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Windcheaters: function meets comfort

Early adopters like John Mayer and Shia LaBeouf already recognised in 2017 that functional sportswear also has haute couture potential – and the latest trend has proven them right. They already confidently wore windcheaters with their outfits during public appearances a couple of years ago. However, what does a windcheater actually look like?

As the name suggests, windcheaters, or windbreakers, are designed to offer some protection in windy weather. They are made from lightweight fabrics, and impress with trendy cuts and functional properties. Lightweight windcheaters were originally worn by professional runners. They were developed to protect the body against the chilly winds and light showers during the windy times of the year.

Windcheater characteristics: what makes a windcheater a windcheater

Windcheaters have two primary functions: they must keep you warm in cold, windy weather, and dry if it’s raining slightly, at least for a while. To ensure that this functional piece of clothing does both, windcheaters also have various other characteristics.

If a windcheater has all of these properties, you can easily wear the jacket casually over a jumper or cardigan , for example. Due to its compact size, you can simply fold it together and stow it away when you don’t need to wear it. The fabric is usually so thin that you can easily carry a windcheater with you in a bag.

  • Slip-on design, no top-to-bottom zip
  • Integrated storage bag
  • Breathable
  • Depending on the design, layer of lightweight insulation
  • Thin, light fabric
  • Water-repellent
  • With or without hood
  • Ends at the hips, does not impede leg movement
  • Elongated back offers protection against spray
  • Compact size when packed

Windcheaters, softshell and waterproof jackets: the differences at a glance


Windcheaters are a special type of softshell jacket. They are primarily designed to be wind- and somewhat weatherproof. The fabric is lighter and thinner than those used for softshell jackets. If they are equipped with elastane inserts underneath the armpits and other stretch elements, they can be extremely comfortable.

Softshell jackets

Softshell jackets are made from denser fabrics. The manufacturers tend to use preferably soft, stretchable nylon or polyester fabrics. The good thing about softshell jackets is that they keep your body temperature comfortable. They are more breathable than windcheaters, but are water-repellent on the outside. In other words: they are extremely water-resistant, and will keep you dry for many hours even in constant drizzle. However, they are not one hundred percent waterproof. Only a waterproof jacket can provide complete protection when it is raining.

Waterproof jackets

Waterproof jackets are above all designed to repel water over long periods. They are usually hardshell, and equipped with a hood and a top-to-bottom zip. The waterproof category consists of completely waterproof and water-repellent fabrics. Depending on the fabric, waterproof jackets are more or less breathable.

Hardshell jackets

Hardshell jackets are made from synthetic fibres and are usually worn as the outer layer of a weather-proof outfit when pursuing outdoor activities. As hardshell as such does not have any insulating properties, these jackets are either lined or equipped with an inner jacket to compensate for the lack of insulation and keep you warm. Hardshell jackets are also wind-proof and lightweight, but they are not breathable without an additional membrane. This means that you can soon feel too hot in one of these jackets when you pursue a vigorous activity.

What are the benefits of a windcheater?

A windcheater is perfect if you need to be able to just quickly put on something that will protect you against wind or drizzle. It is so lightweight that you’ll hardly know you’re wearing it. It also fulfils its purpose so well that it is basically an essential must-have. These lightweight jackets are perfect all-rounders for active people.

Windcheater fabrics

Manufacturers use different fabrics for a functional jacket like a windcheater; they are usually made from synthetic fibres such as nylon or mixed fabrics with a respective water-repellent coating, also called a DWR coating. Some jackets also have a merino wool content to make them more comfortable to wear and more breathable. The manufacturers use various special technologies to make the fabric more dirt-repellent and easier to care for.

Advantages and application: When to wear windcheaters?

In autumn and spring a windcheater jacket is also a fashion statement in urban space for those who like to present themselves sporty and active. They are ideal for outdoor activities on windy autumn and spring days at moderate temperatures. They are always there when you need fast and uncomplicated weather protection. Hardshell jackets cannot offer this comfort because they are too bulky and too heavy.

But when it gets cold and stormy, they're not a good choice. Most windcheaters have only the most necessary zippers and cords, and the hood is not stiffened. In really cold and bad weather a windbreaker is overstrained.

Even if the windproof jacket is preferably used in autumn and winter, you can still wear it all year round. They are just as popular for mountain races in summer directly above the running outfit as they are in winter as one of several layers in the onion principle.

What should a windcheater do, and where are its limits?

Windcheaters offer temporary protection in windy and generally inclement weather. Very few designs are equipped with a multitude of functional properties. These light jackets are therefore not suitable for outdoor excursions in incessant rain, or cold and permanently windy weather. What you should also keep in mind is that windcheaters are not particularly robust and can easily get damaged when they rub against rocks or in the course of rough-and-tumble sports.

Care and laundry tips: how to make sure that your windcheater lasts as long as possible

How you should care for your windcheater depends largely on the fabric it is made of. You should primarily follow the manufacturer’s respective instructions. However, you should also pay attention to a few additional tips:

  • Liquid detergent is better than washing powder, as the particles in the latter can clog the pores of breathable fabrics.
  • Never use softener, as this also has a negative impact on the fabric’s breathability.
  • Friction damages fabrics. You should therefore opt for the delicates cycle or wash your jacket by hand.
  • Impregnate your jacket after washing it!

If you keep to these rules, you should be able to enjoy your windcheater for a long time to come.


Conclusion: Athletic, trendy and suitable for the urban jungle

As windcheaters for men as well as women come in many different designs, they are an effective way to upgrade a plain outfit. If you want to wear your windcheater after work in urban areas, go for the hiking-look.

A classic windcheater looks best with sturdy lace-up boots and straight-cut trousers or cargo pants. In terms of patterns and materials, it’s OK to be brave: jeans, wool, nylon or flannel – anything goes with a windcheater. Checks, stripes or organic patterns are also suitable partners. You prefer a retro look? Then maybe, you can find a matching black, blue, white or even brightly patterned piece from the 1990s in a second-hand shop.

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