Hobbs & Shaw, the latest going-to-cross-a-billion instalment in the neverending Fast & Furious series, is many things. Loud. Ludicrous. Lacking in even a basic respect for Newton’s laws of motion. But it’s also an ode to a very particular, very nerdy strain of menswear.
When costume designer Sarah Evelyn needed clothes that conveyed just how ready her main characters were to get shit done, she trussed up foes-turned-bros Jason Statham and Dwayne Johnson in Acronym, the near-mythical techwear brand founded in 1994 by Errolson Hugh.
Those not yet immersed in Hugh’s tao of techwear may recognise the preternaturally young-looking designer for his bad-ass roundhouse kicks. But he’s even defter with a sewing machine. His clothes look like something you might wear to assassinate a future robot president, the utility trend taken to obsessive levels of detail.
They are also as hard to get hold of as a man who assassinates future robot presidents, by dint of both their price (its trousers can set you back a grand) and the fact that by the time one of its extremely limited-edition drops arrives online, or in one of its handful of retail partners, John Mayer or sci-fi author William Gibson or, yes, Jason Statham will probably have bought it all.
This culty, insiders-only aspect is one of the reasons that Acronym – and techwear more widely – has an intense and vociferous online community. In forums like superfuture, Reddit’s /techwearclothing, or in the comments of Instagram accounts like @ACRHIVE, men (and it’s a look monopolised by men) share pictures of themselves dressed like they’re about to parachute into Helmand Province, and compare notes on how different fabrics stand-up in particular weather.
What Is Techwear?
“I’m sure there are lots of definitions of what techwear is,” says Charlie Haywood, from Brighton-based menswear store (and one of only a few Acronym stockists) Peggs and Son. “But for us it is the blending of modern, man-made materials with advanced construction techniques, to create a new form of functionality. Think GORE-TEX PRO 3L and taped seams, laminated zips and ergonomic panelled construction.”
This last point is important. To the untrained, techwear can look like a more pocket-loving offshoot of the kind of drapey, all-black clothing the Rick Owens and Yohji Yamamoto acolytes were wearing at the start of the decade. But techwear’s defined less by an aesthetic and more by an obsession – from both designers and wearers – with practicality.
“People are drawn to trends that offer a practical element,” says Fanny Moizant, co-founder of luxury resale marketplace VestiareCollective, who adds that sales for Stone Island (another big brand for techwear fans) are up 200 per cent. “The materials allow for breathability and temperature control, making them super-versatile, and they can be adapted for city life. Combining utility features with a cool aesthetic is something people want to buy into. It’s inclusive and adaptive.”
In that, it has certain overlaps with other real world-ready ways of getting dressed, like gorp- and warcore. But it also goes a lot further than just wearing a Patagonia fleece over your suit. Among Hugh’s many sartorial inventions are the ‘Sound Forcelock’ – a magnetic collar strip that holds your earphones – and a ‘Gravity Pocket’, which stores your phone in your sleeve and can drop it straight it into your hand. It’s clothing that draws on things that will keep you alive in the wilderness to make living in the urban sprawl more manageable.
“Hold an Acronym jacket in your hand and you can see the level of thought that goes into not only how it will keep you protected from the elements, but also how the wearer might use it,” says Haywood. “When it is done well, it is more like engineering than clothes design.”
The Techwear Look
A scroll through Hugh’s Instagram (he moonlights as his brand’s go-to model) or the #acrhive hashtag offers a techwear primer – mostly black, lots of layering and as many straps and pockets as you can get your hands on. But this is techwear taken to its Instagram-friendly extremes, and you don’t need to go full techno-ninja to pull it off.
“You can go full head-to-toe if that’s your thing,” says Haywood, “but as the trend can trace its lineage back to outdoor gear, you can easily just incorporate a jacket into a look.”
