If this past year has taught me one thing, it’s that something doesn’t have to be ‘fashionable’ to be ‘in fashion.’ The industry is no stranger to instances where hype overpowers taste, yet with the speed at which trends now move, macro can go micro can go mainstream in a matter of minutes.
As the saying goes, one is an example, two is a coincidence, and three is a trend. Just this week on Broome Street, I walked past a girl wearing zip-off cargo pants, an oversized North Face puffer, and a nylon fanny pack slung across her chest; she was locked in arms with a friend decked in lug sole hiking boots and track pants made out of windbreaker material. Two steps later, I passed a man whose getup was so granola it had to be a joke: Thorlo socks with Birkenstocks and a Patagonia fleece paired with some kind of waterproof capri pant. The number of snaps and functional pockets present south of Houston was no accident. But it had me asking myself: Have we finally reached peak gorpcore?
If you’re unfamiliar with the phrase, it was coined by The Cut in May of 2017, back when zip-up fleece and Grateful Dead tie-dye tees were a mere case of trendspotting. Gorp, an acronym for ‘good old raisins and peanuts,’ isn’t an association you’d normally draw with fashion. Yet the prevalence of collaborations like Supreme x North Face and influencers clad in New Balance and Patagonia reveals that maybe we’re all just sick and tired of being cold and uncomfortable for the sake of style. It’s very ‘of the people.’ For an industry where ‘elevated’ and ‘exclusive’ almost always translates to stylish and desirable, gorpcore is pretty pedestrian.
Most, if not all, viral fashion trends have to meet a specific set of criteria where the average, non-industry spectator is the judge. Could it be described as frivolous? Is it uncomfortable to wear? Does it look funny to a mainstream audience? It’s an obvious yes. But gorpcore doesn’t behave like a typical fashion trend—its utilitarian function (ie. warmth and comfort) defies the fashion week photocopy. Its core pillar is function without the fuss, and that’s unfamiliar territory for most.
It’s also what makes it most appealing—the small notion of adventure that comes with being dressed to brace the elements. It’s powerful enough to transport your thoughts to territories unknown, of experience outside the city blocks. I have no shame in admitting that immediately after watching Free Solo I googled ‘how to climb Mt. Everest.’ And when I realized that I met none of the prerequisites (surprise, my goal was a tad lofty) did what any self-respecting adult would do: went out and bought some really expensive trekking gear with a small ounce of hope that someday my all-weather pants would take me beyond Bowery. And isn’t that just what fashion is meant to do? Inspire?
We like to think of ourselves as creators of fantasy; we like to think our garments can transcend physical form and bring us to another place, whether it’s as obvious as a tropical destination or as nebulous as confidence. As stripped down and pared back as gorpcore may be, it does just that. And hey, maybe your next adventure is closer than you think. Time to break out the nylon and carabiners.