I am not a rock climber. I’m not a climbing enthusiast or even a climbing amateur. Don’t get me wrong though, I do like climbing, and I hold rock climbers, a group that includes many of my friends and colleagues, in high regard. I’m sure I’d like climbing too — I simply never had much of a chance to cultivate a passion for the sport in the same way that I have for skiing and hiking. Most of the climbing experience that I do have comes from the occasional trip to the local climbing gym 45 minutes away from where I grew up. (It was a popular birthday venue during elementary school.)
So it was to my surprise when, last summer, I found myself inexplicably intrigued by a pair of “modern rock climbing pants” that I had stumbled across on Kickstarter. I had never heard of the brand — Foehn — but it was plain to me that these pants were pretty damn stylish. My cursor hovered over the seafoam “Back this project” button for five or six drawn out seconds. I closed the window; after all, I’m no rock climber.
Fast forward six months and I found myself at a table drinking lattes with Foehn’s founders, Ingrid Sirois and Anthony Boronowski. They told me the story of Foehn, named for the type of warm wind that can develop on the leeward side of mountain ranges, a name that had been lost to the crags of my mind, and offered to show me some the products they had created. There was a flannel, a down pullover, a pair of… could it be? It was as if a long-forgotten submission to the “Missed Connections” section of a backwater newspaper had at long last been answered. No words were needed, the recognition was instant.
I’ve been wearing the Brise Pants regularly ever since. In feel, they’re a softshell pant with a more-rugged exterior and a comfy interior. The fabric is four-way-stretch-equipped nylon. The Brise’s waist has a zipper and button but is also stretchy, and the knees articulate. All of these qualities give the pant a big penchant for motion, which is probably great for climbing but again, I wouldn’t know. For me, these things translate to comfy as all hell.
I’ll admit it though, my initial attraction to the Brise was entirely superficial; grin-inducing comfort was a happy mistake. Like a pair of joggers, the Brise tapers down to a pair of elastic cuffs at the ankle, creating a slim profile, which I like. And that stretchy fabric, articulation and gusset — all designed for climbing — keep the fit trim and relaxed without becoming sluggish and baggy. The tape-accented thigh pocket has a certain streetwear appeal to it too, and yeah, it was also designed for climbing (so you can access essentials while wearing a harness). If you’re like me, you want technical features — they make for comfier, more durable pants — but you don’t want them on display.
There may not be any tougher fashion critic in the world than the collective New York City, where receiving a once-over can be just as telling as being completely ignored. This has been my testing ground for the Brise; not on a sheer granite wall but littered concrete. And yet, I’ve received more compliments on these pants, from friends and strangers alike, than any other piece of clothing I own. That the Brise are pretty and multifaceted means that I’ve finally found the full package. They’re my everyday pant, my comfy-Sunday pant and my travel pant, all wrapped up in one. I still haven’t climbed a rock wall but who knows what could happen, I find it’s best to go into relationships with an open mind.