Excessive. Exclusive. Over-engineered. The J1A-GT is a beast of a jacket with an iconic silhouette and tons of features – not all of them truly utilitarian.
Initially released in 2001 as part of a 120 unit run of the First Edition Kit, the J1A is the most iconic and quintessential Acronym piece. It was a ground-breaking jacket when first released, and arguably the piece that birthed and spearheaded the techwear genre. 18 years down the track, this jacket is still a stalwart of the techwear scene, and the J1A’s aesthetics and silhouette feel as fresh and futuristic as the day they were released. So, how does a piece that is nearing two decades old perform, and what is it like in everyday use? There have been many subsequent iterations and variants of the jacket that have been released over the years; this review will focus on version 2.2 which was released earlier in 2019.
The outstanding feature of the jacket is, well, the fact that it has so many tricks up its sleeve (figuratively and literally). I will be going through each feature of the jacket in detail, as well as the practicality of each in everyday use.
Fit and style
First, a quick mention of the fit. I am 178 cm tall, 72 kg with a 94 cm chest and 31 inch waist. I opted for a size small. In this size, the jacket was fitted and I was able to layer an insulator beneath which made it snug, but not overly tight. The body fits straight but the armpits and shoulder fit a tad narrower than I would’ve liked, however not enough to be a deal breaker. It is worth mentioning that the arms are not gusseted, so the whole shell will lift if you raise your hands above shoulder height. The cuffs terminated at a good spot for me, just an inch shy of the thumb knuckle.
The style is of course classic techwear, with a multitude of zips, pockets and accessories on the jacket itself. Given the slight boxy fit, it pairs well with both wide style and tapered pants (but never slim or skinny), bonus points for pairing with cargos to continue the aesthetic.
The hood is secured by four snap buttons below the collar of the jacket. This position is balanced, as it is not too high as to add any discernible pull on the collar in use. There is a single pull and adjustor at the rear of the hood which allows you to reshape the hood for a closer fit on your head. The hood itself isn’t particularly large and can best be described as being fitted; as a person with an average sized head, I found the hood well fitted without having to tighten it at all. However, people with a larger head or voluminous hair may find the hood slightly restricting. The snug fit helps the hood stay firm on your head in windy conditions, but given the lack of a peaked hood, snorkel or storm flap, it may not offer the best protection in more severe storms. On the several occasions where I have encountered rain, the hood has definitely kept my face dry; it strikes a nice balance between protection and minimalism.
The hood is removable, which is an interesting choice. On one hand it allows for a much different look; with the hood removed, the collar can be worn down in the fashion of a traditional shirt collar. On the other hand, with the piece being a rain shell, the notion of wearing it without the hood would seem counter-intuitive. Furthermore, the stowed hood will reduce the capacity of one of your pockets. Other than as a one-time curiosity, I do not see a situation where I would use the piece without the hood, given that it sits nicely at the back of the neck without adding any discernible bulk or awkwardness.
The collar on the J1A-GT is a perfect marriage of form and function. The off-centre, right-aligned zip provides a visually interesting look when fully zipped up and the high collar design works well for keeping out the elements. The collar is purposefully snug and ends right at your chin, ensuring that there is minimal chance of ingression of rain or wind. On the left and right sides of the collar, there are two Velcro patches that can be fitted with either the “force lock” magnetic earbud holders, branded logo or blank tape. With the collar fully zipped up, it provides the most protection, however the look may not be to everyone’s taste as the collar is quite high and thin, providing a funnel neck look. I found myself only using this when it is extra rainy or windy and I need that extra protection all the way up the neck.
The collar has a separate zip track from the main zip, which starts around mid sternum. This is a very unique design which has its pros and cons. With a single zip track, sometimes when zipping the piece up to the chest, it will cause the neck component to inevitably tighten, the J1A-GT’s split zip design removes this problem. On the flipside, trying to do the zip requires some finger acrobatics and dexterity. I often accidentally pull down the main zip while trying to keep the main zip pull clear of the collar zip. This is both frustrating and potentially damaging to the zip.
In addition to fully zipped up, there are two other ways to wear the collar. With the hood attached, the collar receives some structural support that keeps the collar popped up. This is by far my favourite position as the popped collar provides a sleuthy, futuristic, semi-anonymous look while not having to do up the collar zip as described above. With the hood removed, you can flip down the collar for a more traditional overshirt look. Note that the collar in this position is not fully symmetrical; the left part is larger than the right due to the asymmetrical zip.
