What Comes After Gorpcore?
Photograph by Mr Marc Richardson
Fashion trends, by their nature, come and go. Some barely make it off the runway (crop tops for men didn’t stand a chance), while others stick around for years (think flares in the 1970s, or Alexander McQueen skull-print scarves in the 2000s). Occasionally, though, a trend comes along and dominates so utterly that it defines an entire era. And when we look back on the menswear trends of the early 2020s, we’ll see Gorpcore at the top.
For those still uninitiated, Gorpcore is a slightly overegged idiom that refers simply to hiking or outdoorsy gear worn in a consciously stylish way (Gorp is an acronym for “good old raisins and peanuts”, the stuff ramblers eat to keep up their energy). From raincoats to shell trousers and fleeces, these are clothes made for enjoying the great outdoors. An almost pathological commitment to practicality is part of the charm, even if the only place you need to be protected from the elements is a lunchtime stroll around the park.
Characterised by an endless excess of pockets, a lot of Gorpcore is crafted from made-up waterproof fabrics with names like NEBULAR-TEX® and festooned with enough carabiners to decorate a Christmas tree at Millets.
The term Gorpcore was first coined by New York Magazine’s The Cut back in 2017 and has snowballed since, with the surging popularity of fleeces and Patagonia notable indicators. The mix of practicality, ease and cultural clout that Gorpcore represents means that style-conscious men everywhere have swapped smart shoes and sneakers for durable, mountain-schlepping footwear from brands such as Salomon and The North Face, donning uber-stylish hiking gear from Japanese outdoorsy labels Snow Peak or And Wander.
Its relevance really hit the mainstream, however, with the pandemic. “People felt trapped inside and didn’t have anything to do and so wanted to be outside more,” says Mr Sol Thompson, one half of the influential menswear podcast and meme account Pair Of Kings. He theorises that Gorpcore’s dominance over menswear exploded as a kind of pushback to lockdown. Plus, he says, the clothing lasts a long time and is easy to wear. “It’s not as flashy as a lot of trends, and it’s stuff that’s well-built – it’s not going to degrade if you take decent care of it,” Thompson says. “It’s easy to throw on an Arc’teryx jacket; it always looks great.”
As Gorpcore has proliferated and dominated menswear, it’s transcended the lifespan of an average fashion trend and instead become a kind of cultural phenomenon. At the start of the year, hundreds of people began posting videos to TikTok, showing themselves wearing Arc’teryx jackets in the shower, or waterproof trousers while standing in the sink (often soundtracked by “Arc’teryx”, a song by British rapper YT – “Arc’teryx on me/No we don’t rock no Patagonia/Arc’teryx on me/I could go hiking in Snowdownia”).
“I think irony is going to have a big moment soon. People will be wearing Minecraft T-shirts from 2012, or ‘Eat Sleep Game Repeat’ shirts”
Other memes poking fun at guys wearing £1,000 extreme-weather gear “just to go out in the rain” started to pop up, and Gorpcore has begun to feel as though it’s reached saturation point.
If Gorpcore is at risk of being memed to death, then, what will replace it? For Thompson, the most likely way menswear will go next is not to any one aesthetic, but to an embracing of something altogether more nebulous, like irony. “I genuinely think irony is going to have a big moment soon, like people will be wearing Minecraft T-shirts from 2012 instead, or ‘Eat Sleep Game Repeat’ shirts.”
Another theory is that, sartorially at least, we’ll shrug off our waterproofs and start embracing our inner child instead. According to The Wall Street Journal’s men’s fashion editor Mr Jacob Gallagher, the biggest men’s fashion trend of 2022 will be “dressing like a tween”. The so-called “Kidcore” trend involves expressing yourself as unabashedly as a five-year-old would, with bright colours and fluffy textures. Gallagher wrote that it’s “about revisiting the way you dressed before anyone told you what was cool.”
Indeed, there’s been a sense of childish fun in some of the most notable collections this season. At JW Anderson’s AW22 show, models clutched soft toys on the runway, and wore juvenile colours that were inspired by no higher artistic calling, but simply the joy of “feeling silly”. And you only need scroll through The Elder Statesman page on MR PORTER – populated by cashmere teddy bears and ’shroomed-up psychedelic sweaters – to know that colourfully carefree knitwear is a good way to add some joy to an outfit.
Still, it may not be time to get over Gorpcore completely. Thompson says that although he believes it has reached saturation point and probably won’t last as the dominant trend in menswear, it will certainly continue as a style. “All of these clothes have an actual purpose, so I hope that everyone buying Arc’teryx is going out and trying to enjoy the outdoors at the very least,” Thompson laughs. “Rather than, you know, just showering in it.”