How The North Face Became Streetwear’s Favorite Outdoor Brand

How The North Face Became Streetwear’s Favorite Outdoor Brand

In recent years, luxury fashion and streetwear brands have latched onto the outdoor/utilitarian trend. That’s right, your dad’s REI staples are now officially cool. New York magazine dubbed the movement “gorpcore” for its outdoorsy spin on the normcore aesthetic.

But while brands like L.L. Bean and Eddie Bauer might be having a moment in “ugly chic” style, no one has risen to the top of this high-tech aesthetic quite like The North Face. That’s because the brand invented technical apparel and has been innovating in the biz for more than 50 years.

From The Beach To The Mountains

Ironically, The North Face (named for the coldest side of a mountain) had warm beginnings in San Francisco’s North Beach nabe. It was there that its hiking enthusiast founders decided to open a small mountaineering retail store in 1966.

Two years later, the company began designing and manufacturing its own brand of technical apparel and equipment. Over the decades that followed, it garnered a niche following among outdoor enthusiasts and hardcore athletes. In the late ’80s, it introduced Steep-Tech, which quickly became a favorite among elite skiers.

From The Mountains To The Streets

This most-recent resurgence isn’t The North Face’s first rodeo in street style. The Steep-Tech jacket was a favorite for Method Man in the 1990s, and Nuptse jackets were a must-have for teens stylish in New York City throughout the decade.

In 1995, the Denali fleece jacket took the world by storm, and the brand’s prominence grew beyond niche climbers and style-savvy teens. In the early aughts, no college student could be seen on campus without their North Face jacket. But by becoming mainstream, the brand distanced itself from its early adopters.

Streetwear And High-Fashion Collabs

To bring back its trend-setting status, The North Face launched an array of high-profile collabs for the fashion set. In 2020 alone, the brand has collabs slated with streetwear brands including Supreme, Brain Dead, and Extra Butter. The brand also just announced an upcoming collaboration with Gucci.

It also has a cult line sold only in Japan, called Purple Label, which features workwear-influenced designs that look even better in the city. And of course, there was the epic Junya Watanabe x The North Face backpack jacket in 2019.

Today, we’re here for both the brand’s retro styles and its more modern, urban takes on utilitarian design. After all, there’s some rough terrain out there.

Browse the entire collection of The North Face in Complex SHOP.