Another con to the high collar is the fact that the face fabric rubs on your neck and can get dirty quite quickly. After a handful of wears you can already see the grime from oils and dead skin accumulating against the black fabric. With the collar flipped down, this will be on full display as well. This is by no means an issue unique to the J1A-GT, however it is exacerbated by the snug collar on the jacket. I imagine the 3D collar of version 2.0 may perform better by keeping the fabric off your skin, or it might have helped if the neck was lined with a different type of material.
Your earbuds rely on magnets to convert electronic signals into sound. Acronym has cleverly used this fact to create the force lock, a strip of Velcro tape that contains two magnets which allow you to snap your earbuds (or any other magnetic metal object) onto them. Does this simple innovation work? Yes. Do I find myself actually using it? Not really. The reason being that the magnets in the earbuds aren’t particularly strong. It won’t take more than a simple bump to send the earbuds flying. With wired earbuds, the cables present another opportunity for the earbuds to fly off the force lock. And with wireless earbuds, I cannot see how anyone would be able to trust a weak magnet to hold their untethered, expensive accessories. This is one area where the piece starts to show its age. A simple solution would be to add some additional security to prevent the buds from falling off, such as loops or slots, or even some simple Velcro gates. In general, I feel the Velcro tapes at the neck are an underexplored modular system for Acronym.
Main and auxiliary zip
The main zip on the jacket is a buttery smooth single slider 5 mm Vislon zip decorated with a long green nylon pull knotted over the pull. This makes zipping up and down very easy and efficient. An interesting feature at the top of the zip track is the EscapeZip which allows for the zip to be detached at the top, allowing quick opening of the jacket by simply pulling it apart. The collar zip utilises the same hardware, without the zip pull or EscapeZip. There is also an underlaid placket which houses two of the three snap fasteners (the middle manubrium female snap is mounted on the main fabric to line up with the flak pocket snap), the top one mounted on webbing for ease of closing while the bottom one is mounted directly on the storm flap as you can easily snap it in place from under the hem. The snap closures are extremely useful as a quick, easy way of closing the jacket without having to do up the zip. I find having the option to quickly snap on the top two closures very convenient and it also provides a structured way to wear the piece half open and half closed.
In addition to the main zip, there is a 5 mm water-resistant reverse coil zip situated just to the left of the main zip. This secondary zip almost runs the full length of the jacket, bar the top 10 cm and has a double slider. The purpose of this secondary zip is two-fold. Firstly, it provides access into any of your external pockets on the left chest or abdomen of your liner (there are no internal pockets on the J1A-GT). Secondly, as the main zip doesn’t have a double slider, it allows you to open up the bottom hem, essentially acting as a double slider on a separate track.
As the secondary zip has a water repellent layer, this makes opening and closing it substantially harder than the main zip. Truth be told, the secondary zip seems almost redundant; you can undo the main zip with even more ease to access your internal pockets, and the main zip could easily have been built with a double slider. The choice of using a water-resistant reverse coil is also baffling, given that the secondary zip sits deeper inside the storm flap and is more protected from the elements than the main zip. The only benefit I could see by using a water resistant reverse coil is that the zip itself is locked when the zip pull is laid flat, which prevents accidental movement of the zips. Other than leaving a small opening at the bottom for a slightly more relaxed hem, I have not found the secondary zip useful.
There are two diagonal chest pockets that are finished off with the same 5 mm water-resistant reverse coil zips. There are double zips so the pockets can be opened from either end and the top zip is protected by a zip garage. The right pocket is generous in size, however the left pocket is partitioned into two triangular pockets, with the larger one on the bottom and a smaller “lip stick garage” on the top. This is due to the flak pocket cutting into the chest area and Acronym have cleverly converted this limitation into a smaller, but arguably better, internal organisation. The chest pockets are great to use. However, as they terminate near the armpit, you will need to stretch a bit to be able to undo the bottom zip, should you choose to use it that way.
The feature that makes the J1A-GT undeniably iconic is the flak pocket secured by the same 5 mm water-resistant reverse coil zips. A5 in size, it not only has great carrying capacity but unlike pockets which are built inwards, this pocket sits on top of the face fabric and expands outwards. This may not seem like such a big detail, however it does make a world of difference comfort-wise, as the contents of the pocket do not press into you but are instead carried off your body. Hidden behind the flak pocket is a mezzanine slash pocket with a side opening that provides another storage option (there is a bonus nylon ring to hook your keyrings onto). One thing to note is that there is a 35 mm drainage slit at the bottom of the mezzanine pocket, so you should not store anything too small or loose in the mezzanine pocket.
