Member Focus: Techwear with Rais

@Rais is a well-known streetwear poster for a reason. He’s the resident master of futuristic techwear; taking inspiration from speculative fiction, film, and his own environment. The subject of many admiring Blade Runner jokes, Rais excels at styling avant-garde designers with readily-available brands, and putting his own out-of-time stamp on the results. Here, he talks about what directs his buying and styling.

I enjoy challenges, and one interest that I’ve always had in terms of clothing, even before I took a more dedicated approach to “fashion” was in creating comfortable, disposable and practical looks from inexpensive and readily-available pieces. These looks are not particularly interesting to look at and are definitely not fashion forward for the style-conscious. Nor are the pieces themselves particularly remarkable to be of interest to those who collect clothing for their novelty. Yet these are the clothing I find myself wearing most days. The versatility of being able to work out in the gym with clothing that I can still wear into a bar to meet new friends or that wouldn’t look out of place in a Chinese tea house as I work on my laptop; that I could be comfortable resting in on an airplane and that I could replace at the ready, and rather inexpensively, if my outfit was damaged while being out or my luggage lost on a trip, is all very attractive to me.

It is easy to achieve those aims with a variety of approaches; techwear, one of my hobby styles that I experiment in, is typically robust, allows for extreme activity both in- and outdoors, and has a good degree more modesty than a tank top and gym shorts for casual contexts. But techwear is not particularly socially-inviting, it is actually quite anti-social due to its reliance on the colour black, and it stands out in a crowd communicating to others that you are different, in a way that you want to be left alone. I also find it affected in that on the days when I need to drive, stepping out of my air-conditioned vehicle with its plush leather seats and cruise control while dressed in preparation for the apocalypse seems a bit disingenuous.

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Rais in a go-to techwear outfit

This is one of my favourite tech looks. It is high performance, water-resistant, extremely lightweight, comfortable and, outside, at night it blends in well with its surroundings. I take a more activewear approach to this style compared to the typical streetwear aesthetic that many other techwear enthusiasts gravitate towards. Everything here is from Nike, save the pants.

On the other side of the spectrum, my more fashionable, designer looks from Lanvin, Gaultier or Dior can be very attractive in various social engagements but obviously lack the comfort or the durability that I’d want for going to work in each day, particularly if I wished to walk or cycle on my commute, and obviously they aren’t suitable for any kind of physical exercise while wearing them. Thus, these fashionable looks require a sacrifice in comfort and practicality; necessitate that I drive when I go out and also that I pack a second set of gym clothing for exercise in a dedicated duffle bag. I am not sure that I am comfortable with that kind of investment in time each day for looks that I am not overly drawn to.

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Rais in Lanvin, Yves Saint Laurent, Prada, and Gaultier

This look is comprised of a Lanvin linen jacket, Yves Saint Laurent cotton shirt, Prada silk tie and Jean Paul Gaultier polyester-blend trousers.

I took a photo today for this article to illustrate the kind of versatile, casual clothing and look that I find myself wearing regularly. It is disposable, relaxed in fit, and stylistically I’ve tried to find a middle ground between contemporary ideals of men’s fashion and the minimal, athletic futurism I enjoy in my tech looks.

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Rais in readily-available fast-fashion brands

The polyamide bomber from H&M was RIT dyed and the collar and cuffs were cut off and left raw. The light olive tee is from Cotton-On in their “Other Crew” cut and the jogger pants were bought in Namdaemun market in South Korea. The slip-on sneakers are from Muji.

I remember reading a chapter from Gibson’s Virtual Light, where the protagonist, Rydell, went on a shopping trip to a large mall/port called Container City where large freighters from around the world docked to unload inexpensive merchandise stored in shipping containers to a swarming hive of consumers. Rydell purchased a new outfit of cheap basics; I believe it was a burgundy bomber jacket and a few black tees and a pair of jeans. That imagery appealed to me somehow, and even though I was attempting similar looks years prior to reading that book, I still remember and feel influenced by that particular passage with its apt representation of the modern man’s relationship with his clothing and how it has manifested into a practical uniform for the 21st century.

Hiking Boots for Lazy Winter Style

Hiking boots are enjoying a small but noticeable boost in popularity this season, driven in part by the continuing extension of athleisure into all-seasons – as opposed to just summer. I, for one, am enjoying this outdoorsy-techwear moment, especially because it allows me to feel less shameful about my propensity to wear over-designed sweatpants. Not that hiking boots haven’t always had their fans, but over the last few seasons chunky, mountaineering-inspired silhouettes have picked up a noticeable amount of steam. Some of the Italian giants have been playing with the winter-luxury thing more or less since they’ve been around, but the trickle-down into high street and fast fashion has turned what used to be a largely granola-exclusive product into a common sight.

Danner deserves the credit for a lot of that popularity in America (as does Diemme, internationally), and they’ve been churning out the same shape since before most of us were alive. Their classic hiking boots have also seen something of a resurgence in recent years, the work-boot obsession of bearded hipsters countrywide having translated into the adoption of any “working man’s” footwear, and being something of an extension of our former obsession with deck boots.

And why not? Hiking boots usually offer comfort that leather-soled boots don’t, and for American consumers that’s a big deal. The growth of casual, outdoor wear-inspired brands hasn’t hurt the popularity, either, as Timberland’s enduring popularity can attest to. Add in the cachet of American manufacturing and a handful of well-publicized collaborations – like this years Danner x New Balance project – and you’ve got a winning recipe.

