If the early days of wearable tech have taught us anything, it’s that we shouldn’t expect wearables to be beautiful. Sure, we’d love to see some truly stylish high-tech clothes, but in the age of Google Glass we’d settle for something that doesn’t make us look ridiculous.
Sadly, Tommy Hilfiger’s new solar panel jacket (designed with the assistance of solar manufacturer Pvilion) can't even clear that low bar. The jacket, which comes in styles for both men and women, features back-mounted solar panels that can be used to charge your phone, tablet, or e-reader.
The cost? A hefty $599—plus your dignity.
The individual components of the design are great in theory, but when combined they add up to an ineffective, ugly product that doesn’t address a real consumer need.
The color-blocked/tartan jackets would be cute if not for the garish solar panels slapped across their backs. And the idea of carrying around a USB battery pack is a good one, but there are already plenty of cheap, portable backup batteries on the market that can fit into a more stylish coat pocket.
We’re all for sustainable energy, but how much time do you really spend in the sunlight during the winter? The jacket isn’t built for extreme outdoor activity, either, so it'll hardly suit the kind of wearers who do spend their winter days outside.
It's also odd that a garment designed to embrace renewable energy doesn't exhibit any sign of being sustainably made, such as local production or using organic or recycled materials.
Ultimately, there are only two things we like about this jacket: The fact that half of all proceeds go to the Fresh Air Fund (a program that provides inner city children with free summer experiences in the countryside), and the fact that the solar panels are detachable.