A Gore-Tex shell jacket, baggy cargos and a pair of aggressive trail-running shoes: a super-practical outfit, no doubt, but does it belong to an intrepid alpine athlete or a mannequin from SSENSE? A few years ago, the answer would have been obvious, but as the line between technical gear and fashion becomes increasingly blurred, things aren’t quite so clear-cut.
Gorpcore is the intersection at which these two worlds collide. Even if you’re unfamiliar with the term, you’ve probably seen the look. Its essentially mountaineering cosplay with a hint of streetwear styling. And while people who actually climb alpine peaks for fun would no doubt fall off their camping stools laughing at the concept of fashion-conscious city kids jacking their ‘style’, we think some of the associated clothes genuinely do have a place in the average guy’s everyday wardrobe.
Maybe you want to dress more practically, perhaps you want to signal your outdoor lifestyle to others (whether you actually live one or not), or maybe you’re just trying to learn more about one of the most interesting men’s fashion aesthetics in recent years. Either way, you’ll find some key info on the gorpcore genre below, including what it is, what makes it and the key pieces to get the look.
What Is Gorpcore?
Gorpcore (‘gorp’ being an acronym for ‘good ol raisins and peanuts’, AKA trail mix) is an outdoorsy fashion aesthetic that first gained widespread popularity in the late 2010s. It focuses on the modern, technical side of outdoor gear as opposed to traditional heritage stuff blending elements of streetwear and techwear to create an entirely new look. Think technical shell jackets, fleece, ripstop, pockets aplenty, wraparound shades and functional yet sporty footwear.
The trend has catapulted brands like Salomon, Arc’teryx and Hoka One One into the fashion consciousness, and inspired countless Instagram mood-board accounts that help to perpetuate its popularity.
Best of all, it has encouraged a lot of people to actually get outdoors for real, discovering nature via the clothing built for it, rather than the other way around.
Key Gorpcore Elements
Technical performance fabrics are the bread and butter of gorpcore. Gore-Tex is the gold standard for jackets and waterproof footwear, and synthetic fibres generally feature much more heavily than plain old cotton.
A big part of the whole gorpcore thing is the performance aspect of the clothing, even if the closest it’s ever going to get to outdoor action is the walk to and from the pub.
Not all outdoor gear fits the gorpcore aesthetic. Traditional hiking boots and mountain parkas for example – these are outdoor pieces, there’s no denying that, but they lack a certain sportiness that runs through gorpcore.
Think wraparound Oakley glasses over aviators, and lightweight modern-day trail shoes over clumpy leather hiking boots.
Gorpcore, and outdoor gear in general, feature a lot of black and a lot of dark earthy tones. That said, you’ll rarely see an entirely black gorpcore outfit.
…But Also Bold Colours
One reason for that is the prevalence of bright colours in the world of outdoor apparel. These garments are often designed to be easily spotted by mountain rescue workers, so it’s not uncommon to see jackets in rich vibrant red, blue, green and more unusual shades too.
Arc’teryx in particular (one of the biggest brands in the scene) regularly includes unconventional shades like dusty pink, burnt orange and even gold in its outerwear collections.
Cinching is another key identifier of a gorpcore outfit. You don’t just put on a GoreTex jacket and hiking pants and call it a day. You pull those hem drawcords tight and let the fabric bunch up around the waist and ankles.
If there’s a drawcord there, use it – that’s the gorpcore way.
Key Gorpcore Pieces
Technical Shell Jacket
If there’s one piece that sums up gorpcore it’s a Gore-Tex shell jacket. This waterproof fabric allows the skin to breathe while denying entry to water droplets from outside, making it completely waterproof, but also comfortable to wear.
We’d suggest going for a plain colour like black to give yourself the greatest degree of versatility. And don’t cheap out – it’s worth spending a bit of money here to get a jacket that will last.
The beanie is basically uniform for rock climbers and mountaineers, which means it’s uniform for subscribers to the gorpcore look too.
Whether cuffed or uncuffed, these woolly head warmers often feature big logos of outdoor brands plastered across them, often in bold colour combos.
Arc’teryx, ROA and Ostrya make some excellent versions.
In summer, the gorpcore headgear of choice is a packable running or hiking cap made from synthetic fabric. These caps are designed to be moisture-wicking, quick drying and lightweight.
They often feature a five-panel design, with brands including Patagonia, Vaga, Cayl and Montbell making some solid options.
Sporty wraparound sunglasses are the key accessory of the gorpcore look. They feature colourful reflective lenses, sharp lines and tie into the Y2K revival trend.
There are a few noteworthy brands, but head and shoulders above all of them is Oakley. The American eyewear label is famous for its forward-thinking frame designs and sporty styling, making it the go-to for life on the mountain.
Insulated jackets have been an outdoor staple since the 1930s, helping those in cold environments to wrap up and protect themselves from the elements. They usually feature either down or synthetic stuffing to lock in heat, and they run the gamut from comically oversized and puffy to low-profile and lightweight.
We’d suggest aiming somewhere in the middle of these two extremes and looking at brands like Snow Peak, Patagonia and Montbell. The latter’s Superior Down Jacket is a favourite.
Cargo pants are super practical and comfortable. Even better if they’re cut with plenty of room in the legs for a nice laid-back fit. Or, you could opt to go for a similar cut, sans pockets.
Gramicci is the best in the business when it comes to this sort of thing, with a huge spread of climbing-inspired styles to choose from, most of them featuring the brand’s trademark belted waist. We love the Original Gramicci Pants, which are about as close as it gets to a perfect everyday fit in our opinion.
Cotton pants are great, but if you want to stick religiously to performance fabrics, you could go for a pair of techy lightweight hiking pants instead. Softshell is a great material for this task as it’s stretchy, warm, comfortable and durable.
Arc’teryx’s Gamma range has some great options – some of which are subtle enough to wear with regular casual outfits too. Check out Klattermusen, And Wander, Goldwin and Nike ACG as well.
The popularity of trail-running shoes is gorpcore’s biggest export. These lugged sneakers are designed for speed on rough, uneven surfaces, but these days you’re just as likely to see them in a fashion magazine editorial as you are at a local ultramarathon.
Trail shoes from the likes of Salomon, Hoka One One and La Sportiva are a key part of the gorpcore uniform, and they’ve started to creep out into the broader fashion scene too. This is particularly true of shoes like Salomon’s XT-6 and XT-4, which are some of the most popular sneakers of the past few years.