent grey (hence the name Smoke Shell) so when wearing the jacket, what you are wearing underneath is still semi visible.
All the zippers are YYK including the full length front zip. The top of the front zip includes a tab on the collar that covers the zipper and keeps it tucked nicely away from your face. That way you don't have to see it and it's not going to be chatting against your chin and teeth while your trying to close down a gap.
The bottom hem and sleeve cuff are well supported with small bias material without the use of elastic retention so they shouldn't stretch out over time.
The jacket includes ample mesh venting under the arms and flaps across the back. It's not really multiple vent flaps but more of a long opening that spans the full width of the back and is sewn intermittently to create smaller openings.
The large size jacket weights 162 grams definitely putting in the lightweight category. For comparison the Search and State S1-J (size XL) weights 243 grams and the Arc'Teryx A2B Commuter Hardshell (size L) comes in at 464 grams
I'll be honest and say I like the GAF branding, so while I usually search for the obscurity of branding, with GAF I'm happy to see it. There is one prominent branding and two far more subtle placements. The inside of the collar is lined with mesh material that has a large GODANDFAMOUS printed. The collar is completely obscured when done up but flashes some style when the jacket is open.
The front left chest as a small branding on it and a larger print is on the outside of the back pocket at the bottom of the jacket.
Let's assume the jacket fits and you like the style. How does it perform? Really really well. Shortly after receiving the Smoke Shell the weather here in Toronto turned and it got dark and wet. The rear pocket doubles as a stow pocket so you can fold or jam the jacket into the pocket and zip it into a pouch. Reminiscent of that K-Way jacket you grew up with. When folded up it easily fits into your jersey pocket to be whipped out on command.
From my experience, the jacket is hardly noticeable while riding because it was designed to be ridden with first and foremost. All the right details in the right places and no extra baggage where you don't need it. The membrane keeps all the rain out while still letting your heat out. The under arm and rear vents definitely help to regulate the body temperature but no jacket is perfect when you're already sweating inside. My arms did get a bit damp on the forearms but far less than expected.
The Smoke Shell is a great shell jacket for cycling. If you want a lightweight shell with some style from a small brand that doesn't make you look like a rolling billboard, this is a fine choice. Supporting those that are doing good things with good intentions is always a fine choice.
The semi translucent colour may not be for everyone, but I really like it. It may also make it an interesting choice for chilling off the bike. The size and ability to pack down makes it quite versatile and handy to bring a long just in case. The performance in foul weather was above expectations, we'll see how long it takes for the membrane to wet out (they all do eventually) and if it takes well to a DWR treatment. For now, I'm glad it's in my pocket.