Techwear, or more simply technical clothing, has become much more than just a trend. It has become popular thanks to the features it has developed to provide great comfort for the wearer. Fusing streetwear aesthetics with advanced functionality, techwear offers a wide range of garments to meet your most demanding needs.
The origins of techwear
Technical clothing has its roots in technological advances in the military sector. Frequently in contact with extreme conditions, the military were the first users to demand clothing combining functionality, resistance and comfort. It was the Second World War that saw the arrival of nylon in army equipment for the manufacture of ropes and parachutes. This marked the beginning of a technological leap forward, with this new material providing the military equipment industry with a new fetish material. It was possible to save weight and volume. This new material, used to make nylon stockings, would later be used to modernise much of the military equipment that had previously been more rudimentary.
In the post-war period, military clothing and accessories such as cargo trousers, jackets and other equipment became available at low cost in surplus shops. They appealed to this new audience because of their robustness and functionality. The democratisation of nylon in the civilian sector led to the development of outdoor leisure equipment. Nylon, which is widely used in the army, is becoming more and more popular, and outdoor equipment manufacturers, who are very keen on hard-wearing components, have started to incorporate this material into their production.
Techwear: the fusion of streetwear and technology
The 80s and 90s saw the birth of the street wear movement, with the various emerging subcultures sparking a craze for top-of-the-range clothing. Brands such as Ralph lauren, Nautica, Tommy hilfiger, The north face, etc. were all part of this trend. Intended to equip the wealthy during their boating or mountain holidays, they have become the clothing of choice for djs, rappers, taggers, skateboarders and others who spend a lot of time on the streets. Constantly on the lookout for unique pieces, a veritable cult has sprung up around these high-quality clothing labels, with their generally flashy colours and cutting-edge technology. The technical characteristics of the garments are convincing in their ability to withstand the toughest conditions, whether in the mountains or in the city. Their enduring presence in the street culture of the time led to a massive public response, and they became veritable symbols of streetwear. Over the years, a number of labels took notice and embraced this trend, indirectly contributing to the birth of the streetwear movement. They began to offer more and more items in this style. We can say that this period created what we now call street wear.
Techwear: cargo trousers, hooded jacket, sweatshirt.
Over the years, as technology has evolved, specialist clothing manufacturers have started to offer even more advanced products. Thanks to even more technically advanced materials and constructions, comfort and functionality have been increased, and the weight of jackets, trousers and other equipment has been reduced to an extreme minimum for optimised practicality and space-saving.
The arrival of fleece and various types of nylon on the market has revolutionised the textile industry and the way we dress for cold climates. These innovative new synthetic materials are famous for their incredible ability to retain heat and protect against wind and water. These materials offer increased protection without adding extra weight, they are also breathable and allow moisture to evaporate, making them an ideal choice for intense activities. Admittedly, these garments don’t come cheap, but they do boast some serious technical features that will make you forget all about the money you’ve spent, thanks to the added comfort.
The different trends in techwear:
The techwear spectrum is divided into several categories, but there are no clear boundaries between these trends that allow us to categorise each brand. We can identify the following trends, among others:
Outdoor / military techwear:
This category includes top-of-the-range garments developed by specialist labels. They are designed to cope with extreme weather conditions in activities such as military missions, mountaineering, hiking or camping. They benefit from the latest technical advances, offering freedom of movement and protection from the wind or cold, while taking up very little space.
Designer clothing with technical fabrics is intended to be worn around town. They are distinguished by their designs, the components used, the functionalities they offer, their conception and their manufacturing process. Massimo Osti, the creator of Stone Island, is a prime example of the urban techwear aesthetic. His strong vision, as well as the time and energy he has invested since its creation, has led to the development of unique materials and dyeing processes, making Stone island one of the pioneers of urban techwear.
This fringe focuses on the futuristic aspect of techwear, using innovative cuts and yokes. The noble side of this style offers ultra-functional, avant-garde pieces. It represents the fusion of advanced design with contemporary aesthetics, creating a new approach to technical clothing. Acronym is at the forefront of this trend.
At the same time, it’s not uncommon to see so-called ‘techwear’, futuristic, cyberpunk pieces of low quality that capitalise solely on the aesthetic side of the trend, to the detriment of quality. There are lots of straps, utility pockets and zips with no real function other than aesthetics. Clothes in this sub-family are often associated with futuristic, cybergoth and cyberpunk inspirations.
