OUTdoors IN style?

9:49 a.m. on December 7, 2007 (EST)
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Just wondering if any of you had noticed the trend of people around my age (20s) wearing clothes from outdoors companies. Since I'm in college, I see a lot of it. I have to laugh every time I go to Outdoors, Inc. (my favorite outdoors store in Memphis), because I'll see the other college-agers (or however you spell that) going through the North Face and Arc'tery'x jackets, not worrying about the materials that they're paying for, or the performance capabilities of the item, but more worried about if they'll match a pair of shoes in their closet or something. I also, admittedly, get jealous, since I don't have the funds to have as much "gear" as they do. At my school, Chacos and Keens have become very popular, and I probably see about 30 pairs a day. Of course, some of these people wearing them are actually outdoors enthusiasts, but not most or many. I've always thought this sort of thing is funny, whether or not it's about outdoors gear. I still laugh at kids who go into Hot Topic and buy everything that the store tells them is cool, without understanding what they're supporting. My favorite is when the kids end up wearing a Christian band's t-shirt, and try to make fun of me for going into the store in jeans and a t-shirt. You should see the looks on their faces when I tell them what they're wearing.

Just so you know, I don't have a problem with people wearing outdoors gear as a fashion decision, I just think that it's funny. I'm sure that a lot of them know what they're wearing, but it's still funny to me. I would never shorten the life span of my gear by wearing it around in day to day use. What do you guys think about this?

12:55 p.m. on December 7, 2007 (EST)
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ck,
This isn't exactly a new trend. Back in the 60s and 70s, we used to see lots of students (I was a university professor back then) carrying full-size expedition packs with who knows what in them. The current status of REI and EMS (and others) as fashion shops started somewhere before 1970. Before that, REI had a single store (Polk Street in Seattle, long since moved out of there) and a warehouse, selling imported climbing gear and army surplus stuff, and EMS had a single shop in North Conway (still in the same location, but much expanded). Eddie Bauer was the premier manufacturer of expedition soft goods (sleeping bags, a few tents, expedition-level down parkas). And people like Gerry Cunningham (Gerry expedition tents), Holubar, etc etc were selling only to hard core climbers and backpackers. Somewhere around 1970 (+/- a couple years), college kids adopted the rugged outdoor look (note I say "look"), and the shops realized that there was more profit in what had now become fashionable clothing than in the real gear. Most of the names have either been absorbed by big corporations or have become Yuppie clothing shops.

It isn't just the college kids that have adopted this clothing style. Their parents, who grew up in the 60s and 70s (the Boomers!), have continued to wear this style, although now in fashionable colors and patterns, not the old limited number of colors (frequently tans, greens, browns, but yellows, reds and blues for expedition use where visibility is an issue). Look at the travellers in the airports - a large fraction of the "luggage" is backpacks (though rollarounds currently dominate, as the Boomers get older and don't like to carry the heavy packs).

Oh, and you are mistaken about it shortening the life span of the gear - very few of these people (college age or the Boomers) actually use the gear in the outdoors. And they get new stuff every season as the new styles come out, so life span does not matter. I will never forget my shock at the first couple of Outdoor Retailer Shows I went to when a couple of the sock manufacturers (they were the Famous Name ones, at that) showed me the latest colors of socks for the next season in response to my question of "what's new in your line?" Hey, I wear my socks inside my boots. Who cares what the color is, since you can't see them anyway?

2:07 a.m. on December 10, 2007 (EST)
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Sadly enough, I witnessed lots of this today. I spent some good time at REI, watching most the people come in just to purchase clothing.

I was with my girlfriend shopping for my winter hiking boots and trying to get her some good cold-weather gear for camping.

Everybody there was walking around wearing outdoor gear, on a sunday inside the store.

3:01 a.m. on December 10, 2007 (EST)
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This subject comes up periodically and it is a complete mystery why anyone cares. There is a big North Face store in Beverly Hills, right across from Nate & Al's on Beverly and it is a great place to wander into and try on jackets,gloves, etc. without being bothered. There is also a big Patagonia store in Venice on Main. If it wasn't for all the people who buy their clothes, those stores wouldn't be there and the companies would have less money for R&D. If you don't like seeing a down jacket in some trendy color, don't buy it.

I'm glad REI sells clothes by the containerload. Without selling tons of clothes that never get returned, how long do you think they would keep their "no questions asked" return policy? Go to the scratch and dent sale-the returns are almost all camping or sports gear. Clothes pay the bills, earn the profits and enable stores like REI to stock items with a smaller margin and fewer sales.

