skiing: technical wear as fashion

Keegan Brady wrote an article in GQ about the rise of “technical outerwear” in fashion. I wear and love this stuff while skiing, but once I’m off the mountain it goes in a storage tub.

He mentions the rise of The North Face jacket in the 1990s, but could have gone further, e.g. the Eddie Bauer/plaid flannel/Timberland boots rugged outdoor look from the late 1980s that accompanied the initial rise of the SUV. For centuries people have worn clothes to look as if they’re from somewhere exotic or doing something interesting, from sportswear to resort wear to surf clothes to today’s “I just descended the Matterhorn!” look.

Ever since Bogner in the 1970s went from ski racing apparel to one-piece après ski outfits for tanned Eurotrash, many, many technical ski and mountaineering clothing brands have suffered loss of credibility as they expand to sell clothing to casual skiers and hikers, while any innovation they came up with is copied by the rest of the sub-industry. As Descente (zip-off racing shells), Spyder (advanced fabrics), The North Face (integrated hoods), etc. lost their cachet, new boutique high-end brands like Phenix (multi-layer shells), Killy, Kjus (integrated stretchy wrist gaiters with thumb holes), and Arc’teryx (boxy articulated knees and elbows, complex cuts, waterproof zippers) showed up to be the new hot high-end technical wear. Arc’teryx has managed to expand into streetwear while remaining very expensive and fairly cutting edge, so it still has some credibility on the mountain. (Though you need reinforced Kevlar or Cordura shoulders for carrying gear!!)

It’s silly to wear this clothing on the streets of a city – “technical” gear for what activities, exactly? – but fashion has already been about delirious dreams and dressing up. Nothing wrong with that, but if you’re just wandering around the city why not wear clothes that are beautiful to look at by Jhane Barnes?

As worn by my heroes…

I’m intrigued by clothing lines like Veilance by Arc’teryx and Errolson Hugh’s intense Acronym that divorce from any sport and aim only to be meaninglessly extreme technical streetwear for its own sake. William Gibson loves this stuff (and thinks eloquently about clothing):

Hugh Errolson with William Gibson wearing Acronym gear in 2017
Sorry Mr. Gibson, you’re still not a tactical urban ninja
(“Uncle Bill” Instagram post by Errolson Hugh on the left @erlsn.acr February 24, 2017)

and so does John Mayer. Maybe I could join them… but I’m not inspired to open my wallet to $700+ clothing items without trying them on, and since Jhane Barnes exited menswear 😢 I never go to fancy clothing stores.

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