As far as garment design goes, it’s difficult to imagine two schools of thought more fundamentally opposed than hiking and high fashion. The former is all about functionality, performance, durability, utility and practicality. The latter is pretty much the exact opposite.
Yet, in spite of their glaring differences, luxury menswear and outdoor clothing have fostered an unlikely kinship. For several years, pieces like leather hiking boots and Arctic parkas have been making their way off the ridges and onto the runway, and now it seems the hiking trend is here to stay.
Authentic performance brands like Patagonia and The North Face have been as trendy as classic fashion houses in recent years and there have been plenty of collabs, too. As a result of all this, you’re now just as likely to meet someone wearing Gore-Tex hardshell on the Fashion Week front row as you are high in the snow-capped peaks of the Swiss Alps.
The great outdoors is very much in and it spells good news for your wardrobe. Curious? Here’s everything you need to know.
What Is The Outdoor Trend?
Outdoor clothing’s infiltration of the menswear scene isn’t exactly brand new information. Mountain mainstays like down jackets, thick-pile fleece and old-school hiking boots have long been common fixtures in the AW collections of premium fashion brands.
The latest wave of hikermania, however, has seen a shift away from heritage pieces and towards more technical garments. Think streamlined hard-shell jackets rather than puffy parkas, cross-body bags in place of canvas haversacks, Gore-Tex Salomons instead of clumpy leather boots.
It’s still nerdy, still carries more than a whiff of the geography teacher, but this is mountain-friendly menswear that looks to the future for its inspiration rather than living in the past. Unlike most fashion trends, this one is both practically advantageous and stylish. Well, provided you equip yourself with the right pieces.
Fashion-Approved Outdoor Clothing
Anyone who has ever worn a thick-pile fleece while yomping in the hills on a cold day will know how good they are at trapping body heat. And those who bothered to check themselves out in the mirror beforehand will agree that they look pretty good, too.
Fleece has been trending hard for several seasons, and it’s about as versatile as it gets. Use one as part of a layering system along with a hardshell and a base layer in severe weather, or simply throw one on over a T-shirt to keep the chill at bay.
Approach Shoes/Trail Runners
Slim, streamlined and aerodynamic, a new breed of hiking footwear has been scrambling off hillsides and onto the street for a little while now. Approach shoes, trail runners and hiking sneakers may be purpose built for tackling tough terrain, but many of them double up as good-looking, highly serviceable everyday shoes.
Light, comfortable and, in many cases, waterproof, these stripped-back hiking-boot alternatives are the perfect low-profile substitute for their cumbersome counterparts.
Even if the furthest you plan on climbing is up to the top deck of the bus on your way into the office, there’s solace to be found in knowing your outerwear could hold its own tackling the Seven Summits.
A waterproof shell raincoat can be used as a barrier against wind and rain as part of a layering system, or alone in warm wet weather. In terms of fit, it should be big enough to fit a layer or two underneath, but still trim and close to the body.
There’s not much that can trap heat like a good down jacket. A cornerstone of the hiking trend, these puffy marvels are lightweight, good looking and nothing short of a pleasure to wear.
Just don’t get mixed up between your mid-layers and full-blown puffer jackets. A good mid-layer down jacket will slot comfortably underneath an outer shell without leaving you looking like the Michelin Man.
Leather hiking boots are still a good choice when opting for some winter footwear. However, this latest incarnation of the hiking trend has brought a new type of boot to the fore.
More technical than traditional, less basic than busy. These tricked out hikers are the fashion-friendly answer to mountain-appropriate footwear. Look out for key details like Vibram soles and Gore-Tex membranes.
The Best Outdoor Clothing Brands
If a team of NASA engineers were to design a range of outerwear, it’d probably look a lot like Arc’teryx. The Canadian brand’s relentless approach to innovation has led to industry firsts like waterproof zippers and the attention to detail is second to none.
Arc’teryx executes every little detail to perfection, putting its outerwear lightyears ahead of the competition. Meanwhile, collabs with the likes of Beams and Concepts have helped to nurture the label’s ever-growing streetwear appeal.
Swedish purveyor of performance gear Haglofs may not have the easiest name to pronounce (it’s ‘hog-lerfs’ FYI), but what it does have is some of the finest hiking kit in the game. Particularly where outerwear is concerned, Haglofs is on of the industry leaders in design, so expect form-fitting cuts, cutting-edge fabrics and even the occasional jazzy print or two just for good measure.
The North Face
There’s nothing we can say about The North Face that hasn’t already been said. The Californian brand is the world’s most-loved mountaineering label and the creator of some of the greatest designs in outdoor apparel. Pieces like the Nuptse jacket and the Mountain parka are unabashed outerwear classics, often imitated but never bettered.
After cutting his teeth at storied USA outerwear label Woolrich Woolen Mills alongside Engineered Garments boss Daiki Suzuki, Shinya Hasegawa took his look for big coats and the great outdoors and combined them into something special. Battenwear is the result, a stylish outdoor brand crafting everything from down jackets to climbing pants, and proudly stocked by some of menswear’s most notable retailers.
Few brands illustrate the current crossover of high-fashion and performance gear better than French alpine-sports label Salomon. The brand’s trail-running shoes and hiking sneakers have long been a favourite of fashion insiders, and with collaborations from the likes of Palace and Satisfy under its belt things don’t look to be slowing down any time soon.
For more than 30 years, Gramicci has been making ‘freedom of movement garments’ (read: baggy trousers) for outdoor enthusiasts (read: hairy climbers). Born in Yosemite, California, the brand has recently been relaunched for the Japanese market – a place where outdoor apparel and fashion are largely indistinguishable from one another – and suffice to say it’s been a big hit.
Now we can all reap the benefits in the form of loose-fitting climbing pants, logo T-shirts and more, all emblazoned with Gramicci’s iconic running man emblem.
With a focus on simplicity and an unwavering commitment to preserving the environment, Patagonia’s hiking gear is about as wholesome as it gets. This stuff may be made from recycled bottles a repurposed scrap fabric, but it’s still built to take a hammering. To get an idea of what the brand does best look to it’s thick-pile fleeces like the Retro-X and minimalist hardshells made using Patagonia’s patented H2No waterproof fabric.
Japan has a knack for taking technical, outdoor gear and making it fashionable. Founded by two storied haute-couture designers, one of whom a former designer for Issey Miyake, And Wander fuses fashion and performance to wondrous effect. These are garments that wouldn’t be out of sorts on the runway, yet packed with enough technical features to see you right on a winter trek in the Japanese Alps.