Saturday, 15 September 2012

Those Who Walk Through Time | by Christian Hilton

I’d shown the guys at ACM the pictures shown in this post, taken by my dad on various hiking trips in the Lakes, and Scotland during the 1970’s and ’80‘s. They thought it’d be a good idea to share them with people on here who might appreciate what they stand for.

I’m Northern. Let’s get that out of the way first. I may have been exiled for years, but I still pronounce my vowels flatly, have supported a North-West team through the many bad (and rare good) times and most importantly love jackets. I’m not saying an obsession with outerwear is purely Northern centric - but I do think due to historical and geographic factors it has become ingrained. Now firmly entrenched in the South West I still live by my own mantra, when going out - all you need is a great jacket and some decent footwear.

It was this love of outerwear that recently got me thinking about my old man and his ‘exploits’ with his pals up and down the hillsides, ridges and valleys of Northern Britain. Dad was a ‘walker’, ‘hiker’, ‘rambler’, call it whatever term you like, and looking back on it now - though clearly never mentioned at the time - was as cool as f**k!

You’ll be aware of the recent trend (hate that word) celebrating ‘Acid Rambling’ and ‘Hikerdelia’ in turn influencing stores and brands, and seen in art instillations and magazines; stalwarts Oi Polloi and Proper Magazine to name but two. The pictures on this page aren't of that scene - they are linked - but very different. No mind altering substances or psychedelic U.S. outerwear were worn by these Northern chaps. Their strongest vice was probably 8 pints of ‘mix’ in the pub snug after that day’s exertions. 

These men have far more in common with the Don Whillans school of hiking and climbing than the cool kats wearing Patagonia in the U.S. sunshine of the Rockies. In fact the closest any of them got to the Rocky Mountains was a love of the music of John Denver.  Rather than the heat or snow of American mountain ranges they ploughed on through the pissy rain, gales and low level fog of the Coniston or Cairngorm ranges before reaching their ‘peak’.

So, what about their clobber? I’d love to tell you these photos showed them all wearing Belstaff Dalesman smocks or alike but unfortunately they don’t. What they do show is utility clothing being worn for its primary purpose. Something very different to how and why we choose the outerwear we do now. Yes we like the fact our mountain parkas are water and wind proof and breathable too, but most of the time that’s only so we can run to the pub in the rain and not have to remove our jackets once we reach the bar.

It was mostly British brands - Berghaus, Karrimor, Rohan and the now defunct North Cape - being the jackets and trousers of choice - no internet purchases, just a trip to mountaineering stores, many of which are still there today. 

This was also the advent of Gore-Tex becoming a use-able and affordable fabric, which these blokes became rightly excited by; an excitement which still is obvious to those who love that G-T tag on their purchases, from coats to trainers. These items were layered with generic cord pants, check shirts, woollen socks and lambswool scarf's. And tweed caps or hand knitted balaclavas - let’s not forget the head-wear.

‘Off duty’ the look didn’t really change. The hiking boots were replaced by Clarks Polyveldts - Ramblers or Oberons; and I still remember being obsessed with some new shoes my dad bought from a new shop in Ambleside. The shop’s still there, and I now realise it was a pair of Mephisto Rainbow.

As a kid, I think one of the attractions of this ‘look’, as well as its ruggedness, must have been the colours. Once you see a Vango Force Ten pitched in all its orange glory, or a royal blue and yellow Berghaus jacket, it’s difficult to not let that affect your clothing choices later in life (he writes, sitting in his Clarks Ramblers and cords having just removed his Norse Projects x Oi Polloi burnt orange Kaare jacket).

Any road, I’m sure there will be visitors to this blog to whom these photos will stir in the same way that they do me. It doesn't have to be your dad or uncle in the shots for them to mean something to you, and to see that age old adage that ‘fashion’ (I hate that word) is well and truly cyclical.

Ramble on kids!CH                                                             Post by : Christian Hilton (@HiltonShoegazer)

1 comment: