Earlier this month, The New York Times published an article titled, “If You Can Get Killed Doing It, Fashion Wants It,” in which writer Guy Trebay explored how mainstream fashion has appropriated technical fabrics and features typically used in expedition gear. Trebay’s Exhibit A: a Louis Vuitton chalk bag — a waist pouch that rock climbers carry chalk in during big climbs — that costs $1,590.
It’s an extreme example, but it underscores a broader trend of clothing brands adopting elements of apparel and gear that were designed initially for function — for use in non-functional ways. Outdoor companies have noticed, and many are revealing new items that don’t buck this trend, they meet it in the middle. The latest example is Chaco’s Z/Ronin, a new piece of footwear that comes with the socks-and-sandals look built-in.
Chaco couldn’t ignore its technical/functional provenance though. It built the Z/Ronin with a rugged sole and the same continuously adjustable strap from its popular sandals, which have proven themselves on rafting expeditions through the Grand Canyon and surf pilgrimages to Baja. The Z/Ronin’s sock-like upper is knit polyester with overlays that provide additional structure and protection, so it’s not entirely about channeling the socks-and-sandals look.
But it is about that too, and that’s fine, that’s good. The Z/Ronin is novel, unique and, in our opinion, works. If in-the-woods style is destined to be a fad, it’s better that outdoor companies help define what exactly that even means. Because one thing is certain: it isn’t a $1,600 chalk bag.
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