Report on Dreams and Reality in the Outdoors

A walk around downtown Stockholm on a usual fall or winter day reveals a multicolored procession of rain parkas and thick down jackets walking alongside the more urban leather jackets or overcoats. Clothing designed to meet the rigors of wilderness travel and survival, with its proliferation of colorful details and oversized hoods, pocket and zippers, has slowly but steadily found its way into the somewhat less extreme environment of the “urban jungle”.

People wrapped up in expedition-quality parkas on their way to school, work or the local coffee-shop are indeed not an uncommon sight in cities anymore. As the cliché goes, “there is more Gore-Tex on Kungsgatan than on Kungsleden1”, referring respectively to the famous outdoor brand,
a busy shopping street in Stockholm, and Sweden’s best-known long-distance wilderness trail.

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The fashion industry, perhaps best-known for its ability to quickly pick up trends and adapt its offerings thereafter, has not let these developments go unnoticed by. Today consumers can choose among a plethora of outdoor-inspired clothing items in the same retail outlets where they buy their regular everyday clothes.

Among the shelves of Hennes & Mauritz you can find down vests in trendy colors, at JC there are camouflage
pants with lots of pockets, and (faux) arctic exploration jackets and anoraks can be bought just up the street at NK. Even brands that traditionally belong strictly in the fashion industry have tried their hand at the outdoors game: Polo Ralph Lauren has a full line of adventure clothing (under the RLX label) and one can even buy high-performance skis at Prada (Greenfeld, 1999).

Traditionally the outdoor industry has supplied a niche market that stressed product functionality and a form-follows-function approach to design as main product attributes (Bimbashi, 2005). Today, the shelves and window displays of most outdoor shops could rival those of some high street fashion retailers; the old red or blue anoraks that “fit like big garbage bags3” have been replaced by contoured, fitted pieces of apparel which obviously better lend themselves to being worn in the outdoors as well as in the streets of the city. They are sewn in exclusive materials and in such exotic-sounding colors as cobalt, sangria, electric blue or anthracite (all real color names). Alongside these colorful, if still functional products, there is a wide selection of clothing such as t-shirts and casual pants and shirts that were never designed to be worn far from the paved streets of the city, but nevertheless bear such distinguished outdoor logos as Patagonia, The North Face or Lundhags.

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