What are the best clothing brands for the style-conscious adventurer?
How do I look smart—but also practical—while traveling the world?
Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness, nutrition, and adventure courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+.
If you’ve ever skied out West, chances are you’ve come across a Sam Elliot lookalike barreling down a double-black on a pair of Hart Gremlins from 1985, dressed neck to ankle in denim, head topped with an old Stetson. The skiing cowboy cares not for 900 goose down fill or hydrophobic polypropylene. He’s got his own style, and it gets him down the mountain just fine, partner.
We bring this up not to knock synthetic fibers (you know we love them), but to point out that you don’t have to sacrifice your own look just because you’re playing outside—an idea that Steve Kang has built a career around. He owns Black Blue, a clothing store in St. Paul, Minnesota, that sells rugged, quality-made apparel, bags, boots and accessories from classic, outdoorsy brands such as Filson and A.P.C. Carhartt. The majority of Kang’s inventory is made of strong, natural fabrics such as wool, waxed cotton and canvas, and all of it looks great, especially when scuffed up by nature.
Kang practices what he preaches, by the way. He skis in wool sweaters and hikes in handsome Red Wing boots. Here, he offers suggestions on how to look smart while doing whatever it is you do out there.
Outerwear: Waxed cotton jackets from Filson and Barbour.
“Both brands have a long history of designing outerwear intended for use while hunting,” Kang says. “Before there was Gore-Tex, the method of keeping your outerwear weather-proof was to use oil or wax. I like to refer to this and a lot of stuff in the shop as ‘old technology’.”
Pants: Duck canvas chinos by Left Field; rip-stop cotton pants by Engineered Garments.
“For a rugged pant that’s great for everyday use, try Chinos made of a thick 12-ounce duck canvas. A couple of us had those up in the Boundary Waters this past summer. Another favorite is the rip-stop cotton Fatigue Pants made by Engineered Garments. These are thick and durable enough for some pretty serious bushwacking.”
Bags: Anything by Duluth Pack.
“One of my favorites from Duluth Pack is the Scoutmaster Deluxe, made of a heavy 15-ounce canvas with leather for the trim, bottom, and straps.”
Boots: Anything by Red Wing.
“A good alternative to the hiking boot look is a pair of Red Wings—particularly the 1907, which has a sole stiff enough to carry heavy loads on portages. And the outsole just sticks to rocks.”
Sweaters: Wool knits by SNS Herning.
“I’m a fan of using wool sweaters as a mid layer for alpine skiing, in particular. Wool is insulating and can hold a great deal of water before it becomes saturated and keeps you warm even if it does become wet. We carry a very hard to find brand of sweaters that are knit in Denmark called SNS Herning. It is some of the best-looking and highest quality knitwear on the market anywhere in the world.”