9:38 a.m. on December 10, 2007 (EST)
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The reason why I care is:

I don't have much money. Graduated from college last May and looking for a good job. When "trendy" people go to buy clothes they usually have a lot of money to spend. Those "trendy" people then drop tons of money on decent outdoor wear and some not-so-decent stuff.

REI like any other fine American Retailer, sees that their product has become fashionable and also realized that they can raise the prices (sometimes drastically) and still sell as much goods.

So in short, the price goes up and I can't afford to be outdoors safely anymore.

10:18 a.m. on December 10, 2007 (EST)
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You don't need the latest refinements in outdoor clothing in order to "be outdoors safely." Most of my winter clothing is wool, much of it army surplus or third-markdown after-season purchases; some of it was made in 1953, the year I was born. None of my clothing is TNF or any other brand available at REI, with the exception of my OR gaiters, which I cherish, or my Serius fleece balaclava, which is very cozy in sub-zero winds.

I'm not knocking the high-tech stuff; I enjoyed wearing my son's TNF Gore-tex jacket, which is a very nice garment he has since reclaimed. However, you can outfit yourself quite economically without compromising your safety. You just won't look so trendy; I know I don't.

12:27 p.m. on December 10, 2007 (EST)
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Haze, I think you have the economics wrong-scale makes products affordable, not the other way around. A manufacturer who can spread the cost of designing, developing and marketing a tent, jacket or stove over many units can sell it for less than if it can only sell a few. This is why computers are now sold like toasters-they are just an appliance. How much do you think an IPod would cost if Apple only sold a few of them? The first cel phone I ever saw cost $2200. Now they give them away for free.

As far as Rexim's comment-he is right. My sleeping bag is about 20 years old. Granted, I haven't used it all that much, but the point is, they haven't changed all that much, except for outer materials like DryLoft. Mine works just fine. I have several stoves that are also about 20 years old-they also work just about as well as a newer version.

The more gear that is sold, the more gear that appears on websites like Sierra Trading Post, which sells overstock,last year's models, and items that just didn't sell well at retail. They sell mostly clothes. I see deals on new gear online all the time and lots of used gear on eBay and Craigslist. This includes clothes. I have bought two down parkas in the past couple of years. I didn't pay retail for either one. Both are TNF-one I got at a North Face outlet store at a substantial discount and the other I bought off eBay for just over half price. I have also gotten deals on snowshoes, insulated pants, stoves, a compass, a tent, a pack, ski bindings, ski boots and other miscellaneous stuff by spending time online. I rarely pay retail. You'd be surprised how many people buy stuff, use it a time or two, then decide either they don't like the item or don't like the hobby or sport.

The deals are out there, you just have to look for them. For example, spring is the best time to buy new winter gear, when the stores want to move their stock, but fall and early winter is the best time to find last year's winter gear on eBay because that's when the would-be skiers and snowboarders are selling off their lightly used skis, snowboards and winter clothes.

2:16 p.m. on December 10, 2007 (EST)
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These styles do go in cycles. In the 1970's, while in junior high school, one year everybody at school (including yours truely) started wearing hiking boots. These were all old school, heavy leather, waffle stomped types. In other words, perfect for walking around school. I had the knowledge and foresight to buy quality boots, Vasque Hiker II's, and sold them on ebay not long ago for nearly what I paid for them originally. To the extent folks are buying outerwear at REI or the North Face, at least they are getting a product that should last some years and will perform well in nasty weather.

3:51 p.m. on December 10, 2007 (EST)
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I beleive computers are sold fast and in high ammounts because of the competitive market. I am not saying outdoor gear is not competitive, but as compared to computers I don't think that it is a legit comparison.

Also never underestimate the drive of American Capitalism.

You could be right as well though. I am no econ major, nor have I ever taken a class on econ.

It just seems to me, that a wool jacket shouldn't be around $120.

Also a fleece sweater with a quater zip should never be around $50-$80. Thats about $5 worth of material.

In short perhaps its not the wannabie trendy yuppies that are driving the prices high. Its all those out-door enthusiast that wear their out door gear, even when getting groceries. (NOTE: SARCASIM)

5:44 p.m. on December 10, 2007 (EST)
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I'm a CPA and have had a bunch of econ courses. A wool jacket costs $120 because that's what people will pay for one in a competitive marketplace. Same with the fleece top. Along the way various people make money at that price point.

At retail a North Face fleece jacket costs more than a Columbia fleece jacket which costs more than a Campmor branded fleece jacket. For the most part, not entirely, the quality is the same (or at least similar) as is the cost of production and materials. If you want to save money you buy Campmor, if you want to be stylish you buy the North Face. With the North Face product you are buying a status symbol, not a jacket, that's the difference.

