By Thomas Shockman
With fall in full swing and winter rapidly approaching, inclement weather looms on the horizon for us all. Coming with the frigid winds and freezing rain is a style known as “Techwear”. Techwear is all about functionality. It is clothing that has all the weatherproof capabilities and functional features you will ever need (and often much more than that). Techwear transcends just providing functionality though; it uses functionality as an avenue for original and often futuristic designs. It’s important to note that techwear is also linked quite strongly to streetwear, primarily because both styles are linked to modern life in the urban jungle. There is a great deal of overlap between the two.
Tech outfits usually have a few key pieces. The most important is the waterproof jacket, known as a hardshell, although more breathable softshells can be subbed in when rain is not an issue. Under these can be layered however much clothing the weather calls for; late spring and early fall usually allows not more than a basic tee, while winter cold necessitates more, possibly a merino wool hoodie or a technical down overshirt. Pants with stretch and breathability are essential for the tech enthusiast and some level of water resistance is usually expected. Comfortable and cool trainers are the usual footwear choice and either a messenger bag or backpack of similar “tech-iness” to the rest of the ensemble completes the look.
Color schemes tend to be dark, centering around black and dark olive with navy and dark gray being options as well. Light colored techwear can be done but it is definitely less common. An entire techwear outfit, much less an entire wardrobe full of them, would be extremely expensive, even considering budget options. There’s no getting around it: techwear is costly. However, pieces here and there can be integrated into outfits to give them a modern and technical feeling and there is plenty of inspiration to be gained from technical clothing. I have included a list of some techwear brands with descriptions as well as some brands that are not specifically tech, but fit within the general lifestyle. Additionally there is an inspiration album at the end full of some awesome techwear outfits.
- Acronym (http://www.acrnm.com/) – Acronym may as well be synonymous with techwear. The german label which is designed by Errolson Hugh is known for its post-apocalyptic cyber-ninja look. Acronym is ridiculously expensive and has a cult following from the select few who can both appreciate the look and afford it. The jackets are especially amazing and usually feature some combination of quick release zips, lots of pockets, proprietary waterproof and breathable materials and interfacing opportunities with Acronym’s bag line, 3rd Arm. 3rd Arm bags are made to be modular and interact with the jackets, allowing for functionality that goes beyond what any mortal being could ever need. Don’t be fooled; even though Acronym advertises all the cutting edge technology in their products, the price tag is all about the end look that all that tech creates.
- Arc’teryx Veilance (http://veilance.arcteryx.com/) – If Acronym is techwear from the apocalyptic future, then Arc’teryx Veilance is techwear from the modern utopia. Clean lines and slim cuts combined with weatherproof fabrics is Veilance’s selling point. The cool thing about Veilance is that most of the garments would look right at home with an outfit that is otherwise not tech-y. Though Veilance may not have a look that is as impactful as Acronym, its pieces are much more versatile (though just as crazily expensive).
- Isaora (http://www.isaora.com/) – Isaora tends to put out clothes that focus a bit less on crazy technology and more on varied designs and unique features. They tend to produce a wide variety of garments with a number of different of cuts, meaning there is usually something for everyone in Isaora’s seasonal lineup. Isaora seems to provide the best bang for the buck in shirting, sweatshirts and pants; Acronym and Veilance still own the outerwear game without a doubt. Isaora is a very accessible brand and though their prices are still quite high, they seem modest next to the previous two brands’.
- Stone Island Shadow Project (http://www.stoneisland.com/us/stone-island-shadow/stone_island_shadow_section) – Stone Island Shadow Project is a devision of the Italian brand Stone Island that is designed by Errolson Hugh, the same man behind Acronym. Errolson tends to be more diverse with his designs for Shadow Project, using a larger variety of fabrics, patterns and colors. The designs run the gamut from super casual sweatshirts and sweatpants to tailored blazers and formal jackets. Shadow Project does a lot of work with prints, which I would consider to be the company’s strong point.
- Outlier (http://shop.outlier.cc/) – Outlier is a relatively new brand and is one of the only true techwear brands that is somewhat affordable. They started out making clothes for bike commuters who needed to go straight from a rainy ride into work, but now make a wider variety of clothes. Outlier makes garments with simple designs but made of fabrics that have special properties, such as four-way stretch, water resistance and wind resistance. Their specialty fabrics are ultra fine merino wool knits. Outlier’s “3-Way” and “New Way” shorts, known for their dual nature as both swim trunks and casual shorts, are the brand’s best and most unique products.
Other Brands Worth Mentioning
- Nike (http://www.nike.com/) – Nike makes the most ubiquitous techwear shoes. Flyknits, Frees, Roshes, Air Force 1s, Lunars and even some Jordans fit into tech looks seamlessly. Some of Nike’s sportswear, such as Dri-Fit tees and sweats, are right at home as underlayers in tech outfits.
- Patagonia (http://www.patagonia.com/) – Though more “National Park Guide” than “Modern Urban Explorer,” Patagonia makes a multitude of garments with technical sensibilities and typically with minimal branding as well. Their down sweaters and waterproof outerwear make for fantastic budget replacements of pricier upper-tier garments.
- The North Face (http://www.thenorthface.com/) – Beyond the black fleece jackets that have become synonymous with TNF, the brand offers tons of great hardshells at fractions of Acronym’s prices. TNF is a great place to find black, functional backpacks as well.
- Cav Empt (https://www.cavempt.com/) – Cav Empt is a Japanese streetwear/skatewear label known for its 90’s inspired designs. Their graphic tees and sweatshirts often look at home under other tech pieces and Errolson Hugh has been known to style his clothes alongside CE.
- Gyakusou (http://news.nike.com/gyakusou) – Gyakusou, which means “reverse running” in Japanese, is an ongoing collaboration between Nike and Jun Takahashi’s Japanese label Undercover. The pieces are Nike’s running technology combined with Takahashi’s designs and look right at home with techwear, despite being made for athletics.
- Bape (http://us.bape.com/) – Japanese streetwear brand A Bathing Ape, also known as Bape, makes a variety of shoe models that work well with techwear’s street inclination, including their takes on Adidas’ classic Superstars and Nike’s Air Force 1s.
- Supreme (http://www.supremenewyork.com/) – The classic New York street/skate brand often extends into the tech arena, with hardshells and cordura bags being produced nearly every season. Additionally, their box logo tees and sweats work fantastic under shells.
- Y-3 (http://www.y-3.com/us/) – The Japanese fashion legend Yohji Yamamoto’s permanent collaboration line with Adidas produces some of the best techwear shoes, notably the Qasa and Warrior models.
- Milsurp – Though not one single brand, military surplus garments can be excellent budget options for techwear fits. Military clothing is designed with function as its first and foremost concern, much like techwear.