Perishing Peaks and Perilous Poles: 56 Years of Adventuring in The North Face
56 years and counting…
The North Face has left an unignorable mark on the streetwear scene in recent years, but before that, it was leading the way in adventure gear with technical capabilities never before seen at the time. Between Gorpcore and utility wear, streetwear, and lifestyle fashion, wearing The North Face from Glue Store means you’re always at the forefront of the zeitgeist, you’re always warm, and never out of style.
The Epic History of The North Face
Named for the most punishing part of the mountain, The North Face was established in 1966, at the nexus of the Beat Generation and the Hippie Generation - two diverse scenes, yet both grounded in non-conformity and a love of nature. One called it adventure and exploration, the other called it transcendence. One espoused intellect and philosophical thought, the other spirituality, peace and love. In a small shopfront in San Francisco, mountain climber Doug Thompson provided a space that became a beacon of creativity where behemoths of the Beat Generation and Hippie Movement would stop in, such as The Grateful Dead, who performed at the venue during its early days.
The North Face would absorb the primordial soup of alternative subcultures in the late 60s and imbue this in their products, which were often innovative, revolutionary, and carried the definite article, “the first of”.
By the early 70s, the development of the “Ruthsack” has already given birth to a new concept in the mainstream – backpacking. The bag utilised an internal frame for the first time ever, making it possible to carry all the necessities for an extended trip to the wilderness, or an expedition hitchhiking down highways on the winding path to self-discovery.
At the same time, The North Face was already beginning to entwine its brand mission with environmental sustainability. Leading one of their first expeditions through Alaska, the 30-day hike exposed them firsthand to the effects of the Alaska Oil Pipeline, leading them to petition to bring it to a halt in the name of environmental preservation.
The North Face has sponsored a number of expeditions in the past, and continues to do so each year with their Adventure Grant
The Extreme Team
In 1977, GORE-TEX technology was applied to The North Face outerwear, merging two technical powerhouses to provide superior weather protection to skiers. But the performance of garments wasn’t the only thing the brand was trying to achieve. One year later the first American all-female team of hikers scaled the Annapurna Mountains in Nepal. Outfitted by The North Face, the brand helped increase the profile of hiking and adventuring as a pursuit women could also undertake.
In 1983, the boom in skiing as both a hobby and profession called for responsive, higher-performing skiing gear. The North Face responded to demand by founding a team of professional adventurers to test their products in the most unforgiving conditions. The Extreme Team went on to provide useful feedback allowing the brand to continue producing cutting edge garments.
The Road to Sustainability
In the late 80s, The North Face made further commitments to sustainability, at a time when environmentalism wasn’t in vogue. Together with RFI, Patagonia, and Kelty, they founded the Conservation Alliance. The proceeds raised together funded grassroots organizations which worked to protect North America’s last wild places.
Following this, the wonders of fleece as a technical fabric came to the forefront. The Denali Fleece Jacket was loved for its layering potential. Lightweight and durable, it was ideal for use during long periods on treacherous terrain.
With technical capabilities and adaptable colourways, The North Face jackets and vests have been making waves on the streetwear scene.
By 2010, The North Face had launched its Explore Fund to provide grants worth at least $500 000 to non-profit organizations that worked in nature conservation. In 2013, Clothes The Loop in-store service also began, enabling customers to drop off old clothes from any brand to be recycled. They followed this up in 2018 with their Renewed initiative, to recycled and refurbish worn or defective gear to give them another lease on life.
Around the same time in 2013, the company was beginning to explore ways to make their trademark down insulation more sustainable. They brought animal welfare onto the agenda by developing ThermoBall synthetic insulation, designed to mimic down insulation and provide the same lightweight warmth that customers had come to expect from the brand. One year later, The North Face developed the Responsible Down Standard, to ensure that the down and feathers that comprised the insulating properties of the clothing wasn’t plucked from live geese, and improved the traceability of the fibres. The brand submitted this standard to the Textile Exchange to administer as a global benchmark. In 2016, The North Face reached their own standard and became RDS certified.
More recently, The North Face hasn’t slowed down on its goal to creative technical performance gear. Unfazed by its sudden inclusion in the same sentence as streetwear and hypebeasts, 2019 saw the development of a new nanospinning technology christened FUTURELIGHT – not the name of a superhero, rather what he’s likely to be wearing. As the first fabric that is both waterproof and breathable, the opportunities for The North Face to innovate with new fabrications has opened up yet again.
The Nuptse: Perfected in 1996
A large part of The North Face’s recent boom in the streetwear scene has been thanks to their iconic Nuptse Jacket. Made in 1992 and given the Tibetan word for “west peak” the Nuptse was literally developed to conquer Mount Everest.
Importantly, the Nuptse was the first jacket to innovate with the “Expedition System” - a layering system built for alpine conditions and tested by athletes. Sectioned baffles were utilised for the first time which minimised shifting of the down insulation and increased the even distribution of warmth. The 700-fill maintains breathability and warmth simultaneously.
The Nuptse was well loved long before collaborations became the normal baptism for fashion in the streetwear space, but it was the 2011 North Face Nuptse x Supreme collaboration which launched the garment to a new level of fame. From that point on, the Nuptse was increasingly included in the rotation of celebrities and creatives.
As the world has evolved the Nuptse has evolved with it. In 2016, the Nuptse took its first steps towards more sustainable practices, first becoming Responsible Down Standard certified. In 2019, the first 100% recycled Nuptse was produced.
What the brand stands for has evolved thanks to the diverse crowd that has adapted it for their own purposes. The inventive energy behind The North Face has come to represent the essence of streetwear. The slogan “Never Stop Exploring” has gone from inspiring expeditions through nature, to prompting urban adventurers, and inspiring creativity amongst city dwellers.
After becoming a New York staple along with boots and jeans to brave the city nights which can drop to -18 degrees Celsius, the Nuptse caught the attention of hip hop artists, giving it what we recognise today as its inherent street appeal. Coupled with innovation and feedback from athletes, mountaineers and US Marine Corps, the Nuptse is the ground zero garment for fashion enthusiasts craving technical ability, aesthetics, and sustainability from their clothes.
Whether you’re a gorpcore fanatic, a sneakerhead, looking for an entry point to the utility trend or preparing for the zombie apocalypse, the Nuptse keeps you warm regardless.
Shop The North Face and the Nuptse from Glue Store, in-store and online.