What you need to know:
Japanese culture has also influenced the techwear movement. The Japanese have a keen sense of minimalism and clean aesthetics, thanks to a long tradition of technological innovation and cutting-edge design. They have a remarkable ability to combine functionality and fashion. The cuts are often sleek and functional, emphasising silhouette and mobility. Japanese culture has also brought conceptual influences to the movement. The concept of “Wabi-sabi” celebrates imperfection and the beauty of the ephemeral. This is reflected in certain techwear pieces that take on an aged or worn look, giving them a lived-in style and feel.
The Japanese have a preference for loose-fitting outfits, which offer greater freedom of movement and functionality. The Japanese culture of technical outdoor clothing combines a philosophy of comfort and practicality with an organised and tidy approach. This unique combination of style and organisation contributes to the popularity of technical clothing in Japan and the recognition of their distinct outdoor clothing culture.
How do you adopt the techwear style?
Technical clothing was born out of needs, constraints and restrictions. The phrase “function defines form” helps us to understand the philosophy of this trend, which aims to increase user comfort. This information will give you a better understanding of this trend so that you can put together an effective garment.
In the mountains
Ideally, for mountain activities, it is advisable to use the layering system for optimum insulation during effort as well as at rest or in your tent. It’s important to choose lightweight, quick-drying materials for optimum comfort.
These layers are :
1 – The base layer or second skin in natural (merino wool) or synthetic material will insulate you while allowing perspiration to pass through. It must be able to dry quickly.
2 – The middle layer provides additional insulation and helps retain body heat. You can choose a fleece, a merino wool jumper or a down jacket. This layer should be light, breathable and allow good freedom of movement.
3 – The outer layer is the first line of protection against rain, wind or snow. This layer must be waterproof and windproof, while allowing good breathability to evacuate body moisture. Waterproof and breathable hiking jackets or trousers, generally in Gore-Tex, Pertex or similar technology, are used as the outer layer.
City dwellers also need techwear because of their active lifestyles. Getting around town can be a trying experience, with public transport, sudden changes in temperature, rain and wind all factors to consider. Techwear offers a practical and functional solution for these situations. The materials used are breathable, hard-wearing and quick-drying, keeping you dry and comfortable throughout the day for an enhanced city experience.
It is therefore advisable to use the layer system in a lighter version, as the performance requirements are less stringent in urban environments than in the mountains, so you can complement your outfit with technical pieces that place greater emphasis on design and aesthetics.
In short, techwear meets the needs of city dwellers by offering a balance between style, functionality and comfort, whether it’s for coping with the vagaries of the weather, adapting to changes in temperature or staying comfortable when out and about. Techwear offers a practical and aesthetic solution for dynamic city dwellers.
The benefits of techwear
The benefits of techwear
The materials used for technical clothing are based on cutting-edge technologies. Ripstop fabric is favoured for technical clothing and accessories because of its maximum resistance to tearing and abrasion. It’s lightweight, comfortable and takes up very little space, making it an ideal choice for hard-wearing garments.
Waterproof, breathable techwear.
The technologies developed over the years have enabled an evolution in the quality of materials that has nothing to do with its beginnings. Nylon has replaced waxed cotton cloth, resulting in considerable weight savings and a tenfold increase in the hydrophobic properties of fabrics. The arrival of Gore Tex (PTFE) membranes has made it possible to create revolutionary garments that allow perspiration to pass through while being totally waterproof, which was not the case previously. Waterproof outfits comprising a hooded jacket and Gore Tex trousers are now an essential part of any high-mountain outing.
Techwear brands at graduate
At Graduate, you’ll find a selection of labels offering products for outdoor or urban use. Come and see us in shop for advice on finding the right product for your needs. But before you do, here’s a brief description of the brands we offer to give you a better understanding of our range.
-Arcteryx is the leader in specialist clothing. The brand invests a great deal of energy and resources in research and development to develop the most advanced technical clothing available today. They benefit from a privileged partnership and use high-quality Gore tex fabric for their products.
-Stone island is a clothing brand that has set itself apart thanks to a highly advanced design process. They have developed fabrics with unique characteristics as well as dyeing processes to offer a spectrum of colours exclusive to their laboratory.
-Wildthings Japan offers a range of items inspired by military and outdoor style, incorporating technologies such as Primaloft and X-pac.
-Battenwear makes items inspired by the American outdoor style of the 70s. The jacket in traditional 60/40 fabric (cotton/nylon) is a perfect example. The 60/40 fabric was one of the first ‘naturally’ water-resistant fabrics to appear on the technical textiles scene.
-Coldbreaker makes fleece jackets and scarves in tartan wool from the Irish company Yoko Wool. Their products offer great thermal properties.
