In Review: Public Rec Pants, Henley, Shorts and Jacket

Dave Bowden

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Explaining why I was excited to do a Public Rec pants review and put their “leisurewear for everywhere” to the test requires sharing some information about me that you didn’t ask for, and probably don’t care to know:

I’m a sweater.

I live in Toronto, and as proud as we are of our #WeTheNorth slogan and our ability to survive frigid winters while stylishly wearing a scarf, the truth is that summers here are both hot and humid.

It’s not uncommon for summer days here to feel like 100 degrees (or as we would say, 38 degrees celsius) with the humidex.

So when I looked into Public Rec and their so-called “technical apparel,” I was definitely curious.

As someone who’s sweat through my fair share of shirts, I’ve often fantasized about wearing gym wear to the office, or out for drinks with friends.

But as a self-respecting style blogger, I wouldn’t dare, partly because most of the other “athleisure” brands I’ve looked at in the past leaned more towards athletics than leisure.

After looking at Public Rec’s website, their stuff certainly looked like clothes I could actually wear in my day-to-day life, and I was anxious to find out how it held up.

What follows is not only a thorough Public Rec pants review, but my full results after trying out Public Rec’s Workday pants, Short sleeve henleyWorkday shorts and their All Day Everyday Jacket.

Read on to learn everything that came out of my rigorous—and at times, wiggling (more on that below)—test.


Full Disclosure:

I had never heard of Public Rec before one of their PR reps reached out to ask if I’d be willing to try their products.

As always, I made it clear that I would only accept samples of their products if there were NO STRINGS ATTACHED.

I tried each piece, then summarized my honest, unfiltered opinions for this review. 

And with that disclosure out of the way, on to the review!


Public Rec Pants Review

Public Rec Workday Pants

Let’s start with the Workday pants.

The very first thing I noticed when I put them on is that they have a lot of stretch, which for me is a very good thing, because I’m not the skinny wannabe sk8er boi that I used to be.

I tend to hover between a 32 and 34 waist.

In the past I’ve bought pants that were a 34 and fit well at time-of-purchase, but later came to regret my decision when the waist naturally stretched over time and the pants ended up feeling too loose.

So with Public Rec I ordered a 32 and hoped that the advertised stretchiness would help if they were a touch too tight. Fortunately, that’s exactly what happened.

I don’t mind admitting that when I first tried them on, I was a little nervous—I had to do a bit of wiggling to squeeze in all of the junk I’ve amassed in the ol’ trunk.

But what’s great about these pants, and what sets them apart from other casual clothes, is that the stretchiness is not just confined to the waistband.

The pants are made from a blend of polyester and spandex, meaning that the whole pant stretches, not just the waist.

The added stretchiness allowed me to squeeze my whole caboose in easily, and cut a slim silhouette in the process.

Wait, Spandex??

Public Rec Pants Review
Don’t worry—it’s not THAT kind of spandex!

Don’t let the S-word scare you.

If, like me, the word “spandex” evokes thoughts of ‘80s workout videos and ‘90s kids shows (Go Go Power Rangers!), worry not.

The Workday Pants definitely don’t look like that kind of spandex.

To be honest, they don’t look like “athleisure” wear at all. The five pocket design looks more or less exactly like a typical pair of chinos or khakis.

In my case, the only difference was that my pair fit a little more slim than I tend to wear my chinos, but not by much.

And again, thanks to the stretchiness of the pants, they didn’t feel too tight at all.

If anything, the combination of a snugger fit and a bit of stretch allowed me to cut a slimmer profile than I normally do in chinos or khakis, without having to worry that I was going to rip my seat every time I sat down.

“Call Me, Maybe?”

For the most part I was quite happy with the fit and the stretch of the Workday Pants, with one possible exception.

When I slid my phone in my front pocket, it immediately became very obvious it was there.

While this isn’t ideal, to be honest it’s hardly a problem that’s unique to these pants. A lot of the slim fit pants I own are susceptible to this, and you see it all the time now.

The super stretchiness of the Workdays may have exacerbated the problem slightly, but I suspect a lot of that would have been offset if I had ordered a darker color.

I find that darker pants tend to hide the shape/shadow of your phone better, while any slim-fitting pair of khakis will probably make it more obvious.

Public Rec Henley and Shorts Review

The package of sample clothes that Public Rec sent me came at an opportune time.

The day after I got them, the company where I worked for my day job was hosting an activity day.

We spent the morning canoeing on the lake, switched to kayaks in the afternoon, then went for drinks in the evening.

I wore both the Workday Shorts and the Henley for the whole day, and I was impressed by the results.

The Henley

Public Rec Pants Review

Starting with the shirt, the first thing I noticed when I put it on was the fit.

