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Andy Kirkpatrick

Gear 

Tinkerers

30 April 2021

The clothing we use can be divided up between performance, utilitarian, and ceremonial. Think a suit of Samurai armour, a sackcloth smock, and a cape made from fox teeth, or a pair of Patagonia guide pants, a pair of Walmart Dickies work trousers (made in a sweatshop), and a pair of Hiutdenim organic jeans (not made in a sweatshop, but Cardigan, Wales). This is an important idea to hold in your head when buying gear, in that you need to ask what kind of clothing you’re looking at, as the market is awash with ‘outdoor’ clothing when 95% of it is actually utilitarian clothing, uniform, lifestyle etc.

Yes, a fleece is a fleece, but a big baggy fleece, covered in patches, badges, so it looks hardcore, will be outclassed by a close-fitting hooded power-stretch top, long in the body, with thumb loops etc. Put it this way, think about the kind of outdoor crap you get bought by relations at Xmas, like a pair of fleece socks with a torch built in, compared to what you’d buy yourself. Where this is important is it’s worth identifying what brands best serve you and your sport, and to support them, as many big brands - in a way - are like a big growth (literally!), that has grown so big from their once specialist host, it might as well be selling branded fitted kitchens (they are not what they were, only the logo remains). Yes, such brands employ shop dummies who demonstrate they’re an outdoor brand, but really, that part of the business is marketing, not product.

It’s like being in an alien zoo and feeling homesick, they fabricate you a pot of Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey that tastes like battery acid.

So what am I saying? I’m not sure, but maybe, when you next come to buying something don’t go for the obvious, do some research into the small, grassroots, garden shed gear builders, the tinkerers, the people who drive innovation, the kind of brands you will not find advertising in Outside magazine. For companies like that, your business will make their day, or their week, and keep the wolf from the door.

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