Outdoor Frenzy ushers in the era of the high fashion hiking boot – WWD
Once upon a time, there were hiking shoes for the trails and hiking-inspired shoes for the city streets. The two rarely saw a crossover, and for some reason the less tactile “inspired” category—often a version of a combat boot style—was considered the more appropriate option to wear when off the beaten path. wood.
But since the pandemic, when nature got a massive upgrade and city dwellers stormed national parks and protected waterways and plundered the shelves of REI Co-op, the hiking shoe label started to change.
“I mean, what else are you going to do?” J. Crew’s executive vice president of women’s design, Olympia Gayot, said she’s been spending time outdoors.
Enter the era of the aesthetic hiking boot, a colorful in-between that takes you between the city and park trails. They’re devoid of the dull, muddy colors that have undermined the style reputation of hiking boots and have been spotted at stores like J. Crew, Bally, Zegna, Outdoor Voices and Sweaty Betty – all of which sell trendy versions of real hiking boots. instead of their inspired parent.
But while their style quotient might be higher, engineered Vibram Grip soles, Gore-Tex overlays and good ankle support make the boots ready partners for outdoor adventures.
“They will write books about what we have been through. The outdoors has become the safest place for health and mental well-being. Just being outside has meant so much to people during the pandemic. While it has brought challenges, the outdoors have become more important than ever,” said Christopher Hufnagel, president of Merrell, which is responsible for boots spotted at Outdoor Voices and, soon, Sweaty Betty.
Gayot said she sees the hiking shoe as the growing fashion trend. “On the west coast, for a time, people wore Sherpa jackets and hiking boots to a coffee or a meeting. On the East Coast, it’s becoming a more recent town-style thing. She got to work leading a collaboration between J. Crew and forward-thinking Italian performance shoemaker Diemme, with a collection of sunny-hued hiking boots.
Interest in Italian mountaineering extends to La Sportiva and Zegna’s recent tie-up of hiking boots and trail runners, which launched in December. Ditto for Bally’s recent Bally Hike collection, co-designed by fashion designer Robert Rabensteiner as an ode to his childhood in the Dolemites – many of which are furnished in Crayola crayon color combinations.
“We have seen a shift in today’s post-pandemic consumer, with a greater demand for practicality, versatility and longevity. People are looking for dynamic comfort in a context where their lifestyle merges between the city and outdoors, office and home,” Bally Managing Director Nicolas Girotto said of the idea behind the Bally Hike collections, adding that he aims to get the business back to its roots. of performance, which include creating shoes for Tenzing Norgay’s first Mount Everest summit in 1953.
In the early stages of the pandemic, outdoor gear stores like REI experienced a rush of first-time buyers, sometimes making it almost impossible to track down a pair of hiking boots in your own size. This frenzy led Merrell executives to think about how to scale the business and appeal to a new stream of outdoor enthusiasts.
“We are the authentic outdoor footwear brand, we are 40 years old [of] experience on the trail. Being a leader in outdoor footwear gives us a motto that other brands can’t buy. We strive to protect that, but at the same time brands need to evolve and we need to evolve as well, to satisfy our existing buyers and also reach new consumers,” Hufnagel said.
The company worked to reach more female consumers, which resulted in partnerships with brands founded by women. The sold-out Outdoor Voices collaboration saw Merrell co-design a stretchy version of his Moab 2 style hiking boot in yellow and sand or burnt orange and pink color combinations. Merrell’s Sweaty Betty Link launches March 17 and features versions of the company’s lightweight and Gore-tex coated Moab GTX styles.
Hufnagel admitted the rush to nature means Merrell is “now taking phone calls from brands we never thought we’d hear about who want to partner with us.” Other collaborations are on the horizon, all of which will offer boots that don’t skimp on technical features. “We can grow by offering high-performance products,” Hufnagel said.