Whoever said that clothes can’t be fashionable and functional? Well, as far as 2018 fashion trends are concerned, that person could not be more wrong. Techwear has been on the rise for quite a while, but in 2018 it’s become less of a niche fashion style and more of a mainstream fit.
We’re now dawning on a new era, an epoch where comfort, flexibility and self-reliance trump mindless, exorbitant flamboyance.
The techwear aesthetic is heavily influenced by futurist artistic styles such as cyberpunk (think Blade Runner or Ghost in the Shell). In execution, most techwear falls into one of two categories: “grey” (sleek, understated, the amplified familiar) or “black” (striking, military-inspired, the future circa 1985).
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 simple color palette.
KEY TECHNICAL BENEFITS OF TECHWEAR
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.
Nobody likes getting caught in the rain and the water repellency of techwear clothing delivers a a comfortable and practical solution to this problem. This nifty concept goes as far back as 1969, when Gore-Tex was created. The brand’s co-inventors had discovered how to stretch Teflon into a thin, porous membrane that was waterproof while allowing water vapor to pass through. Over the years, water resistant clothing designs have evolved to what is on display today.
Depending on the industry or specific need, there are several synthetic fabrics that provide some form of enhancement to a piece of clothing. These include increased elasticity, scratch resistance, odor resistance, and almost brilliant 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 its garments in some of the its product videos.
This means the techwear garment is capable of letting sweat and heat escape so the wearer doesn’t feel sticky and clammy underneath. It is no longer enough to keep wearers dry on the outside, but should also allow them to be comfortable while wearing it.
Nowadays, there’s just so much to carry in preparation for the average day’s activities. From your mobile devices and power banks to headphones, car keys, wallets, and even water bottles; having garments that allow you to carry more stuff has become somewhat a necessity. Urban techwear designs have bridged that gap thanks to their zippered pockets, multi-compartment bags, and removable modular attachments, letting you carry more and worry less.
MASTER THE STYLE
Considering techwear’s uncompromising embrace the first two, its hefty price tag should come as no surprise.
But, if you’re ready to take the plunge, here’s all you need to know to master the techwear style:
First, start with the jacket. All great techwear outfits are built on outerwear, full stop. As a general rule, the best tech jackets are waterproof, durable, and designed for movement, ideally wrapped in a neutral color. In general, err towards GORE-TEX fabrics and zippers in key areas.
Second, build functional layers. The best tech jacket is only as good as what’s underneath. Our recommendation: go for a slouchy extended tee under a warm mid-layer, ideally a goose down jacket or high-tech fleece. In the outdoors industry, this is referred to as the “base-mid-shell” system.
First question: Why would anyone want to wear clothes with multiple layers? Aren’t they just going to sag, rub you the wrong way (quite literally) or feel like a burden during your entire waking time?
This is the first impression many fledglings get towards the style, not just the common Joe who has never seen a catwalk in his life, but pundits and experts from all walks of fashion.
The answer is a bit more convoluted than one might think: A combination of breathability (not just of the wear, but your damn skin too), water resistance and the extraction of any accumulated moisture.
To get a bit more into the science behind it all, let’s consider the three most popular ways of constructing common techwear apparel.
The Two-Layer Construction
Composed of an outer layer that is filled with fabric and an inner layer that resembles a laminated membrane.
The internal coating serves as the heart and soul of any techwear cloth, promising water resistance and air flow throughout the day.
The 2.5 Layer Construction
A toss-up between the first and the third option.
Where it loses on its durability and problems with upkeep, it shines with being much lighter and easier on the wallet.
The Three Layer Construction
The ‘saggiest’ choice of them all. Water resistance and air flow being the top priorities, its tripartite system allows for perfect flow.
Hardshells V.S Softshells
For the uninitiated, a shell represents any upper body piece of cloth that covers your undershirt/normal T-shirt , Many a Mr. Nobody settle for the term ‘jacket’, while not wrong, isn’t entirely right.Calling something a jacket just because it goes over a layer of clothing is plain wrong, but since our climate is balmy as it is (we aren’t living in a dessert or on the North Pole!), the ‘jacket tag’ is acceptable.
On to the two main distinctive forces between shells, which are nothing more but a simple dichotomy dictating the amount of protection you get from each type. Naturally speaking, this would mean that hardshells would be more expensive, corpulent, with impaired mobility (in lieu of their weight and when compared to softshells) and guaranteed breathability.
Softshells, on the other hand, suffers from depreciation, not so much the price tag itself (some brands, like ACRONYM, have high resell value and are often out of stock!), but the fact they can’t pull their weight as long as hardshells can.
However, this nifty little drawback gave designers a lot of scope for creativity, with softshells enjoying high prominence among athletes and outdoor hobbyists.
The Useless Mid-Layer
Are you over the top? Do you want to resemble a statue of high reverence? Settle for a mid-layer!
We’re just pulling your leg, a mid-layer is usually not needed to complete an outfit but is sometimes used to give that extra palette of enchantments many techwear styles miss. For example, the most popular adornment is simply known as the ‘down’, a small coating made out of feathers that aid in breathability and general mien.
Nobody Sees The Base
Respect for the bass guitar has always been hard to come by, many fans often flock to the riff player and the poor bass wielder never gets his time of the day. Quite conversely, just as a song can never sound the same without a steady bass complimenting it, you’ll never complete your outfit without a solid base.
