An Introduction to Techwear
An Introduction to Techwear
- Words Rocky Li
- Date May 25, 2016
The influence of techwear within the greater fashion industry is growing each year. The appeal of forward-thinking clothes that provide both utility and comfort is obvious, but the term techwear and all it entails can be intimidating to understand. A good place to start is to define the term itself. Techwear is clothing for everyday life with special fabric, construction and properties that allow for breathability, movement, water-resistance and comfort. There's way too much to unpack about techwear in this space alone, so consider this an introduction to the essentials.
The main appeal of techwear clothing and gear is that it can make life easier, whether it's being able to carry more stuff on a weekend trip or to stay dry in a downpour. Below are some of the major benefits that techwear items provide.
Water Resistance and Other Enhanced Properties
One of the main advantages that techwear provides is its water repellency. Everyone hates getting caught in the rain and techwear offers a comfortable and practical solution to this problem. The modern wave of technical garments owe a lot to the development of GORE-TEX. In 1969, co-inventors Wilbert L .Gore and Gore's Son Robert W.Gore discovered a method of stretching Teflon into a
thin, porous membrane that was able to repel liquid water while allowing water vapor to pass through. The material is designed to be a lightweight, waterproof fabric for all-weather use particularly on outerwear.
Gore-Tex remains the standard in water repellency and has the most brand recognition amongst the major waterproof textiles. Some notable competitors to Gore-Tex include eVent, HyVent (Developed by North Face) and H2No (Proprietary to Patagonia). Gore-Tex has further diversified its brand by releasing variants of it's popular textile, including Paclite, and Wind Stopper (which is an insulating wind-breaking layer for colder temperatures).
Outside of water repellency there are dozens of synthetic fabrics which can offer differing properties including, but not limited to: stretch, odor resistance, abrasion resistance, and reflectiveness.
Range of Motion and Comfort
While most pants and garments are cut to standard patterns, techwear challenges convention by designing patterns with the movement of the human body in mind. Anatomical design takes these factors in mind and a common construction method to achieve this is by using articulated joints, usually through darting at the knee or inner elbow. These allow the wearer to move freely without the fabric fraying or pulling at key points. Acronym has gone to the extent of showing martial arts movements performed in their garments in some of the their product videos.
Of course another aspect of comfort beyond movement is breathability. In techwear terms this means letting sweat and heat escape so the wearer doesn't feel clammy in the garments. It isn't enough for a jacket to keep the wearer dry on the outside, it should allow the wearer to stay at a comfortable temperature while wearing it.
Now that we often carry multiple devices and their respective chargers with us, techwear items are often well-considered with the storage they supply. Whether through simple designs such as zippered pockets or more elaborate solutions such as removable modular attachments. The combination of the waterproof fabrics and well-designed carrying capacity mean that you can carry more and worry less. Bags and backpacks often benefit from useful details such as laptop sleeves and inner pockets/compartments.
Within techwear, there are key categories of items that every brand will produce.
Jackets are probably what come to mind first when you think of techwear. These are split into two types - hardshell and softshell.
Hardshells provides the most weather protection and are fully windproof, waterproof and breathable. They provide a versatile outer layer that wearers can layer underneath. In heavier downpours and snowy conditions, hardshells are the way to go.
Softshells have a DWR (durable waterproof coating) that repels light precipitation, like snow or drizzle, and for winter sports. Softshell jackets often emphasize comfort, breathability and movement (compared to the crunchy texture of hardshells) but don't provide the level of environmental protection that hardshells do.
Mid-layers generally serve the function of keeping the wearer warm underneath a shell. These can take many different forms from down vests to hoodies to insulating shirts and fleeces. Some pieces will have removable mid-layers and liners that can be swapped in and out of shells, usually through some type of zipper or buttoning system.
Base layers are all about moisture wicking. They are intended to be right against your skin and keep you dry. You are probably familiar with these layers from their athletic wear equivalents - Nike DriFit and Adidas Climacool come to mind.
While techwear pants haven't caught on as much as shells have, they are a growing segment of the market. Even denim giants Levi's put out a moisture wicking 'commuter' pant for biking that allow free and easy movement while on the go. Pants in this segment usually bring about a mix of water repellency, breathability, stretch and extra/deep pockets. ACRONYM has brought some interesting features to their pants including a modular system allowing wearers to add and remove pouches for even more carrying capacity.
