In high schools across America’s northwest, in states like Montana and Idaho, days spent baring blizzards is a norm. Owning a closet full of alpine-appropriate pants, parkas, waterproof outerwear and accessories is as regular as Nikes and jeans. With temperatures often slipping to minus 20, clothing here is weather armour. It’s no wonder, then, that labels like The North Face and Patagonia (or “Pata-Gucci” as the teens slang it) have become brands of honour for these millennials. It’s high fashion for high altitude.
And on the slopes, the tech fashion is upped even further. Those well-versed in freeriding on a singular board know this to be true. The snowboarder has long been the cool kid of slopes style, his renegade approach to alpine attire making him the mountainside’s chic rebel. While first-timers rock loaner gear, pro boarders cruise the piste in softshell pants, neon spray jackets and Burton boots. And it’s this real-deal gear that’s currently leaking into trend fashion. Slope-warrior get-up that talks the talk, even if you’re not going to walk the walk.
While high fashion concurs, the real influence is emerging via some seriously inspired cult-label collaborations. Take, for example, Supreme’s range with innovative Italian sportswear brand Stone Island – a pseudo boarder’s dream of high-gloss jackets and trousers. Then there’s women’s label Ganni’s capsule range of parkas, jackets and vests with Icelandic tech co 66° North. Ganni’s creative director, Ditte Reffstrup, explained: “[These are] amazing technical pieces that [bring] a great counterpoint to the SS19 collection. [It] is an homage to an era of what was, when we were less focused on modern elements.” How fitting that, as the world becomes a technically complex, sensory tsunami, we’re increasingly driven to the tangibility of earthy adventures and the comforting utility fashion that comes with it.
At the other end of the spectrum is mountaineering mothership Moncler, whose latest lifeline has seen it branch technical gear into the realms of high fashion. Through its Genius project, the Italian label has collaborated with some of the biggest names in fashion (Simone Rocha, Craig Green, Pierpaolo Piccioli) to produce exclusive intrepid collections.
But this is not the first time fashion has followed après- utility. The ’80s were ripe with head-to-toe windcheater ensembles. Pastel, nylon zip-ups that outlived the era to find their way to track brands’ core ranges and the Normcore fans of circa 2014. This year’s snowy sentiment is a full serve, though. Luxe fleeces, logo beanies, authentic hiking boots, knitted masks and goggle sunglasses, all pieced together
to create an off-piste, on-trend look. And while hardcore boarders might snigger at an all-the-gear-no-idea approach to, should we say, faux boarding, they should be pleased to know they can fashionably go from slopes-all-day to après-play without so much as changing their boots.
In Paris late last year, a figurative (and literal) world away from the quarter-pipe jumps and harrowing tracks of the MotoGP and X Games, Hedi Slimane presented his first collection for Celine. Less dirt, more runway, Slimane’s much-publicised takeover polarised critics with a controversial his-and-hers parade of signature sleek. So, by the time the looks started to fill the newly wiped-clean Instagram account, the ‘Old Céline’ wolves were hungry for blood. One image, of a new-season moto jacket, fed their fire like no other. “How original,” they facetiously chanted while dob-tagging moto-jacket overlord Schott NYC.
Motocross by sport is a sponno-fest. Ad-heavy leathers that spruik brands on every inch. By street and by fashion, however, it’s all rather radically editorial. Common ground remains its distinct silhouette. Cropped jackets, leather pants, logo sweats, biker boots and full-faced headwear.
Historically, moto fashion has its own independent life. In fact, the specto sport of fast bike riding is a sideline to the leather-clad utility wear we know and love. The original motocross dates back to the early 1900s in countryside England and was not, as one might assume, dreamed up by the marketing team from Red Bull. Back then, the sport was garbed by less of a hardware exterior and kits were flush with hillside knits, Henley tees and denims. It was all a bit Steve McQueen in The Great Escape. By the early 1950s, however, thanks to Marlon Brando breaking in a Schott leather jacket in the lm The Wild One, moto fashion found its new image.
