I always get a kick out of photos from the pre-performance-apparel days. You had guys dunking in canvas hi-tops and skiing in jeans. Rocky running stairs in a groutfit.
It’s easy to forget that there actually was some elevated outdoor athletic gear, especially in the neon-fueled early '90s. One leader in the movement was Ralph Lauren, with its POLO SPORT collection. American climber Ed Viesturs summited Everest wearing the duds, and claimed: “I was the best-dressed climber on Everest, ever.”
POLO SPORT birthed Polo Hi Tech in 1992, and with it came lots of Supplex nylon, utility pockets and an array of bright colors, typically stacked on top of one another at random. And now, almost 30 years later, the iconic label is back.
Polo Hi Tech 2018 retains the original’s cross-sport aspirations: its jackets, beanies and vests yell verbs like “TREK” or “KAYAK” or “CLIMB”, sport American flag patches and put to use various performance updates, like polyester shells and cotton knits that won’t need an additional four layers to keep you toasty at the summit.
Design-wise, though, they’re ambitious and unapologetic, and — in a nod to modish streetwear concerns — they are actually available to the public ... unlike the original launch, which doled out the threads exclusively to the 1991 equivalent of Red Bull athletes.
We’re fans of the drop, if you’re wondering. From a style standpoint: any of these pieces (shown below) should be your statement piece for the day … so don’t debut the teddy bear sweatshirt the same day as your ripped camo pants. Or do, what do we know? And from a performance aspect, yes, you can probably find more capable layers elsewhere. It would be nice to be the best-dressed gent on your local hiking trail, though.
Below, some of our favorites from the collection.
Color-Blocked Pullover — $198
Trek Hat — $58
Hybrid Pant — $198
Bear Sweatshirt — $148
Alpine 200 Faux-Leather Hiker — $200
Hybrid Vest — $198
All images from Ralph Lauren