The Stan by Saint Jacques melds fashion, flexibilty and warmth
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 31 October, 2017 - Each cold season wetsuit makers are overly excited about color options for their line. We see this in the bright oranges, greens and yellows that turn up on the shop suits that many surfers will ultimately shy away from when it comes time to purchase a new suit. But for some reason wetsuit makers keep banging out bright coloured options. Why? Well, in the wetsuit-making process it’s relatively easy to make a suit design stand out from the pack by simply adding a brightly colored panel here and there.
But none of the wetsuit makers has ever really figured out that to make a wetsuit look good, stylish and stand out in the lineup, that sometimes those screen printed designs work just as well. Sometimes better. It’s like the industry has turned a blind eye to the fact many surfers would prefer a patterned option to a day-glow one.
And cue Saint Jacques, a brand out of Mediterranean France that is creating stylish, innovative performance wetsuits by using a deep sublimation technology to pattern their suits to look more like clothing.
For this review we tested their 4/3 mm Stan model, a deep blue neoprene full suit with red and white stripe pattern adoring the arms and torso. It’s a unique design done as a performance model winter suit with full high-end stretch neoprene and minimal seam restriction.
Out of the box the torso and arms look like a navy blue men’s nautical sweater with a white and red horizontal stripe pattern all anchored in a side-front zip. We could talk a lot about the styling here, which overall is cool and unique in our opinion, but the styling doesn’t mean anything if the suit doesn’t keep you warm or allow enough flexibility to paddle. So let’s examine.
The suit is light in weight (much lighter than comparable 4/3 models) and I believe this is due to the type of neoprene Saint Jacques chose to use. Neoprene (a trademarked named for chloroprene) at its most basic level is synthetic rubber with little gas bubbles blown into it. By blowing just a little, or conversely heaps of bubbles into the neoprene, one can control the insulative properties and flexibility. The more gas injected into the suit means a lighter, stretchier but slightly less insulative and weaker neoprene.
Saint Jacques chose to go with a super stretch and lightweight blend that feels nice to the touch and is overall soft and pliable. In the water if performed as well as other high-performance suits in terms of insulation and stretch. I’d compare it to one of the stretchy performance suits by one of the big wetsuit brands.
The seams on the Stan are glued and blind stitched. Blind stitching means that the needle never passes all the way through the neoprene. This is super important since little tiny holes would permit water to seep in. Because a stretchy nylon thread is used, the finished seam and surrounding neoprene retains flexibility and movement. The glued and blind stitched method is one of the most effective ways to piece wetsuit panels together and maintain a stretchy performance.
While most 4/3 suits have taping on the inside or outside, the Stan avoids both. The advantage here is that you get more flex and less restriction. Because neoprene has more stretch than a stitched seam, the more seams and taping a suit has, the less flexible it will be. Although we should note that adding tape to the Stan would create a stronger barrier against water entry along the seams.
The Stan's closure system and embroidered logo
The design on the upper arm has an extra neoprene panel which makes the arm more three dimensional than most wetsuit cuts and gives the suit a better fit and flexibility for paddling.
The company uses inside strategic patches - those circular cuts of fabric welded over high stress junctions. Wetsuit makers use strategic patches where several seams meet: front zip entry system anchor points; paddling panels; crotch intersections, etc. On this suit, since it uses high performance stretch and no seam taping, you’ll find these strategic patches inside along the ankles, knees, crotch, torso and pretty much all over. The patches are small and unobtrusive and do not chafe the skin.
The Stan uses a standard front, side anchored zip with pull cord and lock device along the shoulder. We really liked the pull cord lock tab as it’s anchored to the neoprene. Most wetsuit makers that use this entry design do not anchor the cord closure system. On those other suits it’s very easy to have a lengthy extra piece of cord flapping around and getting in the way during surfs.
While the wrist cuffs on this suit are fairly standard, the ankle design is very innovative and smart. Just above the ankles are three drain holes for water to exit the area that causes “elephant leg” the ballooning of wetsuit legs with seawater, typically worse on the leash-wearing ankle where water has no place to escape. The wetsuit material on the ankles ot Saint Jacques wetsuits is grooved, like the cuffs on a nice sweater. It’s a stylish solution to the standard finished ankle patch of glide-skin neoprene.
The Stan also includes solid, textured kneepads,wrist flush locks, key pocket, double embroidered soft log and glideskin neck seal.
The Stan's unique ankle cuff design
What we liked best
The styling on this suit is cool. It may not be your bag to stand out in the lineup, but surfers looking to have some pinache in the water now have an option besides day-glow panels and camo prints. Congrats to Saint Jacques for their advanced-design thinking. The performance of this suit surprised us. Because it’s so fashion forward we were expecting some sacrifice when it came to paddling power and freedom of movement. But the suit performed well technically with no obvious restricted movement, flushing or chafing. Insulation-wise it’s about what you’d expect from a standard 4/3.
What could be improved
The fit in the Saint Jacques line run small. So if you ordinarily wear a size large, you might want to check their sizing chart and go with an XL. It can be a bit confusing when sizing.
The brand is more fashion focused but doesn’t follow the typical technical brightly coloured neoprene panels to assert their uniqueness. This works with Saint Jacques because their suits, especially the Stan we reviewed, are also solid performers. It’s a rare confluence of form and function. Priced at 300€ we thought the suit was a good deal.
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The Stan's sublimation pattern coloration