The Schott brothers invented the first ever motorcycle leather jacket in 1913. They aptly named it the ‘Perfecto’. Its belted waist, shoulder epaulettes, zipped cu s and folding zip-front have barely altered in more than a century. But, while image was the initial drawcard, it was its hardy sensibility that made it stick. Utility over fashion. Function over form. After all, taking a fall from a 450cc Kawasaki travelling at
200 kilometres per hour in a fine-knit with suede elbow pads is a skin graft waiting to happen.
But motocross is not just leather jackets. There’s the crisp layers and zippy outerwear that, when styled, look more like O -White collectibles than racing get-up. And the essential headwear that, on the track, functions as a protective barrier and dirt deterrent, has been emerging as a micro trend for those daring to dabble in moto accoutrement. Vetements, Dolce & Gabbana and an ominously dystopian Rick Owens all delivered speedway masks this season, with looks ranging from the surgical to the guerrilla, while Berluti and Bottega Veneta presented moto trousers in loose-cut leathers. Pop culture’s take on the racing theme has been peaking since Marc by Marc Jacobs’ Fall ’14 collection of oversized sport shorts and grunge-happy fleeces. This season, the look is distinctly more stripped back. More classically monochrome with less derivative slogan worship. And all in keeping with Slimane’s Schott reverie. His ode is not the first, and it certainly won’t be the last. With a style as malleable and worthwhile as moto’s, can you blame him?
The Shinobi: one who acts in stealth. Despite the true foundations of ancient Japanese assassins being shrouded in mystery and its subsequent ideology dramatised by Western appropriation, martial arts (particularly that of ninja specifics) is universally fascinating. And why not? This is a practice equally lyrical, graceful, disciplined and cut-throat. One that’s beckoned a whole genre of lm that has steered its image from bygone wartime skill to a kind of fanciful Japanese superhero.
Firstly, there’s the plethora of inspiration from Bruce Lee, the martial arts master who brought his signature high- kick style into the pop-culture homes of early 1970s America. His films paved the way for tribute-laced epics like Tarantino’s Kill Bill, Jackie Chan’s whole career of movies and, to a degree, Ang Lee’s fantasy-clad Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. With so much on-screen celebration (not forgetting entry-level versions like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and, hell, even fit-tastic TV programs like Ninja Warrior, too), it’s little wonder that samurai sartorialism remains on a pedestal.
The look, let’s call it ninja athleisure, is this winter’s monochrome, moveable mode. Think compression wear that’s been removed from its cycling norm and given a new role as an agile partner for layered knits, neoprene zippys and sheeny Matrix rain jackets. In fact, since the 1999 movie is also widely considered a tribute martial arts lm, its dystopian costuming is running the veins of this trend, too. Total stealth. Total shinobi.
While today’s martial arts fashion disciple has sturdy ties with lm, this time, he’s tailored to the traditional, ancient Japanese ninja. The exaggerated, archetypal black-cloth- swathed, sword-wielding covert assassins of the 15th century. In some ways, they were the original James Bond. Undercover secret agents who have been fabled through theatrics and are always costumed in dapper garb. Traditionally, ninjas used tenugui, a black towelling cloth that was used to wrap the body and tuck into boots. It was also able to conceal identity by covering the face and creating a guise of total mystical fluidity. This kimono-wrap style was evident in
Etro’s spring/summer ’19 collection, a mercenary homage of cropped trousers, silk-printed day coats and leather obi belts. On the Matrix-style side, Matthew Williams’ label, Alyx, delivered undercover combat wears in the form of nose-high turtlenecks and slick black head wraps. While from the fashion underground, Takahiro Miyashita’s label, The Soloist, has garnered plenty of chatter with his postmodern, fundamentalist take on ninja style.