I’m usually a pretty reliable medium, but it can vary from brand to brand.

With shirts I sometimes like to size down so the fit will be a little more snug, rather than wind up swimming in excess fabric.

The Look

With the Public Rec Henley I considered going for a small, but I was afraid that if it was too small, the spandex would stretch too much, and the shirt would look less like a casual henley and more like someone sewed buttons into the collar of my Under Armour.

In the end I stuck with medium, and I’m glad I did. I consulted the sizing guidelines on the website and it fit pretty much exactly as advertised.

The Feel

The second thing I noticed was the feel. While the pants are a blend of spandex and polyester, the henley blends spandex in with tencel (a recycled fiber made from wood pulp) and pima cotton.

The cotton gives the shirt an unexpectedly soft and—dare I say it—almost luxurious feel.

That combination of spandex and cotton proved to be key. The shirt looked great and I don’t think anyone would have known I was wearing “technical” clothing.

But the spandex meant that I was spared from getting the dreaded sweat stains that have plagued so many of my cotton shirts.

The Workday Shorts

Public Rec Pants Review

The Workday Shorts are, as the name suggests, in the same line as the Workday Pants, so they have the same blend of polyester and spandex and many of the same attributes.

But where the pants I tested were khaki, the shorts were a sort of marbled grey color, which was really sharp.

The color both looked great and, as mentioned above, helped reduce the obvious presence of my phone and wallet in my front pockets.

The poly/spandex blend worked even better in shorts than it did in the pants, and I loved the way the shorts hugged my legs.

In the past I’ve found that a lot of men’s shorts are too wide, which means fabric ends up billowing out from your hips—not a great look.

But when I’ve tried slim-fit shorts, I’ve found that they tend to swing too far in the other direction, and make me feel like I’m squeezing my legs into sausage casings.

The Workday Shorts struck a happy medium. They hued closely to my leg, creating a slim and sharp silhouette, but weren’t so tight that they looked painted on.

As a result, they ranked high on my list of the best shorts for men, and have become one of my favorite go-to pairs.


Update:

Public Rec Jacket Review

Assessing the All Day Everyday Jacket

A few months after I tried the pants, shorts and henley, Public Rec got back in touch to see if I might like to try their All Day Everyday (or ADED, as it’s abbreviated) Jacket.

By that time winter had arrived, and I had such a good experience with the first batch of Public Rec clothes they sent, I was happy to try adding another layer.

Not surprisingly, the ADED jacket didn’t disappoint—though it may not be the most aptly named it.

More Sweater Than Jacket?

The first thing I noticed about it is that the “jacket” looks more like a full-zip sweater.

I actually thought that maybe they had sent the wrong piece, so I checked their website to confirm that it was right.

I was still a little skeptical until I tried it on, at which point I understood:

This. Thing. Is. Warm.

Not so warm that I could wear it as a top layer come November, once the cold Canadian winter sets in, but significantly warmer than similar full-zip sweaters that I have from brands like UnderArmour and Nike.

“Why, yes, I have been working out…”

Another thing that distinguishes the jacket is that it definitely has more of an athletic vibe to it than the henley, pants and shorts I tried.

While no one would ever suspect that those are all “technical” clothing, the jacket is a little more obviously athletic. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it just meant I wore it in different scenarios.

For instance, I wouldn’t wear it to work (I work in a business-casual setting), but I did wear it out to run errands in the evening, and out to meet my friends for a drink after work.

The jacket is super casual, but its athletic look that can imbue all of your non-sporting activities with a decidedly “I just came from the gym” vibe.

The fact that the zipper doesn’t bunch up into unseemly paunch is a big plus

For me that’s a big plus, because it’s both more stylish and more comfortable than the way I usually signal that I just worked out:

By getting the flop sweats and soaking through my shirt. (Sigh. If only that were a joke…)

As with the rest of Public Rec’s pieces that I tried, the other big thing about the ADED jacket is that it was comfortable.

I loved the way it hugged my shoulders and cut a slim silhouette. In the past I’ve had trouble getting full-zip sweaters and jackets to fit well.

If they’re too small and they don’t stretch properly, I end up looking and feeling like a kid who refuses to admit he grew out of his clothes.

If they’re too big, they tend to bunch in weird places, and the zipper can sometimes bend weirdly to create a (wildly unflattering) paunch in the front.

All Day, Everyday

(Well, definitely every Saturday…)

Fortunately, the ADED jacket had neither problem. At 5’9″ and about 175 lbs I opted for the small, which fit like a glove and stretched in all the right places, making it super easy to move around without having to feel self-conscious about how the thing might bunch.

