It’s hard to believe, today, that George Mallory made an attempt to climb Mount Everest in only a Harris Tweed suit. It was 1924 and Mallory, who was once famously quoted replying to the question, “Why do you want to climb Mount Everest?” with the response, “Because it’s there”, was dressed in a military issue three-piece tweed suit and sheepskin boots.
He and his climbing partner, Irvine, were last seen just 245 metres from the summit of the world’s highest peak. They unfortunately never returned and the mystery of whether they reached the top continues to this day. His body was only discovered in 1999.
The fashion fantasy of these historical explorers is often cited come wintertime. The perennial image of man against the elements, all snow bound and windswept, is nothing new: but what is? It has now become a reality…
The Polar Explorer Trend
Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you feel about the cold, these looks don’t appear out of place on our snowy streets anymore. What used to be a case of ‘I’ll never wear it’ has morphed into a desire of owning more than one. As our winters have become longer and deeper, these once exaggerated images of fur-capped men in oversized parkas are becoming more and more believable.
The polar explorer trend has been bubbling away in fashion for a few seasons, but it is only really now that we are buying into it. When hiking boots crossed over into the realm of menswear a couple of years ago, they were met them with an air of scepticism – especially the £5,000 alligator pair that Dunhill produced!
A couple of winters on, we are starting to see them as an investment and an unquestionable purchase. From the AW13 catwalk shows of Louis Vuitton, who used real pieces of Everest rock as buttons on coats and climbing equipment as belts, to Topman Design, who gave us a colourful trek over the tundra; the polar explorer look will be your best sartorial investment this season, no question:
Key Collection: Bally Everest AW13
Ever since Everest was first recognised as the world’s highest peak in 1852, mountaineers have dreamt of reaching the summit. On the 29th May 1953 at 11:30am local time, Sir Edmund Hillary and Nepali Sherpa, Tenzing Norgay, finally reached the summit of Mount Everest. Tenzing was wearing a pair of Bally Reindeer-Himalaya boots and to celebrate its 60th anniversary, Bally has delved into the archive and produced a limited edition Everest collection.
Bally first designed mountaineering boots in the 1940s for the Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research, who intended to explore the world’s unknown peaks. The boot worn by Tenzing was originally designed for climbing to a height of almost 7000m – it reached over 8800m. With its unique reindeer fur shell, separate inner and sturdy sole, the wearer’s feet were kept warm and protected.
For the first time, less metal was used close to the feet, which provided better insulation and less chance of frostbitten toes. A new hook lace-up system located on the boot’s front made it easier for climbers to adjust their boots, even under extreme conditions.
Each boot in the new collection is constructed with a lightweight, injection moulded lug sole that combines the best of 2013 comfort and performance with the re-engineered ‘360 Degree Non-Slip Bally Grip’, first patented by Bally in 1919.
Double-stitch Norwegian construction is a hallmark of the boots. The ‘Vilmos’ boot is the centrepiece, inspired by Tenzing’s reindeer trekking boot and recreated, today, in marmot fur with warm cashmere. Bally even managed to locate the original German manufacturer of the hook lace-up system used on those first Everest boots.
Key Designer: Nigel Cabourn
Vintage specialist designer, Nigel Cabourn, has long had an association with Everest. His famed ‘Mallory’ jacket is a faithful reproduction of the tailored jacket Mallory perished in, whilst his ‘Everest’ parka, first introduced in 2003, on the 50th anniversary of the conquering of Everest, has become a cult menswear classic.
Inspired by the parka Hillary wore on Everest and again crossing Antarctica in 1957-1958, it is filled with the finest goose down with each pocket filled and sealed by hand and constructed within a 100 per cent Cotton Ventile shell. It has a coyote fur-trim around the hood with real sheepskin neck trim and can stand cold in excess of minus 40 Degrees:
Specialist Label: Moncler
When the mercury drops, nothing keeps us warm like down. French specialist Moncler has built an entire billion-dollar brand on the stuff. Moncler’s down comes from geese raised in the south of Brittany and in Perigord. The climate is perfect for the birds and the down is selected by hand. These are expensive coats, but there are more affordable down options courtesy of big producers like the Chinese brand Boisdeng and Japan’s Uniqlo.
