It has been 458 days since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. As each day limps by, we can’t help but wish for a change of scenery. When public spaces and watering holes were shut down, some people started flocking to the great outdoors in hopes of countering their pandemic fatigue. This shift, in turn, resulted in the resurgence of an entire aesthetic from four years ago. Re-introducing gorpcore, a fashion trend that involves channeling your inner Bear Grylls for a quick coffee run down the streets of Brooklyn on a Wednesday afternoon.
Coined by The Cut in 2017, gorpcore is the portmanteau of the term ‘gorp’—an acronym for ‘Good Ol’ Raisins and Peanuts’ (a trail mix consisting of dried fruits, nuts and granola beloved by hiking enthusiasts)—with the ‘core’ suffix of an aesthetic. Also known as hikingcore and camping chic, gorpcore essentially romanticises the great outdoors by blending outdoor hiking and tactical gears with streetwear clothes appropriate for city strolling.
“I would describe gorpcore as bringing or incorporating functional outerwear into high fashion,” said Tristin Dorsey, owner of Gorpcore on Depop and GorpVintage on Grailed. “It’s a sort of meld between something your hiker dad would wear and the most technical garments available.” Apart from being the intersection of outdoor wear, streetwear and techwear, gorpcore is also considered as an extension of normcore—a trend from the early 2010s that rejects consumerism by embracing ‘blankness’. Think boxy fits, dad sneakers, a 90s twist on functional wear and heritage outdoor wear with a focus on casual and carefree styling.
The gorpcore aesthetic is synonymous with both vibrant colours and earth tones while featuring voluminous pieces, unlike its cousin techwear, which favours form-fitting apparel. Gorpcore pants are often wide but not flared. The jackets here are roomy enough to layer multiple pieces—unzipped to let the base t-shirt peek from underneath. This level of volume and layering essentially plays into the ‘freedom of movement’ concept of outdoor wear.
However, cinching has also become a common practice under the aesthetic. In casual settings, like taking your dog out for a walk, the drawstrings on the bottom of a sweater or jacket are often cinched to achieve a utilitarian look—similar to wearing a harness or a hiking backpack. Inspired by its second cousin, streetwear, logos are yet another feature of the gorpcore trend. Reflective brand logos, often on the sleeve or left chest, have become a prerequisite for channelling the aesthetic.
According to Dorsey, popular brands housed under gorpcore include Arc’teryx, Patagonia, And Wander, Salomon, Klättermusen and Mountain Hardwear to name some. When asked about some staple gorpcore pieces, the seller listed the Arc’teryx Beta AR shell jacket, vintage Patagonia fleece, Kapital Damask fleece, Gramicci pants, The North Face puffer jacket, ROA hiking boots and the Salomon XT-6 and XT-4. “A few accessories that come to mind are the Arc’teryx ‘Rolling Word’ beanie and the Arc’teryx Sinsolo Hat,” Dorsey added.
From Celine’s “Furkenstock” version of the Birkenstock to Balenciaga’s sleeping bag-inspired winter coat and Marques’Almeida’s asymmetrical puffer jacket, gorpcore has been influencing high fashion brands for years. Celebrities like Kendall Jenner and Emily Ratajowski have previously been spotted in The North Face puffer jackets while Frank Ocean has made headlines by donning a Mammut jacket with an Arc’teryx beanie for a Louis Vuitton show in Paris back in 2019.
While celebrities and high fashion brands demonstrated gorpcore’s versatility from trails to the front rows in fashion weeks, it was only after the pandemic hit that the trend truly trickled down into the masses. Our desire to break free of the pandemic-led hibernation led many to embrace the trend that was previously termed “that outdoor-inspired aesthetic” among enthusiasts.