Many brands have tried to implement different styles of off-body carry options for jackets, but none do so more effortlessly than Acronym. A triplet of loops at the neck and armpits hold together an elastic sling adorned with a simple strap adjustor with a green nylon pull. The same configuration is mirrored on the inside and the sling is detachable via Velcro to be easily mounted on the inside or outside to your liking.
All you need to do is to take off the jacket, hold the jacket sling pull and let gravity pull the two sides together and you can sling the jacket over you like a shoulder pack. There is nothing high-tech about this system, it is just a simple yet effective design. This is arguably my most used feature of the jacket; as the weather changes or when you transition from outdoors to indoors, all it takes is a simple pull and five seconds later you have an easy carry solution without having to stuff it in another bag or carry in your hands. My preference is to use the jacket sling on the outside as the outer fabric will show, whereas if you use the jacket sling on the inside the backing grid gets exposed. Furthermore if mounted on the inside, the strap adjustor will be trapped between your body and the shell, which may feel uncomfortable at the armpits. The elastic sling has a bit of give, so if you have heavy items in your jacket it may pull and bounce, but it is also this property that allows the sling to drape effortlessly on the back while you’re wearing the jacket.
By itself, a hardshell does not offer much warmth retention. Acronym has created a modular system where a compatible liner can zip into the J1A-GT via a zip situated along the neckline. The zip itself is very smooth and a breeze to use. If you’re not thinking of using a liner with the jacket, the Auxzip stays out of the way, hidden under a flap.
In the so called gravity pocket cuff, there is a hidden elastic loop where you can attach the snap loop of the insulator jacket as well. This way the liner is secured to the hardshell in three places and its sleeves do not slide up and down inside.
This is an elegant solution as the zips and loops provide secure attachment at the neck and cuffs. Still, I would have preferred an option for the liner body to be attached to the shell around the main zip like the following examples, as it would make the liner and shell more tightly connected and will negate having to do up both the liner and hardshell zips.
On the left arm, there is a half-hidden floating pocket under a shoulder tent. The tent itself adds to the asymmetrical silhouette and provides water protection to the pocket. The zip is a 5 mm reverse coil mounted on the less exposed inner side of the pocket for better protection from the elements. Being so high up the arm, the pocket is hard to do/undo, you have to grip the cuff of your jacket to provide enough tension to work the zip on the track. It is not the most convenient of pockets to reach but it provides another option for smaller objects that you may want to keep secure.
The cuff adjustors are stock standard Velcro tabs with a 40 mm overlay to allow for a secure attachment, and there is also roughly 40 mm of extra velcro track for cinching.
One of the defining features of all Acronym jackets are the “gravity pockets” on the forearms. 160 mm long with two zips, you are able to insert your phone or any similarly sized object, to be retrieved by undoing a snap button on the inside on the sleeve and letting gravity do the rest. It works well for a smaller phone, however you may struggle to fit in a flagship large phone such as the iPhone XS or a Galaxy Note. The concept definitely works, however in practice I don’t use this feature as having to zip/unzip + undo/redo the snap every time I wanted to access my phone seemed a bit troublesome. Not to mention the inherent risk when undoing the inside snap button and allowing your phone to slide out into your palm; a slip of the hand could see your beloved gadget have an unwanted encounter with the concrete floor. The best use case I’ve found for these pockets is to store your NFC enabled cards, such as transport and credit cards, to be available at the swipe of your forearm.
Sleeve hitch tabs
With version 2.2, the sleeve hitch tab was reintroduced. It consists of a small velcro patch near the elbow where you can attach the cuff adjustor for a rolled-up short sleeve look. In practice this feature is terrible to use: the rigidity on the water resistant zip track of the gravity pockets makes it impossible to roll or fold the sleeves up properly, let alone for the small square of Velcro to bear the weight and tension. This is a feature that should have been omitted entirely as it not only doesn’t function well, but also makes for an extra point on the jacket to snag and come undone.
“Interops” is a system for stowing your bag partially underneath your jacket, and it allows you to take your jacket on and off without having to remove the bag off your shoulder. Construction-wise, it is just a slit on the back-right quarter of the jacket which allows for the right side to be independently draped over your bag and the use of snap fasteners or collar zip allows for the shoulder strap to “pass through” the main zip, all while not needing to remove the bag. For a detailed look into how interops functions, see https://acrnm.com/videos/V26-A_NA (the J1A-GT shown is version 2.0 which has a different collar configuration). The zip terminates roughly around your armpit and has a placket with an adjustable snap. The caveat is that depending on the size of the bag it may not provide full coverage on a larger bag, and a large bag will also significantly balloon out the garment. It would best be paired with a bag that is either small or is easily mouldable to your body (such as the 3A-1), to avoid awkward silhouettes. While it is a neat idea, my preference is to carry a waterproof bag externally, as opening up your jacket also leaves you susceptible to drafts and rain ingression.
