Becoming True GORP: Reese Cooper and The Future of His Outerwear

Also on YouTube, go listen to/watch this one there!

As a luxury hiking brand which leans towards luxury, there is something I found in an Esquire interview with Reese Cooper that I am incredibly excited about! It pertains to his outerwear, where n the same sentence of talking about his admiration for Arc’teryx and TNF, he explained: “And that's one of my main tackles right now.”

But first, before exploring the quote more, let’s give some context to why I’m excited about this.

What is interesting from an outdoor perspective is that Reese Cooper is the only high fashion hiking brand. Now the claim can be made that And Wander and Snow Peak sort of fall into that category too, however these are brands that don’t show at Paris Fashion Week. Although it is a high fashion brand and the lifestyle element of it of course comes first, the roots of the brand arguably grow from outdoor hiking apparel.

However, to view Reese Cooper from a purely outdoor mountaineering perspective and comparing it to hiking brands would only cause it to fall short of expectations. Although experimenting with interesting fabrics and developing a durable outdoor aesthetic is part of the brand, to my knowledge Reese Cooper has yet to release a fully waterproof garment, to me a hallmark of an outdoor brand — PS. Please correct me on this if I am wrong.

As the aforementioned the article explains: “[Reese’s] idea is to make super high-end versions of the things people would reach for before a hike, but make them so that they can actually perform in the context of the real world.”

Therefore, although comparisons with pure outdoor brands do Reese a disservice, comparisons with other fashion brands bring out what is special about Reese Cooper’s take on outdoor garments.

Esquire’s Charlie Teasdale described Reese’s brand as ‘fus[ing] the preppy, poppy Americana of Polo Ralph Lauren with the gorpy functionality of Patagonia.’ Unfortunately, I think this This description’s use of contemporary fashion buzz-words confuses what it is trying to say about the brand, However, what I think the description does hit home, is the mention of Americana and Ralph Lauren. For me, though, and more specifically within the Ralph universe, Double R L as a comparison is a brand whose collections find similar tone as Reese Cooper.

“Founded in 1993 and named after Ralph Lauren’s Colorado cattle ranch, RRL is the manifestation of Ralph Lauren's singular vision of American sportswear as viewed through the lens of the Great American West. RRL draws inspiration from the early 1900s hard-working lifestyles of blue-collar workers, ranchers, sailors, and soldiers alike.” (Stag Provisions)

The brands vision and inspiration from the past is a trait that both Ralph and Reese possess.

The same black and white photographs on the RRL website are the same photographs that one could imagine Reese referencing and putting into his work.

For example, when speaking on a RCI Trading Co. tee, Reese explained that it was based on ‘a hunting ad from an old book I found in a library from 1910, but it was an advertisement for a breed of Hunting dog.’ (Throwing Fits)

Even from a simple graphic, it is clear that Reese looks back into history both for aesthetic inspiration for his collections, but also for creating garments which emulate aspects of the eras he admires — much like Ralph.

This is certainly true of his Double RL line, where a mix of old gold-panning American Workwear and Western Designs are key to the line. Therefore, both from an ethos standpoint, but also aesthetically, the two brands could very easily be incorporated into the same wardrobe.

As for the mention of Ralph Lauren the brand as a whole, it is a brand which Reese himself has a relationship with. Ralph’s brand and the term ‘universe’ is thrown around a lot, and for good reason. Under the large bracket of his namesake brand, there are over 20 diffusions to his name. And Whilst my own comparison of Reese Cooper to Ralph Lauren comes from it being a brand which encompasses an outdoor American lifestyle, Reese’s own connection to the brand comes in his admiration of its range and diversity.

When interviewed on TF, Reese himself discussed his appreciation of the brand: (40:30)

Who are your favourite brands of all time? He mentioned Ralph, and in conversation about how he looks at Ralph’s expanse of universe, he spoke on his respect how ‘there’s so many different pockets’ of the brand, that it fully encompasses a lifestyle.

When looking at his own work then, Although less from the idea of creating lots of different sub-brands, the flowing narrative between Reese’s collections similarly emulate a world which one can step into and be a part of:

Reese himself in a short interview clip with Stock X talks upon a similar aspect of world building.

‘Lone Pine sets the scene…’

Again, like I said about Americana in my Patagonia video, Americana is something which you buy into for both the look, but also the history and the connection to history one feels when wearing the item.

Reese’s take on Americana, mixed with the universal aspect of the brand, makes it increasingly easier to be consumed and obsessed by. Currently, there is no other brand which I would love to exclusively wear.

Overall, I think the comparison of RRL is helpful when highlighting what the brand Reese Cooper currently is. RC is a brand which harps back to older eras and aesthetics of the outdoor America, of national parks and open plains, yet with a modern luxury twist.

Yet to return to the topic of Reese’s outerwear, just like how workers likely wouldn’t wear RRL on a real ranch as opposed proper uniforms of the trade, Anoraks with hiking patches and Reese’s ‘Landscape Print Technical Cargo Rain Jacket’ might be less likely to be seen in Yellowstone as opposed to TNF.

However, as the article mentions, Reese clearly wants to move in that direction.

Speaking on his cropped aesthetic and making outerwear his own, he explained:

“Yeah. I think it makes everything look better. And that's one of my main tackles right now: like I love North Face and Arc’teryx and I'm trying to figure out how to build capabilities in the US to start making some stuff like that. Because I look at all those things and I’m like, “yes it's functional, but you can't wear it if you're not literally on a mountain because it goes to your fucking knees, and like it just looks silly”. And so, I'm trying to figure out how to start working more in that world but we're getting close.”

But the question is how will Reese move from Americana-styled outdoors-wear and into real performance products.

The hiking apparel is a market with high brand loyalty, and in my opinion with also a distrust of the new. I feel as though it would be an enormous task to overcome: to break into tried-and-tested outdoor performance clothing, whilst also disrupting the landscape and convincing customers to switch from contemporary performance brands for their next jacket purchase, to Reese Cooper.

Because of this, as Reese has spoken in the past about his desire to collaborate with TNF, I would love to see Reese stick to his roots whilst also branching into this new range of performance outerwear. (Throwing Fits 1:03:00 ish)

With trust in the brand, I know if Reese was to collaborate with brands such as TNF, we wouldn’t simply get an RCI Nuptse for $500, but a unique design which would fit into and continue the Reese Cooper Universe. Although he says that they “wouldn’t add value”, and I’m assuming he means design wise, they of course would enable him to produce a better product from a technical standpoint and save him the money of independently researching how to produce technical outdoor gear.

The question second and final question is therefore: how will Reese keep his new outerwear within the RCI universe whilst also making it desirable enough to beat out competitors!

That we will have to wait and see.

However, perhaps we won’t need to see technical outdoor clothing from the Reese Cooper brand in coming collections, to see Reese Cooper outdoors-wear,  given his aspiration for the future: ‘truthfully I just want to be the creative director of ACG.(TF1:04:00)!