Remember back in the 2000s when the Columbia PFG shirts were all the rage? The button up fishing shirts with a million pockets in pastel colors… They were somewhat innovative for their time, but they were really ill fitting and made out of some cotton blend. Over the past ten or so years, the world of fishing shirts has changed, but mostly from a fabric standpoint. The poly/nylon blends have done wonders for breathability, but the pockets are still everywhere, and the fit is still…like a parachute. If you are like me, then it’s tough to find the right size.
Enter Poncho Outdoors. They are new outfit based out of New York, but their founder Clay Spencer is a serious fisherman. He’s from Texas, and has fished just about everywhere between the Lone Star State and Alaska. He had very similar opinions of fishing shirts, so took it upon himself to create the right one.
The Poncho shirts focus on a couple things: fit, fabric, and comfort, all with simplicity in mind. From a fit perspective, it is a true to size cut, in both regular and slim fits. In Poncho, I wear a Large Slim to have a good fit on the chest (~22.5″ pit to pit) and sleeves that aren’t too short. The fabric is really interesting: it’s extremely soft, with just a bit of stretch. It features an integrated 50 SPF that isn’t sprayed on. The sun protection won’t deteriorate after a few washes.
What I like most about the shirt is the simplicity. It’s a fishing shirt that doesn’t look like a fishing shirt. It has all the functionality that you’d expect from any fishing shirt: deep front pockets with magnet closures, subtle back vents, and a hidden zip chest pocket for extra goodies. The collar has a bit of structure to it so it looks good on and off the water.
So keep that in mind…here’s a great shirt you can wear to that summertime birthday party outside, or to a Braves game, or to any event where it feels like you are standing on the surface of the sun…and it doesn’t give off that “Salt Life” vibe. You’ll look like an adult, and for $69, it won’t cost you much to be the most comfortable guy there.
As for Poncho, Clay was nice enough to give us some deep insight into his company:
What is the history of Poncho? I love to fish and I was really unhappy with the big, baggy, fishing shirts covered with all of those unnecessary, cluttered pockets. I wanted something that fit better and was designed better, so I just went out to make the fishing shirt that I always wanted.
But there is probably a little more to it. I’ve always dreamed of making a living doing what I love, and Poncho is actually my second attempt. My first was in Alaska. I was obsessed with fishing, so I packed up without a lot of thought and moved to the Talkeetna Mountains to work as a fly fishing guide. I ended up at this really remote lodge that was float plane access only, fishing every day on these insanely beautiful rivers and streams with bears, moose…all sorts of cool and dangerous stuff. I was ridiculously happy but also hopelessly broke. After a year, I made the decision to leave and go get a “real” job. I really didn’t have another choice. So then, fast forward to today and I still have this dream of combining my love for wildlife and the outdoors with my day job. The big difference is that I now have the maturity and business experience – and I think the right idea with Poncho – to make this dream work. I’ve finally decided to pull the trigger again and go for it again.
What is your background? How did you come to start the brand? After leaving Alaska, I went to work in the “real” world. I worked as an associate at a small firm which invested in private businesses. I was able to work with a lot of different businesses at a young age, helping to solve problems and learning from a lot of mistakes and missteps. From there I went to business school in California and then moved right around the corner to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to work for an investment firm there. I’ve always been down for an adventure. But I always wanted to be more than an investor, I wanted to build something, and I wanted build something that mattered, doing what I love. Poncho is exactly that. Build amazing stuff. Work in this outdoor industry that I love, and hopefully do something that matters. We have a stated mission for Poncho to use the business to expand wild places. That’s a lofty ideal that we’re a long way from, but we’re getting to work on it and you’ll see lots more on that in the near future.
What makes Poncho different? It starts with a different mission. Ours is to build gear with everything you need and nothing you don’t. No gadgets and no gimmicks. Poncho’s first product is a fishing shirt. I knew I wanted to start with a fishing shirt, because I was so dissatisfied with what was out there. Existing fishing shirts are so ridiculously baggy and covered with so many loops, straps and stuff you just don’t need. They remind me of those people who would show up to fish with all the gear and gadgets and nets and vests – you don’t need all of that stuff. It actually takes away from having a good time on the water.
But as for the shirt, the shirt is really different for a lot of reasons. It’s the only fishing shirt in the world in regular and slim fits, so it fits better. It’s also made a by a team of people who love to fish. Believe it or not, thats different than most fishing shirts out there. We went through every single little detail to make sure everything was perfect for being on the water. We designed these amazing pockets with hidden, salt-proof magnets in the flaps that let you get into them with one hand, but also keep your stuff secure. Subtle, but really functional. There is a hidden sunglasses holder behind the pocket flap and a sunglasses cleaning cloth built into the shirt tail. Everything is made to be functional, but also simple and clean.
Another huge difference is that we developed our own, proprietary fabric with one of the world’s great fabric mills. Our shirt is as soft as cotton but dries 10 times faster. The fabric is UPF 50 and the sun protection won’t wash out as in other shirts. The Poncho UV protections is inherent to the fabric so it doesn’t require chemical coatings. On top of all of that, and this was really important to me, we’re manufacturing this fabric using a Bluesign approved process – which means we use dramatically less water and avoid toxic chemicals.
What type of guy is a Poncho customer? The Poncho shirt is really soft and dries fast. So he probably likes soft things and sweats a lot. Maybe sweats a whole lot like me.
What is your favorite type of fishing? I love do-it-yourself fishing. That to me is the ultimate and the most rewarding – Going to a new river, bay, lake, whatever it is and having to figure things out. Meeting people and talking about how they do it, researching the maps, learning new things, all of that stuff. Most people don’t realize that almost all of the water out there is ours, meaning its public and it’s ours/yours to fish and explore. Almost every river, all of the oceans, every bay and every beach in the U.S. It’s all ours. And that’s amazing. Reaching it may not be easy, but the harder it is to reach, the more likely it is to be beautiful and untouched and hold big fish. I think if more people realized that, we would all place a lot more emphasis on protecting what we have.
Who would you like to have a few beers with? If I am dreaming, can I make this up? Probably Teddy Roosevelt. He was the ultimate outdoorsman and conservationist. He hunted, fished and probably did more to protect and expand our wild places than any other. I would love to hear his stories from the badlands and the western frontier.
What’s on your Spotify playlist? I think my playlists are actually public if you want to check them out. I’m from Texas, so you’ll find lots of country. But not the normal Nashville stuff.…..Ryan Bingham, The Turnpike Troubadours, Uncle Lucius, Phil Hamilton, The Damn Quails. There is lots more.