WINTER IS HERE, which, in Palo Alto, means a hot coffee at Blue Bottle or Philz instead of iced. With the season, marked by the reign of Starbucks’ famous PSL and All Other Things Pumpkin™, comes a shift in fashion. People are retiring their Align Crop pants from Lululemon for the slightly longer version, the Align II, to accommodate the occasional drizzle.
More noticeably, brands such as Patagonia, North Face, Columbia, Timberland, and Hunter are emerging as the winter version of “athleisure,” the fashion trend of wearing gym clothes anywhere but to the gym. And like athleisure, outdoors-wear is all about maintaining an image.
These brands are expensive. That much is indisputable; for example, a fleece sweatshirt from Patagonia can retail for up to $120, or a pair of Birkenstock sandals costs as much as $225. These brands are characterized by their dedication to high-quality outdoors-wear, and the durability of their products. They prioritize functionality over form, creating upscale products that cost more to make and thus retail for more.
These brands exist in contrast to mass-producing retailers such as H&M, Forever 21, and Zara, companies whose goal is to churn out cheap imitations of runway trends that are fast, fashionable, and disposable.
Recently, these products have infiltrated street fashion, steadily growing in popularity as a piece of the “ugly-pretty” aesthetic, a style that reclaims the conventionally unattractive and turns it instead into the unconventionally attractive. In an area like the Silicon Valley, where the strongest winds gently waft napkins into compost bins and the most aggressive mountaineering sites are accessible via Uber, such hardy outdoors-wear hardly seems necessary. And yet, the rising popularity of Patagonia and similar brands has engendered a culture of “Patagucci,” where outdoors-wear becomes a couture-like status symbol.
Of course, there are the people who are genuinely outdoorsy, who hike and rock-climb in scenic mountain ranges in the fall. But Patagucci is the “fake it till you make it,” only without the intention of actually ever “making it.” It’s the “expensive-chic,” only without the “chic.” These brands are another way for rich people to show they’re rich without flaunting overt labels. They’re also a way to give the illusion of nonchalance and athleticism. Oh, this old thing? I could go hiking at any moment. In fact, I went to the Alps this summer. And yes, my hair just looks this good all the time. A Patagonia jacket is “effortlessly” outdoorsy the same way a messy bun requires twenty bobby pins, a can of hairspray, and at least two mental breakdowns to look like it just casually fell perfectly in place.
There’s an overall trend of trying to make trying look like it happened without trying, and Patagucci is just the latest manifestation. So zip up your Patagonia fleece, hike up your Hunter knee socks, and slip on your Timberlands, and brave the onslaught of this winter’s trends.
Lea is a junior this year, majoring in Communication. She enjoys acting, singing, and backpacking. In her free time she likes to collage and low-key bike. She's a member of SImps and a resident at French House, and loves both very very dearly.
By: Lisa Liu
Photography by: Meghan Sullivan