5:56 p.m. on December 10, 2007 (EST)
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alan,

Thank you. This was what I was getting at. REI - Sports Chalet - Big5 are all the sporting goods stores that are close to me that I know of. So going there to actually feel and try on the items is important. If I find something I like, I go home look it up on the internet and try to find it cheaper.

Those being the only stores that I know of around here, it makes buying something "sight-unseen" to be risky.

3:03 a.m. on December 11, 2007 (EST)
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Haze, sounds like you are in CA somewhere. I have all three, plus A16 near me. You and Alan make a good point-known brands can command a premium price far above the intrinsic value of the item. But at the same time, I'm not sure how much that effect appears in outdoor gear. I think Patagonia stuff is overpriced, but obviously, if people are willing to pay those prices, then that's just my opinion.

EBay is as close to the perfect market as you will find-nothing sells there for more than what someone is willing to pay.

A lot of the "house brand" gear is just as good as TNF or the other names, but much of the cheap stuff you find at the big box stores, just isn't because it is made in China for pennies on the dollar and the quality isn't there. That is true of lots of things.

Alan's point about price is also true. If there wasn't a market for $500 sleeping bags, for example, Western Mountaineering and Feathered Friends wouldn't be making them.

9:47 a.m. on December 11, 2007 (EST)
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One aspect of modern life I find fascinating is the global capacity to over produce consumer goods. This over production is what leads to Sierra Trading Post, Campmor, REI Outlet, Ebay and many others. It's great for the consumer as we can buy goods for a lot less than at regular retail by being patient and waiting for online deals.

I've found that the higher priced brands are generally of better quality than the more generic brands. For example, Patagonia clothing is indeed a cut above most other brands. That said, the quality difference alone is not enough to justify the higher prices, a large part of the higher price is just in the brand name. My Patagonia clothing is from thrift stores.

11:11 a.m. on December 11, 2007 (EST)
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With all that said and done. This thread has taught me about campmor. I site that I hadn't previously come across. I will be using that to accent REIOUTLET and Sierra Trading Post - two which I already frequent. Also heading to a couple Army Navy surplus stores in the area.

Tom D - I live in Sacramento CA.

5:09 p.m. on December 11, 2007 (EST)
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Haze, My dad lives in Sacto. I'll be up there at Christmas for about a week. I've been to the REI's at Arden and Folsom,the Sport Chalet on Watt and that place on Watt with the kayaks out front south of the mall. I also try to hit the outlet mall at Folsom. Good place to pick up socks, underwear and shoes. I've seen decent boots in one of the stores and the Nike store has pretty good deals on running shoes. I got a cheap fleece jacket up there too, can't remember where.

There used to be a North Face outlet at the big outlet mall in Vacaville (I think that's where that mall is-down past Davis), but I think it is long gone.

5:44 p.m. on December 11, 2007 (EST)
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Ahh okay.

Yeah I've hit up the outlets. I picked up an excellent fleece jacket at Ross for $15.99. Very warm and lined as well for added warmth.

I've put together a small shopping list from campmor.com that a friend and I will be buying stuff together (to save on shipping costs). It seems to be a really decent website/company. I still am iffy, about buying a shirt, thats site-unseen though. Mainly because I have a longer narrow torso, yet my shoulders and chest are good sized. My arms are also long, so I wear a large in something and an extra large in others, while I can also (rarely) fit a medium.

6:45 p.m. on December 11, 2007 (EST)
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Regarding army surplus stores, you're often better off shopping online; some articles, like M 1951 wool shirts and field pants, are rare in stores but can be ound online. Also, the prices are often better online.

8:01 p.m. on December 11, 2007 (EST)
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Is Steve the Folkie still around? I remember the days BillS talks about. I was an undergrad. It was considered cool to walk down Charles St. on a snowy night all decked-out for Mt. Washington to have a few brews on Ladies Night at Fathers.

1:00 p.m. on December 20, 2007 (EST)
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I think Alan hit the nail on the head when he said "With the North Face product you are buying a status symbol, not a jacket, that's the difference." We see it also with Arcteryx, some with Mt. Hardwear and no as much with Patigonia as we used to. (I too live in Memphis and know exactly what cknipple is talking about.) This has been a trend among the college crowds since the early 70's to own a piece of TNF or other hight end outdoor clothing and will continue for some time. I get turned off when I walk into an outdoor equipment supply store and most of what they carry caters to the image crowd. I know and understand that is where the companys make most of thier money, but it is a pain the the butt when i have to sort through the crap to find what I want or to find they carry more image clothing than technical clothing. Sure my wife would look cute in a down jacket with faux fur trim, but on the trail its not practicle.

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