Impossibly new, and yet ever-present in history, is the need for our clothing to be useful.
Written by: Kayla Naab
Once upon a time, the entire forefront of fashion was based in necessity and utility – clothes to warm us, to aid us in our pursuits, and to serve their purpose. Over time, we became less dependent on our clothing and accessories to serve us, desperate instead to make a visual statement with our choices in fashion. With the emergence of techwear came a renaissance in fashion – first for men, and now for everyone. Techwear is a sleek, modern arc in fashion that leans on efficacy, urbanity, and adaptivity to mesh aesthete and function.
THE ESSENCE OF THE TECHWEAR RENAISSANCE
Techwear takes its inspirations from – and overlaps with – a variety of other stylistic seasons and therefore may be worn by those inspired by movements such as Health Goth, Cyber Punk, Steampunk, Video Game Character or VGC style, and Urban Minimalism. The main features of techwear are:
Tactical Durability: Techwear is a facet of athleisure in the sense that it borrows from other all-weather brands and makes use of Gore-tex, Schoeller dryskin, or other stuck-to-you, anti-weather materials. The difference is that your running clothes are made for performance alone, while your techwear staples are more state-of-the-art, chic-first, and selective. Often, techwear jackets and pants will also sport buckles, straps, and hardware that true athleisure wouldn’t favor. In general, techwear is more for winter than summer and more for clouds than sunshine. Outerwear is the primary staple for the techwear starter pack.
Monochromatism: Techwear street-stylists du jour will likely be wearing all-black, though all-white is making its come-up. All-navy, olive, or maroon can be found in certain subsets of the techwear community. Flashier techwear fans will borrow from the few brands doing a sharp neon yellow or cautionary orange as a visibility power-play. In any case, the pants will match the jacket which will match the top and shoes, most of the time.
Slim Lines: Because techwear is minimalist and practical, you won’t find a ruffle, flourish, or lapel where one isn’t needed. The silhouettes of most techwear #OOTDs are slim, angular, and unbothered by curvature. You’ll find these features in common with space-age outfitture and lovers of bodysuits. The form-specific nature of these garments keeps them out of the way and unfussy.
Futurism: The techwear renaissance is unapologetic about their intent to borrow from science fiction, robotics, and the 22nd century. Techwear fashion is more expensive and exclusive than workaday clothing because it is driven by purpose, much like the post-apocalyptica we see on screen and imagine from fiction. While no one knows what the future holds, we all collectively picture a similar aesthetic to the futuristic period and techwear stems heavily from that fever dream.
THE EVOLUTION OF TECHWEAR
Predecessors to techwear has always been lurking in cities that drive all forms of innovation. Techwear is born from the nihilist style icons that always wear the same “uniform” to the days of their lives, unbothered by the pretense of trend. Techwear is born from the unknown – a need to feel prepared, agile, and adaptable. Techwear is born from equal doses of harsh reality and fantastical possibility – as a tactical vest feels equal parts preparatory and costumized.
LEADERS IN TECH FASHION
If you want to study the grandfather brand of the techwear movement, see: Acronym. This brand evangelized the specific hemlines, architectural and the fabric caucus from which most other tech brands borrow and draw inspiration. Acronym can be prohibitive in pricing for some techwear newcomers.
Stone Island & The Stone Island Shadow Project are another example of techwear prodigy, cut from the same cloth and design team as daddy Acronym. The difference is in the details. Stone Island boasts an even more compulsory minimalism and more of an homage to wilderness than the urban jungle. Still, basics are basics and these may run slightly more affordably against traditional Acronym wish-list items.
IDENTITYrx is the only techwear brand specific to women. While other brands invite women’s participation as an afterthought or an homage to androgyny, IDENTITYrx has developed a line respective to the female form and an almost-feline sense of agility and movement. IDENTITYrx emboldens wearers with sensual-adjacent mesh, power-fabrics, goth-reminiscent accents, and hardware in the right places. While techwear began – and in ways remains – a male-led style enlightenment, women in techwear re-imagine and redistribute the common lines and angles of the aesthetic.
Tech-Goth brands like Krakatau and Guerilla Group take mountain-friendly performance fabrics and urbanite silhouettes to a new dimension by keeping things noir. Swimming upstream against a movement that finally allowed color into the techwear portfolio, these brands respect the original all-black with most of their products and add a ninja-like flair to the style profile.
Alt brands in the techwear space are also having a moment. Deep-seated Reddit threads, increasing Instagram popularity, and humans’ innate desire to innovate have brought techwear to the forefront of style options and while the minimalism appeals to certain palates, the exclusive techwear community appeals to a refined sens de l’esthetique.
Household names have also led the pack to take techwear mainstream. Nike’s Tech Range and Adidas’ Y3 line both serve as a gateway drug for athleisure lovers and streetwear royalty to dip a toe into the neoprene. With footwear, accessories, and apparel that leans on more tactical fabrics, strips away logo-heavy sport-emblemage, and runs on a tighter palette, these brands may be your go-to if you’re starting out at the mall.
THE FUTURE OF TECHWEAR: COMMODITY COUTURE FOR A DIGITAL HORIZON
Technology – our cars, phones and computers, approach to health, and the culture that drives them all – evolves constantly. Techwear keeps up with whatever is next because innovation is a driving principle of the style and the schema of the style. We can expect to see more hidden pockets, smarter fabrics, and greater adaptability in the next era of techwear. There will be a greater movement toward enveloping color, shirking neons and all-blacks in favor of a certain muted and refined pastel – nothing saccharine. We will see eyewear trends, handbags, and jewelry join the techwear elite in the next year. The rest is unpredictable and led by a certain oligarchy of designers and high-profile buyers.
If you are looking to add techwear staples to your wardrobe, look for practicality, urbanity, and futurism to develop your look. Outfits with a heavier reliance on hardware will lean more steampunk-inspired while darker looks could give off deep-city anarchy. Thicker silhouettes and fleecier fabrics give off a wilder aesthetic, while more effervescent footwear could lean toward a common-esque athleisure muse. Whichever form your techwear inspiration takes, follow it. This ever-evolving facet of fashion is nothing if not unapologetic, as should be its wearers.