This past weekend I attended @culturecommunic8tion's North Face Day, a large gathering of The North Face lovers and enthusiasts (and I do mean enthusiasts), that came to celebrate the brand as a staple in New York street style, and to show off their own personal style with the brand's coolest pieces. Attendees, including myself, were dripped out in a colorful array of nupste coats, Gore-Tex hats and pants, Steep Tech jackets and even North Face accessories. Folks mingled, took pics and vids, and chatted about everything from The North Face, to graffiti and the New York Knicks. The North Face has had its foothold in the style of New Yorkers since most of us were in elementary school, and has been the prime collaborator of NYC based streetwear staples like Supreme and Extra Butter, but where did the love for TNF come from?
"People were attracted to the colors of The North Face jackets" one attendee, StRiDeR (@kaim19 on IG) tells me. He tells me about how TNF began to blow up in New York City in the late 80s and 90s, finally making its rounds to the neighborhoods of middle and lower income residents around that time. The North Face actually began in the Bay Area in the late 1960s. It was started in 1969 by 23 year old climber and outdoorsman Doug Tompkins, with the help of his wife Susie Tompkins Buell, their goal being to create sturdy and reliable outdoor gear for the hikers and nature lovers of San Francisco. “The brand was really only popular among sporty types and hikers, because they liked the fabrics and tech,” StRiDeR tells me. He let me know that it stayed that way for a while, even when it got to NYC, through select retailers TNF had accounts with. One of those stores StRiDeR mentions was Tent & Trails, a mom and pop shop in Manhattan that outfitted New Yorkers with hiking gear from boots to backpacks and everything in between, up until they closed recently in 2018.
“It was only wealthy folks that could afford The North Face, regular folks couldn’t afford to spend $200, $300 on a coat,” says StRiDeR “it was the boosters that really put the hood on to The North Face ''. Those boosters (or shoplifters) were the harbingers of The North Face’s explosion of popularity in street style, selling TNF products at discounted prices to locals. They connected middle and lower income folks to the expensive gear that only a select few in higher tax brackets even cared about. Hence came the beginning of the real widespread popularity the brand garnered in the city; StRiDeR explains that the real innovators of the style were those new folks in the hood that got their hands on colorful Steep Techs and nupste coats. That of course is what made even more people look to The North Face as a fashion piece and commodity, and to no one’s surprise, the hood influenced the mainstream fashion world. From Wu-Tang in Staten Island, to today with A$AP Rocky in the brand’s more recent Gucci collab, The North Face has been a staple in street style, especially in New York City.
Those boosters were the harbingers of The North Face’s explosion of popularity in street style, selling TNF products at discounted prices to locals.
Culture Communic8tion’s event proved just that. People came together to celebrate something they really felt a part of; not so much the brand itself but the culture that’s come from it in this time and place. I remember coveting The North Face when I was just a kid in elementary school, seeing kids with the Slingshot and Jester backpacks and nuptse coats. When my mom finally got my brother and I coats, I was hype, and I remember her telling us “Don’t leave your jackets anywhere or they’ll get stolen!” I still have that black 700-fill down nuptse (it’s probably my favorite coat) that I got over 10 years ago when I was a teen, and it still keeps me really cozy and fly. I always tell people I’m not afraid to ride for The North Face as a brand, because it truly is quality that will last a lifetime, and their pieces are a worthy investment. Buying a North Face coat will mean you’ll have warmth for legit DECADES to come; some attendees that showed up to the event wore things they’d had in their collections for years. It was cool to hang with others that also held The North Face near and dear to their heart, wearing their favorite North Face clothing and talking about their favorite colors, collabs, pieces, and so on. It truly felt like a bonafide New York moment. Kudos to Culture Communic8tion for putting on for NYC and our style, I’m definitely going to find myself at the next one!