Thing is, I want some too. I spend a lot of time on my feet, and live in a state where we have seasons. That means that I often don’t want to wear leather-soled boots in the winter, when the ground is either wet or, y’know, covered in snow. And as tempting as it is to tell myself that a pair of fashionable boots is going to hold up to all of my winter shenanigans, the truth is that at some point I’m going to have to buckle down and get something that’s functional.

I’m going to throw my cards in with the Danner Light, which is Danner’s suede-and-nylon lightweight hiker. I know, I know – the shape takes some getting used to. But the more I look at them, the more I think they’re kind of charming. I’d wear them either with rolled denim, or with a tapered tech pant like these from Outlier. In the case of the former, a bomber jacket, indigo coat, or interesting vest (like so, perhaps, for maximum throwback style) over a thermal sounds like just the ticket. With the latter, any kind of nylon or insulated active outerwear would do well (think Battenwear, and Wander, or Snow Peak) if you’re going super casual, as would something like Isaora’s tech shell for an outfit that looks less like straight mountaineering wear. Finally, Danner Lights aren’t all that expensive (relatively), which means that picking up a pair for those days when you really just want your feet to be dry and comfortable isn’t an economic disaster.

You can grab this pair straight from the Danner webshop.

hiking boots danner light urban outdoorsman techwear

Three Techwear Brands for the Urban Outdoorsman

Since techwear officially became A Thing, there are more brands than I can count that are now playing with takes on the “day-hiker in the big city” look, and you can find them from retailers ranging from Dick’s to Mr. Porter. What is it? Outdoor clothing, or outdoor-inspired clothing, that makes the wearer look as though they may ascend an Alp (or several Alps) at any moment. Hardshell outerwear, sweat-wicking mid-layers, safari shorts, and gore-tex trail shoes are the backbone of this look, along with the new required garment for any hip tech brand: climbing pants.

The best thing about this movement is that you can just wear your comfy hiking or trail shoes and feel fine about it. Well, with restrictions – those wide-toed Merrell things are always going to be ugly as sin, but Salomon trail shoes and Danner hikers are firmly established in all the hippest streetwear stores, and they’ve got decent arch support to boot. Rejoice, for the days of mincing around on painfully flat Serena cup soles are over!

Now, there are a few brands making what I think is really cool, wearable, outdoorsy clothing.  The three that have currently caught my eye are New York’s Battenwear, Japan’s Snow Peak, and a Tokyo-based company called and Wander. Although all three brands focus on technical, outdoorsy clothing, they’ve all come up with very different answers to the same question. 

That question, I assume, is “How can I look appear to hike a fourteener while carrying a surfboard without looking like a shapeless blob of nylon and polyester?” In all cases, you’ll have to visit the brand’s homepage to see the full range of offerings.

Snow Peak

Snow Peak is a Japanese company that has been making camping gear such as backpacking stoves and titanium sporks since 1958, but they also make very cool (and occasionally bizarre) clothing that ranges from waxed down jackets to cable-knit leggings.  Their shorts and pants are all of the mountaineering variety; most with cargo pockets and zips and elastic or self-belted waistbands. Crotch gussets feature prominently.  More interesting pieces, such as water-resistant popover midlayers; cuddly, oversized fleece sweaters, and quilted lounge pants add much-needed whimsy that keeps the company from hard-tech goods such as those you might find at North Face or even Fjallraven.

I like to think that Snow Peak’s collection evokes an image of a small group of mountaineers climbing an unforgiving mountain in a whiteout. Sparkly motes wink in the air beside them, and magic crackles through the snow. It’s fairy techwear for a fantasy world, clothing that acts as a cozy, protective cocoon from the blizzard of the everyday.

Shop Snow Peak

Photo: Snow Peak


Battenwear, designed in New York by Mr. Shinya Hasegawa and produced in the USA, offers a more Americanized take on outdoor goods. 60/40 cloth parkas and unassuming basics form the bulk of the collection, although lounge-centric pieces such as impeccably-constructed fleece hiking pants make you wonder why you’re still wearing denim. Mid-20th century cues guide color selection and product design, and in addition to the more experimental pieces you’ll find board shorts and hiking shorts in 50’s-flavored earth tones, florals, and the washed-out pastels of beachside California towns.

1970’s-inspired denim pieces and color-blocked looks add an out-of-time quality to Battenwear’s offerings, and the cuts are generally of the slim-but-boxy variety that is equally suggestive of European backpackers and A-frame tents. It’s all very ocean-to-mountain, and practically begs to be photographed alongside vintage National Park signage.

Shop Battenwear

And Wander

When two Issey Miyake alums come together to make urban-mori clothing, the results are bound to be pretty good. And Wander delivers technical wear that manages to be alluring and evocative of natural pursuits, and keeps the wearer from looking like an advertisement for suburban fitness boot camps. You won’t find neons here – the technical fabrics (nylons and nylon blends feature heavily) come in subdued greens, blues and purples. Don’t be fooled by all-black buys – this brand shines in its use of earth tones.

And Wander focuses heavily on body-centric pattern-making, just as its competitors do. Expect climbing pants that offer a wide range of motion, Coolmax shirting, and lightweight outerwear. Layering the less-traditional pieces, such as the technical skirts and long parkas, keeps the look from verging too far into caricature.

Like Miyake, And Wander shows a gleeful focus on objects and accessories, and non-traditional backpacks and vests are a seamless part of the collection, along with hats and gloves. For fall 2016, they’ve also worked with Paraboot to develop a vintage-style hiker that will – one hopes – keep your feet warm and dry during a slushy city winter.

Shop and Wander