Recreational mountaineering began when 18th-century Swiss physicist Horace Bénédict de Saussure offered a reward to anyone who could reach the summit of Mont Blanc. Over 350 years on, hiking staples have found their way into every corner of fashion. Join us as we look at how the style went from mountain to mainstream.
INSPIRATION AND ADVICE
HIKING STYLE LEGACY
By Sam Higgins, 5 November 2017
When tackling tricky terrains, it’s not all about the robustness and durability of your footwear. While, sure, that’ll help you survive slips and scrapes, comfort is an essential factor, too. Take a pair of classic hiking boots, for instance, and you’ll see plenty of features you’ll be familiar with in both your trusty Timbs and even Air Max 95s. Whether its chunkier soles for added traction, hard-wearing leather outer layers or vibrant dapple lacing – held together with solid D-ring eyelets – the hiking influence is clear to see.
And it’s not only our day-to-day footwear, but catwalk kicks, too. Sneaker designer Ronnie Fieg has been using the lacing in his designs for years, but epitomised the mountaineering influence perfectly in the debut KITH NYC showcase. Meanwhile, on the other side of the pond, Christopher Shannon has also given a nod to the hiking style on several occasions, sending his models down the catwalk at London Fashion Week in all-terrain hiking boots with fluorescent accents.
Face it, there’s no chance of lugging a suitcase up mountainous terrain. So, aside from in their rucksacks, hikers have to stash supplies wherever possible. The answer? More pockets. Cargo trousers are the ramblers’ choice, already well equipped with copious nooks for extra Kendal Mint Cake. But it's no longer just a utilitarian feature – pockets featured as a desirable decoration in 2017, especially from Alps-inspired brand Moncler. The basic shape of these functional trews has also been given a contemporary upgrade with tapered, cropped and drop-crotch reworks, seamlessly slotting a camo cargo cut alongside a casual combo of hoodies and sneakers.
Hiking gear is designed more for function than fashionability, so the basic palette of earthy tones should come as little surprise. But if the weather takes a turn for the worse while you're up in the misty heights, remaining visible is essential – this saw bold tones burst onto outerwear and boots from the 80s onwards, which resulted in the occasional garish getup of mismatched hues. This in-your-face aesthetic has been revived by streetwear designers in recent years, bringing strong injections of vivid colour to previously monochromatic looks.
The temperature tanks the higher you get and a tent’s ability to retain heat is almost non-existent, so brands such as The North Face and Patagonia began bulking up its parkas, fleeces and gilets to help combat the elements. Lately, the renowned reliability of the brands’ products, along with a number of shrewd collaborations has seen performance outerwear infiltrate the mass market and become a staple of numerous sub-cultures. Not only have classic dadcore duds like quarter-zip fleeces become seriously coppable, the Paris Men’s Fashion Week SS17 show saw even cagoule-like weatherproof jackets given a designer upgrade, reaffirming the strength of the hiking influence.
These days, you might not immediately associate the strapping, chunky buckles and carabiner clips on backpacks to hiking – because they're everywhere – but we have Alpine-ascenders to thank. Classic hiking backpacks came with a sturdy structure, comfort regardless of weight, and countless pockets for easy access to the essentials. Drawing influence from other key mountaineering trends like colour clashing, brands like Sandqvist added ultra-functional styling to their Scandi bags. While other iconic brands like The North Face and Poler have retained the overall outdoorsy aesthetic, but retooled it for a smaller, commuter-friendly carrier.