On the street, Fashion Week saw swarms of neo-ninja guys mixing evergreen black pieces from labels like Kappa, Nike and Calvin Klein Jeans with high-fashion centrepieces. Many critics have discussed this regression to vigilante glorification as a reaction to a hyped-up dystopian trend, rather than a sport homage. But, more likely, the bleak mysticism is steeped in both. While gearing yourself in a collage of martial artistry can be effectively macabre, its practical, fluid wearability is what its disciplined origins were all about. It seems the shinobi of 2019 is here, and the stealth is strong with this one.
There’s an old-fashioned, patriarchal generalisation that men only feel comfortable indulging in fashion if what they’re buying is, in some way, functional. Perhaps this is based on a former-years’ prep-school uniformity, when sport threads and cadet fatigues spun a lot of what was also regarded as trendy casual attire. After all, rugby jerseys live on far from the eld and head-to-toe camo ebbs and flows endlessly through fashion. This season, camo utility has returned but is now, quite literally, wading into new waters. The distinct green- and-grey painterly print that was originally born out of a need for wartime camouflage has been updated, thickened, waterproofed and, this time, based on a necessary invisibility from… well… fish.
Fly fishing might seem like an unlikely trendsetter, however, according to The New York Times, the word “camouflage” is up nearly 40 per cent across fashion search engines. And with the rise of cult brands serving camping core as viable city chic, the look is likely more compelling than first thought.
As a sport, fly fishing is niche. Unless you’re somewhat of a bait-and-tackle aficionado, this river-based subsidiary is far less common than your punter-happy, edge-of-a-jetty variety. If you were of television-watching age in Australia in the late ’90s, it’s likely your benchmark for fly fishing is still Rob Sitch and Tom Gleisner’s A River Somewhere. An idyllic travel series that preached the organic, meditative powers of standing in a river in full gaiter garb while slowly, carefully, endlessly swatting the top of a lake with nothing but a line, a fly and a hope.
Today’s intrepid fishing poet, however, is swathed in bush-whacking, river-crossing threads for an entirely more metropolitan experience. For O -White Fall ’19, founder Virgil Abloh mutated a lumberjack aesthetic using quilted plaid shirts looped in patchy blanket scarfing, while Pierpaolo Piccioli offered slogan-dashed camos and fishing hats set over cu ed denims for Valentino. Dsquared2, on the other hand, took a festival angle to, well, angling, with mountain boots and trousers slugged by psychedelic puffers.
On the indie front, Supreme is currently home to ochre cargo vests, swag bags and printed polar fleeces, while Needles, Keizo Shimizu’s Japanese-meets-Americana-outdoors street label, is sporting deconstructed flannelettes, khaki anoraks and brushed cotton dungarees. Needless to say, the influencers are on board, too. Even Jaden Smith’s The Sunset Tapes album cover has him posed above a rugged valley wearing a fashioned flak jacket.
However, while designers massage this artistic-commercial version, parading the genuine article bestows as much, if not more, fashion credibility. High-tech canvas and Gore-Tex gear from earnest establishments like BCF or Bass Pro, or even local-knowledge adventure hotspot Simms, gives authenticity to the movement…with maybe just a slim dash of irony.
Fly fishing, for all its calm demeanour, is also an assault via conditions. Extreme heat from above, freezing waters below. The rushing, torrid rivers full of creatures, foliage and uneven terrain meaning masterful clothing is imperative. The right weight of windbreaker, the correct heaviness of ‘stocking-foot’ trousers and the solid hardiness of ‘wading’ boots are all as essential as the rods and the flies. The utility of a sport as contrastingly extreme placid as this is on par with others like mountain climbing or scuba diving, where pace is slow but, due to conditions, gear is a lifeline. So, it’s sensible, really, that fashion has latched onto the look, particularly for the icy, wet-weather seasons. It’s a therapeutic, metaphorical return to nature for city slickers. That’s not to say that fly fishermen from the remote rivers of middle America wouldn’t be taken aback by their sudden sartorial leadership. This trend, after all, is pretty fly for a fishing guy.
THIS ARTICLE APPEARED ORIGINALLY IN THE APRIL 2019 EDITION OF ICON MAGAZINE.