-Crecent down works has been making down-filled goose feather jackets locally in the USA since the 1970s, in the tradition of technical clothing from the American north-west.
-Danner Boots is an American brand renowned for making quality footwear for over 85 years. Their iconic “Mountain Light” model is known for its robustness, comfort and exceptional durability thanks to a Vibram sole and high-quality assembly.
Elmer by swany specialises in the manufacture of high-quality woollen gloves.
Goldwin Japan offers highly technical, high-quality clothing as well as a more lifestyle and casual dimension, all made in Japan. It incorporates materials such as Gore Tex, Pertex and Cordura.
-Hoka One One manufactures shoes for trail running, hiking and more urban pursuits. They feature wide soles with extremely powerful cushioning and low weight.
Houdini is a Swedish brand of high-performance clothing for mountain sports. They use technologies such as Primaloft, Spinner Ripstop and Tencel.
-Kavu is known for its elastic cap, which makes practical pieces for urban activities and outdoor sports.
-Mackie makes wool and angora hats and scarves made in Scotland.
Manastash offers functional outdoor products for Japan made from eco-responsible materials.
Merell 1trl is known for its high-performance, comfortable footwear for hiking, running and trekking. Some models feature Vibram soles or Gore-tex membranes.
Satta is a London-based brand that makes functional, comfortable footwear with a minimalist style, natural tones and durable materials.
-Timberland has always been renowned for making leather boots for lumberjacks, and now offers a variety of robust models for different types of use.
Wildthing japan makes high-performance garments inspired by historic American military outfits. They use materials such as nylon made by fabric designer Daiichi Orimono.
More and more present in the urban landscape, from the Parisian metro to the fashion week shows, it is not uncommon to see pieces and outfits with a “technical” appearance. Techwear is a complex style, difficult to understand and master. In this article, we’ll take a quick look at its origins, diversity, and a look at our selection at Graduate.
Techwear, its origins
During the 1970s, outdoor activities became widely democratized thanks to, among other things, mountaineering, climbing, or trekking. The environment and weather conditions specific to these activities being very specific, the development of new clothing and technologies is quickly felt in the world of outdoor clothing.
The year 1970 also marked the discovery of a company called W.L Gore & Associates, unveiling the first-ever waterproof membrane that allowed water vapor to pass through, Gore-Tex®. This revolution in the outdoor landscape will give rise to all-new clothing and equipment that is far more suited to the demanding conditions of outdoor activities.
The years go by and the offering of techwear brands is growing more and more to finally be the ones we know. Nowadays, it’s almost commonplace to wear a windproof jacket or a pair of shoes with water-repellent treatment without even thinking about the technological advances behind its products.
Defining and understanding techwear
To popularize and define what techwear is, we can say that it is a type of utilitarian garment featuring a reflection on very specific materials or cuts, even including advanced technologies. All the cycles of research & development, creation and production of the garment are moving away from traditional methods, or at least tend to modernize to meet contemporary challenges related to new lifestyles and consumption, in constant evolution.
Nevertheless, a technical garment is not defined solely by its assembly in an unusual fabric or because it has various details. A pair of jeans or a trenchcoat will not have the same functionality as climbing pants or a shell jacket. In the techwear universe, the cut responds above all to specific issues, its practical and utilitarian aspect, the longevity of the garment, are also elements that will greatly condition the creation process.
Technical fabrics and specifics
Researching and developing new materials in the techwear sphere is a complex but paramount task. The fabrics or materials thus developed are subjected to a whole battery of tests. Water repellent, thermal, insulating properties, and in some cases even fire resistance, are rigorously tested until convincing results are obtained.
From this long process of development emerge fabrics that are widely used in industry today. When we think of techwear materials, it’s likely that Gore-Tex® comes directly to mind. Its low cost, ease of application and insulating properties make this membrane one of the stars of outdoor clothing.
Other companies have since ventured into the manufacture and production of technical fabrics, with this market experiencing significant growth in recent decades. The Dutch company Sympatex -and their patented fabric of the same name- is, for example, a premium version of Gore-Tex with improved insulating and thermal properties.
In the second half of the 1980s, Ripstop fabric would see the light of day and become very successful. This synthetic fabric, realized in a mesh of variable size and result of a very particular arrangement of the threads of warp and weft, allows the realization of a fabric as light as resistant. This fabric will moreover be highly prized in the military corps for the realization of combat suits.
Other companies have also become experts in the creation of technical fabrics, we think for example of Pertex, Neoshell and their Polartec® or Schoeller with the C_Change, waterproof and windproof membrane. The list is of course not exhaustive, due to the great proliferation of studies in the field.
