- The North Face’s Denali fleece has been around for more than 30 years, but the most iconic version, the ’95 Denali Jacket, was just re-released in original form with a few notable updates.
- The new ’95 Retro Denali Jacket is made with 100% recycled fleece and features an updated adjustable hem. Priced at $199 for the men’s and women’s versions, The North Face ’95 Retro Denali Jacket is a solid outerwear option for this fall and winter.
- I compared it to my brother’s original Denali from 1995 to see just how it stacked up to the mid-’90s icon, and the ’95 Retro Denali Jacket turned out to be better than the original. Read on to find out why.
The North Face is one of, if not the first brands to come to mind when many people think of fleece jackets, and it’s all thanks to Denali Jacket. While the immensely popular fleece has become the go-to cold-weather layer for people of all ages from all walks of life, its origins are very much rooted in high performance.
Originally released in 1988 as a zip-in fleece to The North Face’s Mountain and Mountain Light jackets, the Denali Jacket completely revolutionized the technical fleece and promptly received a stamp of approval by legendary free climbers like Todd Skinner and Paul Piana, who both wore it on their first free ascent of the Salathé Wall in Yosemite.
While the Denali never left The North Face’s catalog, it has morphed a great deal over its 31-year existence. But now The North Face is bringing what I, and many true fans of the brand, believe to be the best version of its iconic fleece: the ’95 Denali Jacket.
For this year’s re-release, The North Face made the ’95 Retro Denali Jacket using 100% recycled fleece. My twin brother Asim owns an original Denali Jacket from 1995, so we decided to find out how the new, more sustainable version stacks up to the mid-’90s icon.
First, what makes the ’95 Denali Fleece Jacket special?
If you’ve ever owned a fleece from The North Face, chances are it was some version of the Denali. However, the 1995 version is special because of its boxy silhouette, unmistakable color-blocking, zippered chest, and hand-warmer pockets, and most importantly, the ventilated armpit zips.
Regardless of your activity, it can be easy to overheat in a fleece jacket, so the armpit zips allow you to actively cool down without taking the jacket off. This is a great feature that the newer Denali and Denali 2 jackets don’t have, so for that reason alone, the ’95 Denali Jacket is more appealing.
Retro vs. original: a side-by-side comparison
As someone who collects vintage items, I can easily spot the differences between originals and their remakes. One of my biggest pet peeves is when a brand re-releases an item they claim is true to its original form and it turns out to be an inferior version. The ’95 Retro Denali Jacket does not disappoint, however. Although it’s not an exact replica of the original, all of the key elements are still there (the color-blocking, zippered pocks, and armpit ventilation system), and the very subtle changes that were made are for the better.
My first impression was that the new recycled fleece is much softer than the original. Both jackets are a size small, but the new one fits very slightly larger. My brother isn’t the original owner of the original ’95 Denali, so it’s probably been washed and dried a fair amount of times in its 24 years of existence, which I’m certain is the reason for the slightly shrunken fit.
In a side-by-side comparison, they are impressively close. In fact, when my brother and I looked through the photo set, we had a hard time differentiating the two. The clearest giveaway is that the new ’95 Retro Denali Jacket is a bit more vibrant in color. After all, it’s brand new, and we’re comparing it to a piece that’s more than 20 years old.
The most notable difference in design can be found at the hem of the garment. The original features a stretch-binding hem, while the new ’95 Retro Denali Jacket features an adjustable bungee cinch hem. While it does differ from the original, this change should be welcomed. It’s a solid upgrade that’s useful if you need to adjust the hem for a looser, more relaxed fit or if you need to tighten it up to block out wind and snow.
The bottom line
The ’95 Retro Denali for $199 is one of the best apparel items you can buy this fall or winter. It’s only $20 more than the modern Denali and Denali 2 jackets but has a more versatile design and an iconic style.
Asim’s original ’95 Denali Jacket is in excellent condition considering its age, and there are no signs that this will change anytime soon. However, finding an original jacket from 1995 or earlier on the resale market is pretty difficult, so save yourself the headache and get this new iteration instead.
The North Face offers a lifetime warranty on its products because they stand behind their superior craftsmanship. I can name a handful of brands that have recently done away with their lifetime warranties, but there’s a reason why The North Face hasn’t. Based on how well Asim’s original ’95 Denali has held up over the years, I don’t doubt that I’ll still be able to wear the ’95 Retro Denali Jacket in the year 2045 and beyond.