In fact, as inaccessible as it might seem, techwear is actually surprisingly simple to integrate into a wardrobe built around menswear’s core elements. “It has its roots firmly planted in three of the main pillars: sportswear, the military, and outdoor gear,” says Haywood. “That widens its appeal hugely as the jumping-off points are familiar.”
It can be as simple as subbing in a pair of Nike ACG cargo pants for your joggers, or swapping your bomber for a Stone Island Shadow Project hooded jacket.
The in-with-both-feet approach to techwear is half ronin, half replicant: think layering, drape and lots of stuff-friendly pockets. There aren’t many grey areas in total techwear – literally, almost everything’s all black – which means you need to play with silhouette to stand out. That doesn’t mean weird cuts for the sake of it (remember, techwear’s about practicality) but rather things like carrot cut trousers, which aid mobility without creating a trip hazard, or asymmetric pockets positioned for easier access.
You can keep the monochrome look, but lose the intensity of the special forces-looking stuff, by lightening up a bit. Greys, browns or even olive greens keep things muted, but are a touch more accessible than all-black. To keep it techwear, make sure to bake in practicality with things like heat-trapping layers near your skin, and pocket-heavy outerwear over the top.
A Touch Of Techwear
The beauty of techwear is that you can add as much or as little as you like. Mixing traditional fabrics like wool with something more space-age, like GORE-TEX or poly-blends, gives even fairly traditional looks a bit of a futuristic feel. And when in doubt, just add pockets: chinos become cargos; a chore coat becomes an M65 field jacket.
8 Techwear Brands To Add To Your Wardrobe
Hugh’s Acronym is both techwear’s original brand and its lodestar – where he goes, others tend to follow. His obsession with detail is legendary, perhaps encapsulated best by his re-engineered pocket – based on a parallelogram, it drops to a point at the bottom so that keys and change are kept separate from things that they can scratch, like phones or sunglasses.
Until 2018, Hugh was also the man behind All Conditions Gear, Nike’s techwear sub-label. It’s now helmed by James Arizumi, who’s taken the brand in a more outward bound direction, but Hugh’s DNA remains in its mashing up of the technical innovations from all Nike’s other divisions – sweat-wicking fabrics, React sole cushioning, deluge-ready GORE-TEX – for pieces that work in the city and beyond.
The Three Stripes’s Yohji Yamamoto-helmed sub-line reworks his signature black-and-drapey aesthetic in an athletic context, with a focus on innovative fabrics and construction. Arguably most apparent in the brand’s sneakers, the techwear vibe also appears in things like its ergonomic backpacks.
The Brooklyn-based brand couples techwear’s practicality with an under-the-radar design ethos – think commuter chinos with in-built stretch and water resistance, or reinvented jeans made from Strongtwill, a nylon blend softer, tougher and longer-lasting than denim. Looks good, too.
The snowboard brand’s boundary-breaking offshoot was one of Hugh’s early clients when Acronym was still a design agency. It’s still one of the most innovative labels in extreme sports, the first place to find the newest GORE-TEX fabrics married to Hugh-like details like headphone clips and quick-access pockets.
The Ukrainian brand is best known for its wrapping parka, which is slathered in removable pockets and can be flipped between a hip-length jacket and a knee-length parka jacket depending on the weather conditions. Aesthetic-wise, it lands firmly in the dystopian end of the the techwear spectrum – part apparel, part sci-fi cosplay.
Stone Island Shadow Project
Stone Island’s skunk works is helmed by – who else? – Errolson Hugh, who keeps the Italian sportswear giant’s lab techs on their toes in the search for ever more innovative clothesmaking techniques. Think ‘Articulation Tunnels’, which let you adjust the shape of a garment on the fly, or dyeing techniques that give jackets an iridescent shimmer.
The North Face
Techwear for those who don’t want to go too deep down the rabbithole, North Face has you covered for any-weather fabrics and practical design details, albeit without all that cyberpunk styling. Stick to black, though, and its layers and jackets will integrate nicely with even the more directional stuff.