Some must-have techwear brands
So, for this end of the year and the arrival of the cold seasons, here are some of the best pieces to stay perfectly dry even during a category 3 hurricane.
Stone Island military design and technology
The Italian label Stone Island founded by Massimo Osti in 1982 offers a wide range of technical clothing inspired by the military world. Today the Italian house is a reference in the techwear world thanks to the use of their Membrana or the addition of Kevlar in some of their fabrics. Two pieces of this winter drop illustrate well the know-how of the label, not only in technical terms, but also in terms of refinement and aesthetics.
The G0123 sleeveless down jacket V0015 mattone is a sleeveless down jacket. Carefully crafted in the LAB of the Italian label, its red / rust shade stands out at first glance. Made of nylon, both light and subtle, it features various exterior pockets, a retractable hood and small snap patches.
On the other side, we’re going to find the 42 223 hooded jacket v0029 in its Nero shade. Also made of a soft and light nylon, this jacket is an excellent windbreaker coupled with a very good protection against the weather. Its ribbed edges, zipper closure and four front pockets and material make it a decidedly technical piece, and moreover so beautiful and easy to wear!
Arc’Teryx, nature honored
Arc’Teryx is a Canadian brand that was born in North-Vancouver in 1989. Its creator being a great lover of mountain and climbing, the brand naturally specializes in the manufacture of clothing and equipment adapted to these practices. Since its creation, the brand with the archaeopteryx has never stopped innovating and developing products with a high degree of technicality, being among the references in their field.
Originally, the label was highly regarded for its expertise in bags and mountain gear. If their range of accessories has become over the years a staple of the label (we particularly appreciate the Mantis pannier and the Granville bag, both present in our catalog), the Canadians have nevertheless not neglected their clothing production.
Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Proton, Koda, shell or insulated jackets, Lite or AR versions, Arc’teryx’s extremely rich and well-supplied catalog offers something for a wide variety of outdoor activities.
Among Norte selection, The Atom lt hoody is halfway between a jacket and a hoodie. This nylon jacket incorporates Coreloft technology in the middle layers, ensuring insulation and waterproofing. It’s space-saving and very lightweight, and is easy to wear as both an underlayer and a jacket.
You can also find other pieces in our stores such as the Gamma mx hoody or the Covert hoody which are also must-haves of the genre.
Goldwin, the Japanese techwear
Japan 1951, the country was then in the midst of post-war reconstruction. It was during this period that Goldwin was born. Before becoming the techwear brand we know today, Goldwin was a sportswear manufacturer specializing in the production of socks. Between 1975 and 1978, the Japanese label obtained successively the distribution rights of Champion and The North Face on the Japanese territory. These distribution rights allowed Goldwin to have a major role in the development of Japanese collections for both brands.
Today, techwear made by the Japanese brand features exemplary finishing quality and a Japanese style all their own, directly inspired by board sports like skiing and snowboarding. Among our selection, we will be able to find Diverse Down jackets that testify to these inspirations.
The Diverse Down Jacket is made from Gore-Tex infinium technology. When it was designed, the focus was clearly on comfort, lighter and more flexible than the classic Gore-Tex, the infinium technology allows a clear improvement in breathability and comfort in dry weather, at the expense of waterproofness. This makes this down jacket an excellent, breathable windbreaker that is fun to wear.
For this FW21 season, the label’s know-how is also expressed through half-zip fleeces in microfleece, water-repellent pants available in several colors, a cardigan… among others.
What about the others?
While some brands have made techwear the central element of their development, it is nonetheless increasingly common to find more technical inspirations within labels that were hardly or never expected to be in this field.
We can think of the brand Edwin, already excellent in the work of denim fabric, which now offers a very good ripstop pants, the Federal Jacket in stretch denim, or the label NN07 and their pants in a polyamide / spandex mix as well as their technical overshirts in nylon.
If you’re already familiar with techwear and want to wear beautiful, utilitarian, vintage-inspired clothing, turning to Battenwear is definitely a good option. This New York based label was founded in 2001 by Japanese designer Shinya Hasegawa. Featured in their collection is a whole series of fleeces with Polartec® technology, or a Bouldering duck canvas Caramel pant that offers a cut studied for climbing and other outdoor activities.
A complete and complex clothing style, techwear places the utility of the garment at the heart of its concerns. More and more democratized and worn by all, we can now see techwear brands collaborating with other more traditional or streetwear labels, Arc’Teryx and Palace, Stone Island and New Balance or even The North Face with Supreme to name a few, in the pantheon of major players in contemporary ready-to-wear.