Footwear and Accessories
Nike and Adidas have both been pushing the envelope when it comes to innovative forward thinking designs. All the major sneaker companies have experimented now with everything from knit materials to sock liners and water resistant materials. The Nike ACG line has designed sneakers and boots with outdoors activities and function in mind.
Techwear accessories have also evolved to help a person carry their everyday items. Bags will have compartments for smartphones, laptops and ipads. Durability and ease of use is top of mind for designers working on bag and belt designs.
Techwear isn't easy to jump into headlong, but because of the minimalist, versatile nature of the garments, there is plenty of room for experimentation. One can pick up a pair of pants or a shell to complement an existing wardrobe and slot that piece in seamlessly. However, to capture the full techwear aesthetic, there are a few common elements. Although there are brands and individual pieces with colors and pattern, most people associate darker, more muted shades with the techwear vibe. Since most of the fabrics are highly technical, there is typically a lack of strong branding in the pieces, and most opt for a streamlined, slim look that is both functional and stylish. Taped seams are present and you can find various straps and buckles to help shape garments in different ways. Most guys you'll see in full techwear tend to look mysterious and brooding, utilizing the faux-masks and hoods found on many garments. However, one can easily complement a darker, gothic-streetwear look with a technical piece of outerwear, or throw a shell on top of a more basic menswear fit. It's easy to understand the growth in the popularity of techwear due to both the aforementioned versatility and palette.
Brands to Look out For:
There are many brands now in the techwear space. Even within the realm of technical garments there's a range of different categories from athletic wear to outdoor/hiking inspired gear. Here are some of my favorite labels in the space that cater towards a fashion-forward audience.
The offshoot label from Adidas translates Yohji's signature aesthetic to an athleticwear context.
Nike revamped it's ACG line last year. While the line originally focused more on hiking and outdoors lifestyle, the sportswear giant brought in ACRONYM founder Errolson Hugh to help re-focus the line on sports utility in the city.
If your wardrobe leans towards vintage and workwear stuff, Ten C offers some of the advantages of technical shells with a vintage military look. Familiar silhouettes like the M65 are constructed with a knitted nylon/polyester micro-fiber which provides water resistance and will mold to your body to fit better over time.
Stone Island and Shadow Project
Stone Island has been a stalwart label in Europe for the past three decades. More recently they've gained a following amongst streetwear heads through their collaborations with Supreme. For those looking for a more dedicated aesthetic Stone Island Shadow Project is a great option. The Shadow Project line is home to their most forward thinking designs and newest tech and was also designed with the help of Errolson Hugh.
The other Italian line from designer Massimo Osti, C.P Company takes heavy inspiration from vintage military gear. The line's most iconic piece is the Goggle Jacket which features clear lenses on the hood and on the wrist (design details that appear frequently in the line).
Brooklyn-based Outlier has made a name for itself by creating minimal easy-to-wear garments that last. Their most popular item is the OG pant that will stay dry in a downpour and still offer great comfort for everyday wear.
Veillance is Arc'Teryx's high end fashion-forward line. The designs are extremely minimal, slim cut and can stealthily fit into pretty much any guy's wardrobe. Look out for details like taped seams and innovative fabrics.
Berlin based Bagjack makes some of the best technical bags around. The detail oriented designs blend construction quality with thoughtful pocket placement and sturdy hardware.
Designer Yosuke Aizawa focuses on color and patterns for his White Mountaineering line. The hard-shells from the Japanese label are generally highly stylized and feature colorful designs and prints. If you aren't into the typically monochrome designs from most tech wear brands, White Mountaineering can pair great with items from designer labels like Junya Watanabe, CdG and Thom Browne.
If your wardrobe skews towards dressing up and not down, then Herno is a great option. Their pieces have a luxury designer look but don't compromise on the technical features and details they provide.
ACRONYM is one of the most progressive forces in techwear. They aim to be as uncompromising as possible with all the features they pack into each piece. There's definitely a learning curve to purchasing and styling ACRONYM but if you are serious about techwear, it'll be time well spent.
I hope you found this introduction to techwear helpful. There's so much to explore within this genre of clothing and this guide just scratches the service. Feel free to mention more elements you favor in the discussion section below. It's worthwhile to take some time shopping around to find pieces that work with your current wardrobe instead of against it. The confidence that comes with having a proper tech shell in your wardrobe is certainly worth the investment in time and money.