The Badger Shirt
“I teamed up with my creative art director, Hal Arneson, and chief designer Kathy Larramendy, to create a refreshing new approach for kids,” writes former Patagonia clothing designer Michael Rogers. “As Yvon’s spirit-animal tag was Badger, I came up with a fun-loving badger character who devoted his time surfing, kayaking, free climbing, bouldering, and cross-country skiing wearing Patagonia-inspired apparel.
“So in about ten days, I came into the art department and showed Hal and Madelyn, then Kathy, the color comps of the Badger artwork. Hal and Madelyn signed me off immediately that I would return in a week with the finished art. In those days, before digital art software, artwork was hand painted; in this case Luma dyes on bristol vellum board with a separate black-line overlay for fabric application.
“I returned in a week with the badgers at play and the logo. I celebrated with a grand feast in the Patagonia cafeteria lunchroom. As the Badger shirt and shorts were a secret, I kept my peace about my involvement until Yvon was presented a finished prototype pair of shorts and shirt that was produced for his approval. So successful was the response that a lot of designers requested shirt and shorts for themselves. The Fall 1988 Patagonia Kids catalog had a two-page spread of the artwork, with Fletcher Chouinard modeling the graphic ensemble in Belize. It was the coolest collaborative ever.”
These crates date back to the early 1970s. They came from Switzerland packed with spools of kernmantle rope, which Chouinard Equipment employees would measure into lengths of 150 and 165 meters and sell as individual climbing ropes. The empty crates were apparently scattered about the growing headquarters and, as a free source of wood, repurposed into tables, benches, or office shelving. Julio Varela remembers assembling the crates into a kind of outdoor kitchen for the pig roasts he would host behind the Tin Shed.
To former Patagonia sales director Ric Hatch, the crate became a gift box of sorts. He had saved all of his samples from his years with the company (1979 to 2004) but couldn’t bring himself to toss or sell them. “I don’t know,” says Hatch, “I had an intuition that old clothing might have historical value. I just kind of kept all this stuff. I had an old Chouinard wooden crate that ropes came over from Europe in, and I just piled it all in there and brought it over to Val and Terri at the archives. Now they have it, and I have nothing except the greatest appreciation from Val.”
In 1976, Malinda Chouinard lucked into bolts of the hard-to-find fabric in the California Merchandise Mart, marketed as toilet seat covers. The jacket was donated by one of Chouinard’s whitewater paddling pals and fellow Do-Boy John Wasson, the husband of Patagonia label designer Jocelyn Slack. Wasson tells the story of how his jacket acquired its dragon “tattoo”:
“In the spring of 1979, I was one of three kayakers on an American Sportsman trip in Nepal,” writes Wasson. “Two films would show a group of climbers making the second ascent of Ama Dablam, and then kayakers running the Arun River in western Nepal. The kayakers were invited to come to base camp and perhaps carry some loads higher up on the mountain. The day before we flew to Lukla, I got a guy in a small, dark shop in Kathmandu to put the dragon onto my pile. He literally ‘painted’ it freehand with an embroidery machine, changing thread colors in seconds.
“I chugged my way up and down the mountain mostly alone. The tricky parts all had fixed ropes. There was talk of a second summit team, but at the end there were only Doug Robinson and me interested in going higher. We met up at the highest camp and had an almost perfect summit day followed by a slow, headlamp-lit descent back to the tent. Naturally the Dragon Pile was along for the ride. Paddling the Arun was also great, but that’s another story.”
The plaque reads: “Long-time customer, Freeman Payne (age 19), purchased these products in 1973 from Great Pacific Iron Works (Ventura Patagonia store) with an upcoming climbing trip in mind. A motorcycle injury in 1975 changed his plans and the equipment was relegated to storage for 38 years, only to be discovered years later during a move. Freeman is pleased and honored to know this equipment has found its way home to Ventura.”
Freeman Payne’s donation is like the famed 1972 catalog come to life. Pictured is an alpine hammer, Chouinard’s cleverly named Climaxe, Lost Arrow pitons, the Chouinard-Frost piolet, Millar mitts, Dachstein mitts, Schizo hats, High Altitude glasses, and Chouinard-Salewa 12-point crampons. Val Franco filled in some of the details: “Not until [Payne’s] wife died a few years ago did he know he had time-capsuled most of his purchases from the original Chouinard catalog,” she says. This includes an Ultima Thule designed by Tom Frost and most likely sewn by me.”
Here’s what Jocelyn Slack remembers about this 1987 design, a confluence of sea and mountains, as visualized through the cracked windshield of a beater roadtrip mobile. (See if you can spot the pitons and ice ax heads in the artwork.)
“The inspiration for the bird of paradise pitons and the flamingos came from my experience of arriving in Southern California to work in Ventura, usually in winter, driving down from [Jackson,] Wyoming. The warm air, ocean, and all the flowers, the ‘tropicalness,’ was a heady sensation, never diminished by repeat visits. The pitons are beautiful pieces of design, each unique, like a flower. Their shape looked almost birdlike, so it was interesting to weave them in with the flowers, which also look like birds."
Patagonia, it seems, has always produced decals. “Our stickers over the years have been as simple as the logo or have called attention to an environmental issue or as a shout-out to vote the environment," says Terri Laine. When asked about the popularity of the decals, she says, “Our customers crave to show their loyalty and pride of being part of this tribe. I believe in general there is just a thirst for this type of promotional material. Just another way to get ourselves out there.”
Climbers realized pitons wreaked havoc on cracks, so Chouinard began manufacturing “passive” protection, or chocks, that could be slotted and removed without scarring the rock. Hexentrics (pictured here), along with Stoppers and Tube Chocks, all debuted in the 1972 catalog. While the stoppers were ideal for tapered cracks, and the tube chocks answered the need to protect for four-to-six-inch cracks, the Hexentrics answered the need for, say, Yosemite’s smooth-sided parallel cracks. The irregular-shaped hexagon actually cammed when placed in a skewed position. It was marketed as a replacement for angle irons, and it worked well in parallel, smooth-sided cracks. In 1974, the company offered this template for DIY lightening holes. Hexentrics were offered in 10 sizes: #1, the smallest size, sold for 80 cents, and a #10 cost $1.75.
Have you ever seen the film Mountain of Storms? It’s Lito Tejada-Flores’ 1969 adventure flick featuring Yvon Chouinard, Doug Tompkins, Dick Dorworth, and Chris Jones on their half-year road trip of surfing, skiing, and climbing from Ventura to Patagonia and back again in a used Ford Econoline van. The film’s apotheosis takes place on December 20, 1968, when the team made the third ascent of Mount Fitz Roy by a new route. (The team unfurled the above banner at the summit.) “In general,” wrote Tompkins in an account of the climb in the American Alpine Journal, “we were going to ‘hog fun’ as much as we could for six months.” Thus the Fun Hog moniker, which they loosely translated as “sporting porks” for the Patagonian locals. Word has it that Tompkins, who had founded The North Face in 1966 and sold it in 1968, had the banner made just before leaving San Francisco. (Read his memories of the adventure, which we published in December 2015.)
Patagonia’s geography made a deep impression on Chouinard, who went on to name his company for the range that captured his heart. Later, of course, Tompkins would migrate to the region and begin acquiring vast tracts of land and turning them into national parks.