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Techwear: Your Style Guide to Utility-First Fashion in 2020

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Techwear is an emerging fashion style that is best characterized by accommodation for utility. That is; Techwear is clothing designed to be fashionable but also to serve a purpose. What purpose is that you ask? That’s not such an easy question to answer.

Highlights

  • Techwear fashion includes advanced materials and design features for utility
  • Techwear outfits have strong roots in outdoor and extreme weather gear
  • Modern style influences include cyberpunk and techno-orientalism influences
  • Lots of pockets, straps, zippers, and places to store smart devices
  • Techwear clothing has advanced materials like Gore-Tex and thermal linings
  • Hard-to-define style made unique by many brands around the world

A Brief History

techwear style mosaic slices chipkos
Techwear clothing commonly features zippers, extra pockets, and weather-battling features

Techwear is tough to define. On the surface, it seems little more than functional clothing with advanced consideration for modern lifestyles—smartphones, laptops, wifi, etc. It’s a bit more complex and can trace its roots into several cultural phenomena as well. Here are three of the firmest bases on which the Techwear style can trace its roots.

Outdoor Gear

Techwear, short for technical wear, isn’t anything new. The characteristic styles of Techwear have been around for years—though they’ve not been advertised as such. Mosty, Techwear can trace its functional heritage back to outdoor brands such as Patagonia, The North Face, and other materials companies such as Gore-Tex.

Cyberpunk

This is a literary genre partially characterized by the use of advanced technology in ordinary circumstances. For example, a jacket, worn by anyone, made from a material that produces electricity to charge smart devices as opposed to an invisibility cloak worn only by advanced soldiers or the super-rich.

Techno-Orientalism

A view of the future, as applied from popular media, as being characterized by Oriental-inspired dystopian constructs. For example, high-density urban centers littered with bright advertisement displays. Popular titles include Blade Runner, The Diamond Age, and The Fifth Element.

techwear banner turtleneck leather jackets chipkos
Techwear features weather-resistant materials, exaggerated aspects of traditional clothing, and sometimes embedded features designed with functionality in mind.

Defining Techwear

Techwear is tough to define. Its origins can be traced to outdoor brands—clothing designed to protect the wearer—but the modern expression is more. The Techwear style is partially characterized by its protective elements but also by look and function. These three attributes can be used to better define Techwear:

Materials

Techwear is largely characterized by the use of advanced materials that offer some form of environmental protection to its wearer. Wind protection, UV protection, Cold protection—even abrasion protection—are among the protective qualities of textiles found among Techwear brands.

Performance

Most clothing is designed with two things in mind: how it looks and how it feels. Techwear adds a third consideration: how it performs. Techwear clothing breaks the mold of conventional patterns and great consideration to things like range of motion, breathability, odor elimination, and even storage.

Storage Capacity

Modern life is full of cords, chargers, smart devices, and the need for electricity. Techwear addresses this with headphone storage, smartphone sleeves, EMF shielding, and even electricity-generating textiles in some cases. Techwear doesn’t scoff at one’s reliance on technology—it embraces and supports it.

Examples & Styles

With a brief history in mind, as well as the above attributes, the best way to continue defining Techwear is by examples. Keep in mind, Techwear can be used to define a jacket, a shirt and pants combo, or just a pair of shoes. An entire Techwear outfit is a rare spot.

Techwear Jackets

2 prism ct company techwear jacketSource: cp_company_official

Jackets are the most characteristic members of the Techwear style. They have the largest stage for utility and have seen some truly creative expressions by the larger Techwear brands. Typical features of Techwear jackets include:

  • Copious Amounts of Pockets
  • Re-Enforced Zippers, Straps, and Cords
  • Hooks & Breakaway Cords
  • Hoods + Sleeve Extensions
  • Inner/Outer Shell Design
  • Waterproofing
  • Protective Lining such as Gore-Tex

Techwear Shoes

1 stone island orange techwear shoes high laceSource: @stoneisland_official

Shoes are one of the areas in which Techwear is still omissive. Characteristic shoes include those from certain outdoor brands, overly-molded athletic brands, and a handful of kitsch Techwear brands like Stone Island. Generally, Techwear shoes have the following attributes:

  • Waterproof/Water-Resistant
  • Gore-Tex Lining or Other Insulation
  • Re-Enforced Eyelets
  • Rugged or Exaggerated Tread
  • Unique Lacing Arrangement

Techwear Pants

3 krakatauwear techwear pants rolledSource: @krakatauwear

Pants are another item that Techwear finds easily expressable. Here you’ll see extra pockets, zippers, clips, stretchable elements, and built-in elements such as clipping belts and/or adjustment straps. There is no single style that defines Techwear pants but black and full of pockets get pretty close. Here’s what you can expect from most Techwear pants:

  • Lots of Pockets
  • Re-Enforced Stress Points
  • Protective Lining
  • Stitchless Design
  • Straps
  • Elastic Materials
  • Built-in elements like Belt Clips
  • Smart Device Pockets

Techwear Pullovers

4 north face mid layer casual techwear shirt blackSource: The North Face

Similar to jackets, pullovers are one step closer to shirts. Techwear pullovers are characterized by more resistant materials, extra form-fitting design consideration, and strong accommodation for active lifestyles. These lightweight jacket alternatives are also likely to see more pockets than typical brands—gotta tote that smartphone somewhere, right? Here are some common attributes of a Techwear pullover:

  • Lightweight
  • Abrasive, Water, Wind-Resistant Materials
  • Thumbholes and/or other Fastening Considerations
  • Zippers & Draw Strings
  • Moisture-Wicking
  • Thermal Lining

Techwear Shirts

5 511 tactical techwear longsleeve reenforced teeSource: 511 Tactical

Techwear shirts feature re-enforced seams, stitchless design, storage pockets, and even kinetic harnessing in some exotic designs. For the most part, Techwear shirts fall somewhere between performance sportswear and tactical gear one might see among active service members. Common attributes of Techwear shirts include:

  • Re-Enforced Stitching
  • Velcro and/or Zipper Pockets
  • Fleece-lined Pockets
  • Smart Device Pockets
  • Non-Standard Seam Layouts
  • Extended Range of Motion Accommodations
  • Thermal/Weather Resistant

Review

Techwear is an emerging urban style trend with influences coming from all over the board. With roots traceable to cyberpunk Sci/Fi and early 1900s mountaineering—there’s no wonder even fashion experts have a hard time defining Techwear. The bottom line is that Techwear is any clothing that includes advanced consideration for performance and is still suitable for daily wear.