Fashion has long taken inspiration from function. Many of menswear’s classics can be traced back to military, athletic or workplace applications. Think trench coats, sneakers and jeans – garments that were designed with a clear practical task in mind, but that have gone on to become sartorial staples in their own right. The same is increasingly true of many outdoor pieces.
Thanks to the proliferation of so-called ‘gorpcore’ (a fashion aesthetic that takes inspiration from the great outdoors), a number of technical outdoor garments have been making their way off the mountain and into everyday wardrobes.
These days you’re just as likely to spot brands like Arc’teryx, Patagonia and Salomon being worn in trendy metropolitan areas as you are to find them in the wilderness, and that’s no bad thing. There are even crossover brands springing up that bridge the gap between function and fashion, creating outdoor clothing from a more aesthetically conscious standpoint. And Wander, ROA and Ostrya to name a few.
Not only do these outdoor pieces look cool, they also tend to be comfortable, practical and durable. Yes, they’re designed for use in some of nature’s toughest environments, but that often makes them perfectly suited for day-to-day wear too. Here are the top ones we think you should consider adding to your wardrobe.
For the uninitiated, Gore-Tex is a miracle material that blocks water droplets from getting through while allowing water vapour to escape from within. This makes it completely waterproof, but also breathable – a feat no other fabric has managed to pull off with the same finesse.
Naturally, it’s the go-to fabric when it comes to performance wear for mountaineers and alpinists, but Gore-Tex shells have become fashion items in their own right too. Shell jackets from outdoor brands like Arc’teryx have usurped macs and trench coats as the go-to rain jackets for savvy dressers in the city, and they’ve even been paraded down runways on more than one occasion.
Check out brands like Nanamica, Goldwin and Norse Projects as well as the usual outdoor suspects.
Leather Hiking Boots
Leather hiking boots from brands like Danner and Diemme are hardly at the apex of technological innovation anymore, but they still look great and are built to last. These are the boots intrepid mountaineers were using back in the 1970s and 1980s.
And while there are certainly better options now when it comes to scaling 8,000-metre peaks, there are few that offer a better balance of durability and rugged good looks.
These boots come in various colours, and even suede, but the classic version is light-brown leather with red laces. Black is good for a slightly more understated approach. In fact, you may have spotted Daniel Craig wearing a pair of black Danner Mountain Lights (arguably the definitive classic hiking boot) in Spectre.
Technical Hiking Boots
Mind you, none of that is to say modern hiking boots don’t deserve a place on your shoe rack too. These contemporary alternatives are made from lightweight materials, often blending natural leather, nubuck and suede with more performance-orientated synthetics.
They’re more comfortable, flexible and require far less time to break in, but they offer something very different from a style perspective.
Technical hiking boots often feature colourful accents and striking looks that mean they’re not necessarily the most versatile shoes in the world. Still, if you’re more of an adventurous dresser and like to do things differently then they might be a better option for you.
Team them up with a nice loose-fitting trouser to keep the proportions balanced.
Fleece is great for bringing a touch of texture to autumn and winter outfits. Even more so when it’s of the heavyweight, thick-pile variety. This stuff is shaggy, fluffy, cosy and heavily textured. It was the go-to material for fleece mid-layers back before lightweight micropile became a thing.
Despite its technological inferiority, there are still plenty of brands making really cool thick-pile fleece jackets. Mainly because they look great and are exceptionally warm.
One of the best labels for it is Patagonia, whose Retro-X fleece has been around in various forms since the 1970s.
Classic Mountain Parka
The mountain parka jacket is an outerwear classic that has been around since the 1950s. It’s a hooded funnel-neck coat that’s cut below the hips and is often insulated, either with a down or synthetic filling, or with a pile lining.
Thanks to its retro looks and simple design, the mountain parka translates well from crags to city streets. It’s a practical, casual winter coat that looks great with everyday pieces like jeans, boots and knitwear, and if you buy a good one it will serve you for many years to come.
We’d suggest starting your search by looking at specialist parka brands like Holubar, The North Face, Fjällräven and Battenwear, all of whom make excellent versions.
These days you’re just as likely to find trail runners being worn by fashion-week attendees as endurance athletes. These mixed-terrain shoes were designed for tackling rough ground at speed, but they’ve since been picked up by stylish dressers thanks to their sporty looks, aggressive treads and often maximalist styling.
The shoe at the centre of fashion’s trail runner obsession is the Salomon XT-6. It’s the French brand’s flagship off-roader from more than a decade ago, but it has found a new fanbase who wear it for its striking looks as opposed to its technical performance.
And it’s far from the only good-looking trail runner on the market. Check out the likes of Hoka One One, Adidas Terrex and Arc’teryx for more trail-ready shoes that can slot seamlessly into your casual wardrobe.
Technical pants is a pretty broad term, but it basically means any legwear that’s designed for performance, using techy synthetic fabrics, and with cool features like panelling, elaborate pocket arrangements and all the rest of it.
To maximise versatility, we’d recommend going for a pair of technical pants in a neutral or earthy colour. Black works well too. Check out brands like Nike ACG, Goldwin, Arc’teryx and Ostrya for inspiration.
If you don’t already own a down jacket, may this serve as the push you need to equip yourself with one. Not only is this an outdoor essential, we’d go as far as to say it’s an everyday essential too.
It’s one of the most practical pieces of cold-weather clothing imaginable, offering an unmatched ratio of warmth to weight, and it can look great too… if you buy the right one.
There are lots of different styles of down jackets. These range from ultra-lightweight, low-profile versions to big bulky puffer jackets. Generally speaking, the lighter ones are better suited to actual outdoor use as they can pack down extremely small to fit into a backpack.
That said, when it comes to aesthetics, we’re all about a nice chunky puffer. The North Face’s Nuptse jacket has been the gold standard in this field for decades, but take a look at what Patagonia, Crescent Down Works, Moncler and Fjällräven have to offer too.