“The pandemic certainly forced more people to exercise outdoors, which could be a leading factor in the resurgence of gorpcore,” Dorsey said, linking back to the ‘escape factor’ that plays into pandemic fatigue. “I think it’s more so that people are finally catching onto how nice functional clothing can be!” Selling gorpcore pieces via Depop, Instagram and Grailed, Dorsey highlighted how the latter two are the most popular hubs. “I started selling to be able to make a little bit of money to support my shopping addiction. I saw the trend happening and realised that stores around me are packed full of gorpcore clothes.” The mission backing his store on all three platforms, in this regard, is to “simply supply affordable second-hand outerwear.”
When asked about the level of reception for his pieces, Dorsey mentioned how they are pretty popular among the audience on all platforms. “I often find myself selling fishing pants and mountaineering jackets to people living in Brooklyn or Los Angeles. Where I live in Colorado, however, it’s much less of a trend—it’s just how people here have always dressed!”
To date, Screen Shot has decoded various trends and aesthetics from kidcore to dark academia. Although all of them have a community dedicated to channelling the aesthetic, they’ve also amassed a fair amount of criticism regarding their inspiration. When it comes to gorpcore, this criticism is synonymous with “my culture is not your costume.”
Gorpcore critics often argue how the trend “steals hiking valour” and is donned by those who are not interested in “outdoorsy stuff” in the first place. On my hike across Reddit, I found how this criticism also pertains to athleisure and workwear as a whole. “Athleisure is also a form of stolen valour, change my mind,” wrote a user on a subreddit for male fashion advice. “As a hiker myself, this is one of my least favorite fashion trends,” said another. On the other side of the conversation, some hikers highlighted how the trend has given them more clothing options. The only downside, according to them, is how some brands have compromised quality in the pursuit of being fashionable.
“I think it’s very nice to see this type of clothing gain traction in the fashion world,” Dorsey said, when asked about his views on the criticism. The seller also outlined how gorpcore is “bringing new designs and fresh materials to what has been a pretty stale industry for the last decade or so.” Regarding the ‘my culture isn’t your costume’ part of the criticism, Dorsey mentioned how it’s pretty easy to spot who’s a real outdoorsman and who is just wearing the clothes. This is also aided by the fact that gorpcore is essentially a streetwear twist on hiking apparel and gear. “Dirtbag climbers certainly aren’t buying $500 jackets!” Dorsey added.
So, is gorpcore here to stay? Dorsey agrees to all the claims about its potential longevity. “I think people all over America have been wearing outerwear forever and it’ll continue to be the case.” When asked about the plans for his store in this regard, Dorsey added, “I’ll keep it going as long as the clothes keep selling.”
With all of that in the open, we can agree that gorpcore indeed forges a new way to dress for both work and play alike. As interests in the great outdoor booms, hopefully, the interest in preserving it also gains traction among wearers. And if I was not living in one of the most tropical states in India, I would’ve gladly been the poster child of the trend—following it to its supposed grave and back.
“If Asian American men are more image-conscious due to insecurity, is that why they’re so into fashion?” muses Mic Nguyen on his podcast Asian Not Asian. The New York-based podcast, hosted by comedians Nguyen and Fumi Abe, explores topics involving life as an Asian American and discusses what Asian masculinity truly is. While laughing and joking, the two men chat with guests who are notable writers, actors, and comedians, such as Kimmy Yam from HuffPost Asian Voices, Alexander Hodge aka ‘hot Asian bae’ from HBO’s Insecure, and Crazy Rich Asian’s Ronny Chieng.
To learn more about this fairly quiet phenomenon, I slid into Nguyen’s DMs to chat about the impact of fashion on Asian American male identity and the future of Asian men in America through clothes and clout.
Like the podcast’s slogan states, these are “American issues no American cares about”—and it’s spot on. Although there is a whole other subset of this conversation involving LGBTQ Asian American men, it’s the cisgender straight men and their new way of approaching masculinity that stood out the most. If you search online ‘Asian, masculinity, and fashion’ you won’t find much, except on Reddit, which will bombard you with threads titled “How to be confident”, “How to be masculine”, and even a thread asking how East Asians can dress like fuckboys to display alpha-ness.
