Born out of the unlikely crossover between fashion and the outdoors industry, urban techwear (or “techwear”, for short) is an emerging style that blends form with a relentless focus on function. While the athleisure style often straddles the line between aesthetics and utility, techwear chooses to ignore the line altogether: in our technology-enabled future, why couldn’t someone have both?
Most contemporary fashionis content to riff on the past. Instead, techwear forgoes the familiar in favor of function. Bright, nylon anoraks become shine-resistant jet black shells. Standard cotton trousers become high-stretch Ripstop cargos.
Even work boots get an upgrade: from bulky leather to ultralight Flyknit “shield,” a complete techwear wardrobe signals a paradigm shift, a leap of faith towards the full potential of the state-of-the-art.
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).
Regardless of category, a typical techwear jacket is matte black, tailored to move, and made entirely of GORE-TEX’s three-layer waterproof fabric. The difference comes from how that function is styled.
Grey techwear takes its name from the concept of the “grey man,” a security business term for an agent dressed to blend in but equipped to do anything but. Techwear of this sort looks like standard clothing, but is constructed from high-tech fabrics and designed for ultimate functionality.
Examples of “grey” techwear brands include Arc’teryx Veillance, Isaora, and NikeLab Essentials.
On the other hand, black techwear eschews all subtlety. Borrowing its name from “black operations” (the opposite of the ”grey man”), techwear in this style is bold, brash, and heavily influenced by both military and extreme outdoors gear.
Every kid who grew up watching The Matrix has, at one point, aspired to dress as cool as techwear looks. However, in an age of bomb threats and global terror, donning full black techwear on crowded city streets may get you more looks than you’ve bargained for.
Regardless, when done well, black techwear looks downright badass. Examples of “black” techwear brands include adidas Y-3, Guerilla Group, and the granddaddy of them all, Errolson Hugh’s legendary ACRONYM.
Through clever tailoring and an embrace of avant-garde aesthetics, techwear is materials science innovation massaged into garments wearable enough for the high street.