A couple of months ago, I was shopping with my mom for a pair of hiking boots for her birthday. Our journey sent us to the Merrell outlet store where we browsed for shoes and deals (buy one, get 25% off). But while shopping, I was struck by the shoes — the shoes were packing. I was drawn to these beautiful mid-rise cream hiking boots with a rainbow speckled sole and matching rainbow laces. Unfortunately, I don’t hike.
Undoubtedly, one of the hottest trends of the year in fashion has been gorpcore, a fashion aesthetic taking inspiration from the functional wear made for hikers and outdoorsmen. Think Arc’teryx rain zip-ups, Mammut puffer jackets, fuzzy Patagonia quarter zips, cinched track pants topped off with hiking sneakers — anything a rich dad would wear to Tahoe.
This niche style has been boosted by mainstream recognition. With notable fashion brands such as Gucci, Comme des Garçons and Nike rushing to capitalize on the trend through collaborating with staple hiking brands such as North Face, or creating their own collection of hiking-inspired gear such as Nike All Conditions Gear. Conversely, hiking brands such as Arc’teryx and Salomon have also begun to cater to fashionwear, building on their utilitarian roots.
But what has been the result of this synthesis of fashion and function?
Gorpcore symbolizes the desire for a more active lifestyle, one more in touch with nature. Interest sprouted during the pandemic, a time when many picked up outdoor activities in lieu of work or school. It creates a fashion-forward interpretation and innovation of utilitarian gear, integrating style with function.
However, this desired effect in practice has had unintended consequences. Rather than sparking a desire among people to hit the trails, videos circulate of people wearing their $600 rain jackets in the shower to show off their ingenious waterproof technology.
The popularization of niche subculture gorpcore has arguably damaged the integrity of its original ideals. Patagonia and Arc’teryx have even set back some of their commitments to ethical and sustainable fashion due to the trendiness of their clothes.
Gorpcore is a case study of what happens to a niche subculture gone mainstream. Similarly, because it has faltered in inspiring a profound appreciation for nature, current gorpcore now revolves around exclusivity in brands and prices. As Grailed, a popular fashion resale website, states when describing gorpcore, “The logos of the biggest outdoors brands are worn like badges of honor” demonstrating the cultural shift of these brands’ clothing from offering everyday, often overlooked, fashion styles to becoming chic.
It begs the question of whether a counterculture can maintain its integrity while simultaneously being popular, or if it is gatekeeping the act of preservation.
6/10. Regardless, I still want a pair of zip-off cargo pants (for the right price), and who can say no to a comfortable sneaker?