Your underwear, socks, undershirts and other obscured pieces of clothing are there to provide a sense of comfort, as they stand as the first line of contact between skin and cloth.
Pants? What about Hardshells?
The most controversial thing about techwear has to be its versatility. How can a style dangle so dangerously high between two opposite poles and still be peddled as an ‘anti-fashion’ phenomenon.
Pants, while not gaining much traction in the manufacturing cycles, are becoming more and more sought after, especially by those transitioning from their former style and on to techwear.
Remember, you don’t have to do a 360 transformation when transitioning into techwear, baby steps are not only fine but preferable and this is where simple pants come in!
They outperform hardshells with their increased pocket amount, their biggest forte being ‘social acceptance’, as in, nobody is going to be flinging weird looks at you for settling with techwear!
Footwear – Blandwear
The one thing techwear really seems to waive is footwear. Instead of brandishing yet another unique apparition, enthusiasts are left to choose between sporty sneakers or bolstered shoes, the latter aimed at protecting your feet.
HOW TO INCORPORATE THE STYLE
Work constraints and the worry of standing out for the wrong reasons means that not everyone can pull off the full techwear style. But if you’d like to give it a try, a good place to start is by incorporating some of the distinct color palettes and functional advantages of techwear and building the rest of your ensemble around them. For instance, a pair of tech-style shoes, like the Urban Runner V – Techwear Shoes, can be the centerpiece of your look while a pair of black cargo joggers and a gray tee completes the tech appearance.
Let’s face it, not everyone is color coordinated so here are the most common techwear color palettes you can try bellow. I also included the hex codes for each option so you don’t have to type them in manually. Once you have an idea of what colors to go with it will be a lot easier to put together your wardrobe.
Black is a given. Camo greens are another option followed by beige and white in some instances.
Grey is another popular color in techwear. You can match grey with just about anything and looks great in urban environments.
You can also go with a browner yellowish style. It’s not as popular as the black/green combo but definitely wearable.
Reds and oranges are other options. These colors can be worn during the summer months. If your bike a commuter you may also benefit from brighter colors versus someone wearing all black.
Brands to Look out For:
There are vast varieties of techwear brands to look out for in the techwear space. Most of these brands have helped to populate the techwear community with their fashionable tech wears that range from athletic wear to hiking/outdoor-inspired gear. Here are some of the best techwear brands that provide unique offers to techwear enthusiasts.
Recently, the ACG line of Nike was overhauled. This brand focuses more on the outdoors and hiking lifestyle. The brand offers fantastic techwear pants, shoes, accessories and lots more.
Among the techwear brands, ACRONYM is one of the most progressive forces as they offer uncompromising features packed into each piece.
Techwear on a Budget
Generally, techwear is expensive to get into. The expensive end of techwear offer engineered garments with high-performance materials. However, the cheaper end of techwear can still offer good quality, but it requires a lot more effort. Uniqlo offers cheaper high-performance gear while other brands such as Maker & Riders, NIKE, Outlier sometimes offer less expensive techwear.
Enigmatic label CLOUDBURST is an emerging label that looks to establish the fashion genre as a lifestyle. Promoting the idea of TECH.LOSOPHY, the label’s garment releases offer a wide array of functional details that exist to aid the wearer in everyday life. Additionally, each and every CLOUDBURST garment is constructed of high-tech textiles that provide an advanced level of comfort that allows garments to be worn every day.
Ukraine-based Riot Division is an up and coming label that focusses on military-driven functional designs for the urban landscape. Referring to its wares as “functional uniforms for rebels of the modern metropolis,” the label offers garments that transform to meet the wearer’s needs. An improved jacket-anorak-bag, bilateral down-jacket, and cargo pants constructed of high-tech textiles are just some of the pieces that express the label’s advanced construction.
Offering a more tactical take on techwear, South Korean label 0608WEAR built its latest collection around tactical vests and convertible MOLLE bags. The vests and other tactical offerings are designed to be used in conjunction with the convertible bags, utilizing the MOLLE webbing and compartments to create unique wearable carrying options. The expansive carrying options are made to be worn in whatever orientation the wearer desires, making the carrying garments truly customizable.
KRAKATAU’s take on “urban techwear” is in the details, the label takes familiar designs and utilizes sealed seams, waterproof zippers and reflective accents to elevate garments functionality. A streetwear edge is what sets KRAKATAU apart from other techwear labels, as its garments offer a subdued futuristic aesthetic that effortlessly matches any wardrobe. With simple yet standout collections comprised of pants, T-shirts, longsleeves, jackets and footwear constructed of breathable, waterproof and windproof fabrics, the Saint Petersburg-based label ensures that wearers are ready for whatever the world throws at them.
4DIMENSION® is a Taiwan-based techwear label that is known for its assortment of utilitarian bag options. Drawing from military and outdoor equipment designs, the bags from the label all feature functional details and construction. The reflective ripstop fabric with DRW water-repellent finish, tactical ripstop heavy cotton, YKK AquaGuard® waterproof zippers, DURAFLEX buckle clip and FIDLOCK® magnetic buckles allow for easy everyday use. Additionally, 4DIMENSION® offers a range of garment range that looks to bring techwear and street culture together, by utilizing technical fabrics and finishes in the construction of established streetwear silhouettes.