Moncler has introduced a new label, Moncler W, this season. Teaming up with Japanese label White Mountaineering – which is known for rugged, heritage-inspired collections with a strong emphasis on fabrics, construction and technical features – they have created a collection of ‘anti-freeze’ garments featuring padded waves and decorated by ultra-technical knitted inserts in various shades of grey, green and khaki.
- Moncler Pyrenees Flannel Panel Down Jacket 167661
- Moncler Chateaubriant Jacket
- Moncler Rhone Hooded Down Jacket 176672
- Moncler Gamme Bleu Flannel Front Jacket
- Moncler Nestor Jacket
- Moncler W Folgora Down Jacket 172988
- Moncler Himalay Quilted Hood Jacket
- Moncler W Reaper Chambray Techno Down Jacket
- Moncler W Albemarle Chambray Techno Down Jacket
Get The Look
The winter parka or padded jacket (again on trend with the industry’s focus on quilting this season) is your most important purchase when looking to recreate the aesthetic. Spend the most you can, as it’s what is on the inside that really counts.
For the visuals, go for a striking colour. Look for a generous hood with a coyote fur-trim and lots of pockets or technical looking toggles.
Accessories such as hand-knit beanies, fur trapper hats, rucksacks, thick socks and duck/hiking boots are the touches that will bring the whole look together. Look for primary colours and don’t be afraid to contrast. Continue the chunky/oversized theme; it will balance with the coat.
- Asos Quilted Arctic Parka
- Carhartt Parka Coat
- Supremebeing Coat Padded Tweed Panel
- Topman Blue Nylon Heavyweight Parka Coat
- Uniqlo Men Ultra Light Down Jacket
- Woolrich Arctic Parka Coyote-trimmed Down-filled Coat
- Uniqlo Men Ultra Light Down Vest / Gilet
- Canada Goose Expedition Coyote-trim Parka Jacket
- River Island Light Brown Down Feather Padded Jacket
- The North Face Men’s Khaki Mountain Heritage Backpack
- Faux-fur Lined Trapper Hat
- Asos 3 Pack Cable Knit Boot Socks
- Topman Yarn Twist 2 Pack Boot Socks
- Rockport Mens Trailbreaker Waterproof Duck Boot
- Lacrosse® For J.crew Duck Boots
Key Piece: Hiking Boots
Here at FashionBeans, we have already singled out the hiking boot as a key boot silhouette for AW13, and it is perfect for pulling off the aesthetic: practical, hard wearing and built for purpose. Designed to keep you sure-footed, no matter the weather, they are versatile enough to slot into a number of different looks, from refined country gent to rough and ready workerwear.
Even casual shoes are coming with hiking details this season. The sought-after Bernhard Willhelm x Camper Together Himalaya sneaker looks like an 1980s throwback, but the hiking elements will work with all of the pieces mentioned above.
One capsule collection that should be on every style-conscious gent’s radar for AW13 comes courtesy of British footwear label ohw?, who has collaborated with renowned Canadian independent retailer Off The Hook.
Celebrating owh?’s addition to the store and inspired by the legendary Herman ‘Jackrabbit’ Smith-Johannsen – the Norwegian-born engineer who moved to Canada at the beginning of the 20th century and introduced cross-country skiing to the country – the collaboration pays homage to his story with a six-ski loop casual stitch down boot in full grain leather, available in two colour ways.
- Diemme Suede Boot
- Art Air Alpin – Lace-up Boots – Brown
- Timberland Splitrock 2 Hiking Boots
- Ecco Darren – Lace-up Boots – Grey
- Merrell X Dover Street Market Wilderness Boot
- Topman Cream Hiking Boots
- Palladium Waterproof Shearling Boots
- D Squared St Moritz Hiking Boots
- Topman Tmd Burgundy Hiking Boots
- Car Shoe Leather Hiking Boots
- Moncler Hiking Boots 134998
- Bernhard Willhelm X Camper Together Himalaya Sneakers
The polar look only works because of authenticity. The more authentic and believable a coat or shoe is, the better the overall aesthetic will be. Each item should have a job to do, even if you’re just popping out to the supermarket. This is the perfect balance of fashion and function – just add snow!
Make sure you let us know what you think about the polar explorer trend and whether you will be investing in any of the key pieces showcased today in the comments section below…