These are some of the most searched topics, especially in the Reddit community, aptly named ‘Asian Masculinity’. According to Neilsen’s 2019 report, the Asian American population has grown to 7 million in the past decade, which is more than any other ethnic group in America and it’s predicted to be the largest immigrant group in the nation by 2055. As they are major influencers of consumption in America, brands and marketers should start looking into the psychological drive behind Asian American men’s attraction to streetwear, which is one of the highest-grossing markets in the fashion industry.
So why are Asian American men drawn to street fashion? Fashion has a way of changing people’s perceptions of you, and streetwear, more specifically, has been an ideal solution to combat stereotypes of emasculation. According to C. H. Chen, scholar and author of the Feminization of Asian (American) Men in the U.S Mass Media, Asian men have been historically emasculated in America through occupational pigeon-holing and unsavoury media representation. In the 19th-century, Asian men who immigrated to the U.S. to work on the railroads were eventually pushed towards cooking and cleaning jobs, or ‘women’s work’.
This associated them with being feminine and ‘weak’, which still affects how Asian American men are treated in the U.S. today. According to the co-founder of the brand The Hundreds, Bobby Kim, when he spoke to Hypebeast, “Streetwear has always been this weird, strangely male thing.” It’s always been associated with masculinity and been a pillar of Americana—two things that Asian American men aspire to be accepted into. “Asian Americans are always trying to communicate to White society that we belong here,” explains Nguyen.
The pursuit of a romantic partnership could be another reason why Asian American men are into street fashion. Historically, Asian American men have been seen as undesirable due to the same stereotype of being effeminate. Wearing the latest Hype hoodie or sneakers is a way to fight these stereotypes. “We know we’re being looked at. We’re being judged based off of certain things,” says Nguyen. “Asian American guys think about it, maybe at a subconscious level, to communicate that they’re desirable.” Nguyen also adds that, at first, he used fashion like a peacock strategy to get noticed: “You dress as loud as possible so people can’t peg you as a nerd and to combat media stereotypes.”
According to Jian Deleon in a panel discussion with Banana Magazine, the editorial director and trend forecaster for Highsnobiety and Complex conveyed that Asian American men are able to switch between being American and being Asian or some hybrid form of the two. Fashion is what enables that cultural interchange. Nguyen adds to that idea, saying that Asian American men may not necessarily be into fashion but are very aware of how fitting in certain groups navigates a power dynamic. “It’s a crazy mind fuck for an Asian American person,” says Nguyen.
People fight between dressing ‘beyond their race’, but at the same time, they go through the guilt that comes with it, because they feel like they’re hiding their race behind fashion. And still, sometimes it doesn’t even help, explains Nguyen, “I would wear capes or purple jeans, but people would still confuse me for another Asian guy at work. I was acutely aware of how limited the power of fashion could be when it came to trying to carve a certain identity.”
As Asian representation is slowly changing in the U.S., a cultural shift is emerging. Instead of men being Asian in America, they feel more like Asian American men. Yet, according to Nguyen, no one really knows how to be Asian American or what that even means. “I was trying to make an identity with my clothes. It wasn’t an Asian American identity because there isn’t really an Asian American identity, to begin with.” In America, Asians are either put in the ‘White’ or ‘Black’ box in regard to navigating what culture to follow in the American mindset.
But they weren’t welcome in either of those boxes. Safe spaces are slowly being built for Asian men to become more confident and validated in their existence. As Asian American men have just recently stepped into the mainstream spotlight with Asian Hollywood, this conversation on how to be a man and how to be an Asian American man is still a grey area. There are many resources discussing men, masculinity, and fashion, but adding a cultural layer brings new facets to the topic. As Nguyen wisely said, “the change has to come from within.” Clothes are a great conduit for change but they’re not the actual cure.