The Most Influential Gear of All Time: Latok Diamond Softshell Pullover

1984

The early soft shell     Photo: Courtesy of Latok

Jeff Lowe wore a stretch cross-country ski top and Nordic knickers on multiple climbing first ascents in the United States and abroad because Nordic ski garments gave him better flexibility than he could get from traditional climbing clothes. His partners, Mike Weis, Duncan Ferguson, and Bob Culp, were trying to build the perfect climbing suit at the same time—a full-coverage, one-piece body suit from woven synthetic fleece laminated to an exterior of stretch-knit Lycra. The tightly knit outer shell was almost as smooth as a woven fabric and shed snow before it had time to melt from contact with the climber, except in those areas where the contact was continuous over a long period of time. Lowe was working on his own version—a one-piece cross-country ski suit made from modified wind-proofed polypro underwear. Lowe, with the help of Swiss fabric innovator Schoeller, developed a hybrid of the two projects. The completed garment had an outer layer of tightly-knit nylon/Lycra backed with a thin, breathable, but highly wind and water-resistant, coating, laminated to a thin layer of polyester insulation laminated to a stretchy tricot lining.

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