Note: You cannot use interops with a liner attached, as the bag will sit underneath the liner that doesn’t have a zip.
The side pockets are diagonal and utilise the same zip garage and 5 mm water-resistant reverse coil zips as the chest pockets. While nothing revolutionary, the pockets are 3D shaped inwards to provide room for storage and extend backwards as well, providing a deceivingly large amount of storage space. I was able to fit in a Nintendo Switch into the pocket.
There are two hem cinch adjusters, located on the left and right side. As the interops zip on the right quarter splits the hem, the adjustment is slightly asymmetrical as the left adjustor covers two thirds of the left and back of the hem, while the right adjustor takes care of the right side. The left and right units are also slightly different. The left one is a larger Speedlock variant which includes a convenient pull tab along with a longer, army green decorative pull which does not seem to serve any functional purpose. The right adjustor is a more stock standard hem adjustor without any pull tabs.
The decorative pull does indeed add flair and contributes to the asymmetrical theme, however in actual use the position of the pull inconveniently coincides with your left pocket, particularly on pants with side slash pockets. I found myself getting slightly frustrated with having the long pull get in the way when I was trying to retrieve items from my left pocket. Furthermore, the left Shockcord adjustor serves as a potential snag point. This is less of an issue with the right side as the reduced bulk allows for it to tuck away nicely under the hem.
Real life use
Being a Gore-Tex Pro hardshell, the J1A-GT is loud and rigid. Add onto that all the additional hardware and it doesn’t make for the most comfortable everyday jacket. In particular, you can feel the jacket sling pull and chest zips around your armpits. I found myself using this shell during rainy days only; there are more comfortable softshell options for fair weather. I have used the jacket from anywhere between 10 to 25 degrees celsius, and it will suit lower temperatures with layering underneath. When paired with a liner, the comfort increases significantly as you no longer feel the rigidity and hardware against your body. Above 20 degrees or if doing mildly strenuous exercise, the shell starts getting warm, however this is easily solved with the jacket sling carry option. The snap closures allow a degree of quick airflow adjustment as well.
The myriad of pockets means that I do not need to use a bag at times; the flak pocket is large enough to carry spare bags for groceries and even a small water bottle. The gravity pockets are convenient for holding your transport card as well. If you do choose to use all of the nine pockets, be warned that you might get confused as to which pocket you’ve put each specific item in.
The unique styling of the jacket also demands some thought into the rest of your fit. It does not pair well with office wear or leather bags, the straight fit also requires the pant silhouette to be proportionate. The jacket pairs best with black, greyscale, white or RAF green pieces but can also work with neon for the cyberpunk look. I have often opted for a simpler rain jacket to keep my outfit coherent when wearing slimmer chinos, pastel toned or patterned clothes.
It may seem that I have been nitpicking and overly critical on the J1A-GT. For a jacket at this price point, however, it should be reasonable that it is thoroughly scrutinized and held to a high standard. With the multitude of features, some will inevitably be better implemented than others and each person’s preference, use conditions and experience of each of these features will be different. However, it wouldn’t be fair to approach the J1A-GT as a purely utilitarian piece as there are many cheaper, functional and minimalistic alternatives out there. Rather, it is just as much a fashion statement as it is a technical piece; the excess, exclusivity, heritage, modularity and overengineering – that is why the J1A-GT quintessentially embodies the spirit of Acronym.
This jacket is for the tech junkie that wants every single feature available, should they choose to use it. It would be best suited for the urban user who needs to deal with changing weather conditions, with a futuristic urban flair. Given the price point and amount of moving parts on the jacket, you would be less inclined to wear it for a wilderness expedition where lightness, minimalism and articulation would be valued higher, or if you are into the greyman aesthetic. What this piece guarantees is that you will never stop turning heads, nor tire of showing off its arsenal of party tricks to anyone that would care to humour you.
A classic techwear silhouette, asymmetry done right and definitely a conversation starter.
Feature rich, however all these features come at the price of complexity, added points of failure, increased weight and reduced mobility.
Price: €1,344 + shipping, tax and duties. Out of stock at the moment, can be found second hand for around $1,750.
Click here for a comparison of the J1A-GT with the Outlier Shelter From the Storm and Veilance Monitor, which also provides some detail on the construction and materials of all the jackets.