The pandemic completely shifted consumers’ perspectives on utilitarian fashion. Society realised that there were countless advantages to wearing comfy clothes all day long. It became apparent that not only was it not the end of the world if you didn’t dress up in formal attire every day, but that there were many ways in which one could combine their outfits to be both stylish and comfortable. As such, there is a noticeable difference in the appreciation for functional fashion pre and post-COVID. When the new normal settled in and we finally left our homes, functional fashion made its debut as the main character on the streets. As such, one of the styles that we had briefly caught sight of before lock-down made its return to the streets with full force, properly catching on and escalating to the top trends. We’re talking about Gorpcore.
But, before we continue…
What is Gorpcore?
Gorpcore refers to the trend of wearing hiking and mountain wear casually, rather than for hiking or outdoorsy purposes. The term was officially coined in 2017, derived from a saying that describes the staple hiker snacks “Good ‘ol Raisins and Peanuts”. began to catch on in 2019. However, 2022 has arguably been the Gorpcore year. Gorpcore style has taken over streetwear fashion, positioning itself as one of the hottest trends this year. Utilitarian fashion is in, welcome to the land of comfort.
Now comfy clothing wasn’t entirely new, for example, athleisure was already on the rise. However, it was not considered fashionable to the point it is now. Much less high fashion. Truth is, athleisure was born in 1979 when Adidas released the first commercial tracksuit. Although, at the time there was still a clear distinction between actual clothing worn for athletic purposes and clothing that simply emulated the athletic look. Moreover, despite being released commercially, at the time athleisure was pretty much considered to be on the opposite side of luxury in the fashion spectrum. A lot has changed since then.
Utilitarian fashion + luxury brands = Gorpcore
Today, not only are utilitarian fashion and luxury clothing not considered direct opposites anymore, there seems to be a space in luxury fashion where these two have become one and the same.
Prada’s Re-Nylon puffer jacket or Moncler’s Cuvellier short down one, the Gucci x The North Face or the MM6 Maison Margiela x Salomon collaborations… All perfect examples of the fusion of mountain wear and luxury fashion. Guess it’s true what they say, opposites do attract. And when opposites attract, there’s bound to be some fallout. Does this mean Gorpcore is the Romeo and Juliet of fashion?
The fundamental dissonance of Gorpcore
Funny thing is, hiking gear and outdoor clothing are actually designed to be used, heavily used. They’re designed to be durable, quality being of the utmost importance. The price of an item in the hiking and outdoor activity world is directly correlated with how much use you can put it through. The harsher climatic conditions it can withstand while still remaining practical, the better and the more expensive. However, the new collaborations between hiking brands and luxury brands as well as the newfound love for Gorpcore are challenging this standard practice.
Luxury items are supposed to be used, sure, but they are not supposed to go through proper wear and tear the way hiking gear is. As soon as a luxury item has a little bit of use, its value plummets. Not to mention the hugely inflated initial price that speaks more to the aesthetic design and name of the brand than to the endurance of the item. On the other hand, outdoor gear’s value is still very much proportional to its utility and practicality despite being used. Take the Gucci X The North Face collaboration, for example, the moment you actually put the tent to the test and use it – which doesn’t look very sturdy for its moderate $3,490.00 price tag – its value would decrease massively.
The backpacks from the very same collection, are not designed to carry weight at all and have quite possibly not been designed with a hiker in mind. Unless all the hiker wanted to carry was their wallet, keys, phone, headphones and maybe a book or a sweater. And a water bottle, of course, hydration is important. Needless to say, these collaborations don’t cater to people who would wear hiking and mountain wear because normal clothing doesn’t allow them to carry out their activities as efficiently and comfortably. So, in fact, they are not truly for hikers at all. They’re simply for people who want to look like hikers, without the actual hiking part.
This is why we can’t have nice things… Gorpcore edition
It’s one thing for luxury brands to emulate utilitarian aesthetics, but when it’s the other way around and functional fashion brands try to win over a new luxury audience it’s another story. It’s all fun and games until utilitarian fashion brands such as The North Face and Solomon enter the luxury market and shift their priorities in their product design, distribution, and price point. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.