Overall, the ADED jacket is a great layering piece, and I’m especially excited to wear it come spring, when the weather warms up and I can throw it on over top of a polo (or, of course, the Public Rec henley) and wear it all weekend.


Update 2:

Better Than Down Bomber & Vest 

As the company grows, Public Rec continues to expand their offerings, and I continue to put them to the test.

I recently spent a few weeks wearing their Better Than Down Bomber and Better Than Down Vest, and (not surprisingly, given my experience with the rest of their merchandise) found both to be pretty great.

Instead of down, both products feature 3M™ Thinsulate™ Featherless Insulation, which provides a ton of warmth without too much additional bulk.

I received both pieces in the middle of winter, which in Toronto is basically parka season, so I had to sit on them for a bit as I waited for the weather to warm up.

Better Than Down Bomber

Public Rec Better Than Down Bomber
The Better Than Down Bomber has more padding than the ADED jacket, so you may want to size up

But I was able to start wearing the bomber in March, and was thrilled to be able to ditch the parka in favor of a jacket that’s much lighter weight, but still quite warm.

One word of warning with the Bomber: I chose a size Small, which is the same size I wear in the All Day Everyday Jacket.

But where the small ADED fit me perfectly, with the Bomber it was a little tight.

The sleeves are the right length, but I failed to account for the Bomber’s 3M Thinsulate padding, which makes it fit more snugly than the ADED through both the torso and arms.

In hindsight I should have opted for the medium, and it’s a shame that I didn’t.

If I had ordered the right size I think the Better than Down Bomber could have become my primary winter-to-spring transition jacket for years to come.

Better Than Down Vest

The vest also comes with the 3M Thinsulate, and I again ordered the small size, but this time it worked out better.

Not having the sleeves means there’s less overall material in the vest than there is in the jacket, so it didn’t feel like quite as tight a squeeze.

In addition, with vests I find it’s more important to cut a more slender silhouette.

Vests look great when they’re form-fitting, but when they’re too wide or bulky through the middle they can make you look like you’re wearing a sandwich board.

As with the Better Than Down Bomber, the vest was lightweight and surprisingly warm. I’m not a big vest wearer generally, so I was pleasantly surprised at how warm I felt while wearing the vest, despite the lack of sleeves.

If the bomber had fit properly, the bomber and vest combo would make for a perfect one-two casual punch to transition out of colder weather and into milder spring temperatures.


The Comparison: 

Public Rec vs. Lululemon

Since posting my original Public Rec review I’ve had a lot of guys reach out and ask me to weigh in on which athleisure brand is better for guys:

Public Rec vs Lululemon.

My answer is that it depends on what you’re looking for.

I own a few pieces of Lululemon clothing, and while they’re among some of the best gym clothes I’ve tried, I wouldn’t necessarily wear any of them to the bar or the office.

Public Rec’s clothes, on the other hand, look great on the street, but offer the stretch and sweat-wicking that you’d expect from athleisure clothes.

So it depends on your tastes. If you’re looking for gym clothes (and/or don’t mind wearing what are clearly gym clothes in non-gym settings), then Lululemon might be the better option.

But if you want casual and/or street clothes that will perform better than the standard cotton offerings, then I’d definitely opt for Public Rec.


The Public Rec Review Verdict

So, Can Public Rec Help You Look Sharp and Stand Out?

Overall, my experience with Public Rec’s pieces has been really positive.

If you’ve been hesitant about “athleisure” wear before but like the sweat-wicking, stretch and breathability that “technical apparel” offers, I highly recommend checking them out.

For me, what sets them apart from other brands like Lululemon is the style.

The Public Rec clothes I tried all look great first, and happen to perform well second.

With other brands I’ve found they put the emphasis on performance first, and then settle for only looking OK.

It’s refreshing to have found a brand that seems to share my “Look Good, Live Well” philosophy, but also recognizes that for sweaty dudes like me, cotton ain’t cutting it.


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More Reviews & Men’s Style Advice from Irreverent Gent:
More Public Rec Reviews From Around the Web:

The Summary

Public Rec Technical Apparel

Dave Bowden

Public Rec Workday Pants: 4.8/5
Public Rec Short Sleeve Henley: 4.5/5
Public Rec Workday Shorts: 5/5
Public Rec All Day Everyday Jacket: 4.5/5

TL;DR

If you’ve been hesitant about “athleisure” before but like the sweat-wicking, stretch and breathability that “technical apparel” offers, I highly recommend checking out Public Rec, whose clothes look great and perform better.

4.8
Dave Bowden

About

Irreverent Gent founder Dave Bowden is a men’s style specialist, an Amazon bestselling author, an unrepentant introvert, a long-suffering (but very patient) Toronto sports fan and the husband of a wonderful (and thankfully even more patient) wife.