We’re well into 2017 and the biggest change in my focus is onto apparel. It’s reminded me of the early days of GORUCK when we were designing GR1 and our original line of rucks. So in that regard I’m right at home and really enjoying it.
Here have been my goals:
- Further simplify everything (new and existing) to the essentials. American labor is by far the most expensive component in our apparel, so we can’t afford to have anything (features etc.) that’s not completely essential. Less is more, more is lazy.
- Ensure a story as to why something is superior
- Be able to communicate “the why.” It’s not enough to have great stuff, and nobody wants to buy just a thing, but everyone wants to believe in something.
Unifying a line of apparel around a lifestyle I lived in Special Forces, and integrating it into our Baghdad/NYC approach is the challenge we’re facing. And we like a good challenge. We also like to ruck and we go to work and sit at a desk and we’re out and about on the weekends and we like to climb mountains and we want to have as few pieces of apparel as possible, ensuring what we do have can multi-task, just like us.
As seasons come and seasons go, there are some changes happening to the existing line. Some colors coming and others going. One important note is that the voters in the great state of Washington approved a 30%+ increase to minimum wage over the next three years, and our manufacturer is raising prices on us. So you can expect prices to go up. Yes, I know our apparel is already expensive compared to Dick’s Sporting Goods prices where you can buy two things you might sort of like instead of one thing you love, so we’ll have to do an even better job of convincing you of the value inherent to quality stuff that we build in the USA.
Here’s an item by item rundown:
- The primary fabric performs well, we plan extensive growth with it into other items as well as additional colors of the Rucking Shirt. We’ll be making some patterning changes moving forward.
- The main fabric will become the only fabric. Currently there’s a secondary fabric that comprises the collar, and reinforces the elbows. We’ve seen as recently as Bragg Heavy, that the primary fabric can withstand anything, low crawls for miles etc. Using multiple fabrics is all the rage in the outdoor market. They’ll have you believe the more pieces that are different, the better. My take is that it overly complicates everything, from the pattern work to sewing, and detracts from the simplicity of the aesthetic. Especially when the pieces have so many different shades of so many different colors. Even though I like the Rucking Shirt in its current form, we’re further simplifying. One day these will be super OG.
- That piece of fabric covering the buttons is going away. In Joe’s words, you can’t believe how much extra work goes into that piece. Exposed buttons will hold up fine, I’ve been prototyping an updated version for months now, at Bragg Heavy and at our Team Ruck Up’s at HQ.
- We’ll have several new colors in both short and long sleeve – including black. You can expect Ranger Green to be vintage, never to return.
- The patterns are getting overhauled. The pockets on the sides will be a little smaller to make room for pockets on the back. You’d probably be as surprised as I am as to how much time and effort this takes. Expect the future price to be increased slightly, independent of even the labor increases. Yes, I understand they’re currently $135. We also sell GR1 for $295, and it’s the shit, too. So yeah, if this means we sell more Simple Pants because they cost less and fewer Challenge Pants — or Simple Pants first, and then Challenge Pants (as my usage has gone), we’re OK with that. In fact, differentiating the two in terms of features is the goal, especially since the fabric is identical.
- Oh yeah, and we’ll have Challenge Shorts, too.
- No major changes planned to these existing, though we are exploring removing the darts in the knees to further simplify and further differentiate from the Challenge Pants. I have like 8 pairs of these (I wasn’t sure when it would make sense to build my 34×36 size again, so I stocked up) and wear them almost every day unless I’m wearing Simple Shorts. They’re my faves.
- This length won’t be made this year, so if you like these, the next chance when these are gone will be Spring of 2018. We have some still on hand since they first showed up when shorts were not on most people’s minds, but the bigger sizes are uniformly running low.
- The other reason we’re not building them this year is because the sizing of the first run was consistently 2” smaller, almost as if mislabeled. The good news is that otherwise they’re completely consistent. I wear 34” in everything but I’m a 36” in these – this is duly noted on the website please, in the Dude’s words, abide. If we ordered more that are otherwise identical, we couldn’t mix the inventories without a large amount of confusion, and confusion is the enemy. From what I’ve been told, this is not hugely uncommon from a production issue – this or that screw got tightened just a little too much, which leads to fit variations. If we were like a million times bigger, these would be at the outlet mall or whatever, where you go to waste days of your life not doing awesome stuff. The Internet is great for not having to do that. ‘Merica.
- We have about 4 months of inventory on hand, TBD on a re-stock of any kind. We’re likely to only keep the Mesh Tac. We’ve had these in inventory forever, so we’re going to be a lot more careful about how many we order moving forward. And we’re going to ensure a consistency of fit, which has drifted here and there over the years. I’ve said before and I’ll say again that hat manufacturing in the USA is not fun. But we’ve learned a lot and I think we can make it work. The Mesh Tac Hat is one of our original 4 pieces, so I’d be sad to see it go and don’t think it will.
- These are taking a break, indefinitely, based on problems dying the fabric a darker color. Darker dyes require higher temperatures for the fabric to take it, so we’re back to the drawing board on these in terms of a fabric. We always want to start with black. If a fabric doesn’t come in black, we want a different fabric. Monster and I recently went to a mill in the great state of North Carolina and we have a roll of new fabric lined up for testing, but that will take us at least a full season, and probably a full year till you see them again.
- So, in their current form these will quite literally never be built again. Vintage, OG, all that good stuff. I have 8, call me a prepper or whatever you want, I just don’t like it when I find something I like only to find out it’s going away.
In summary, I know what we’re building is expensive and I know you have a universe of options. I also know that the world doesn’t need another line of cheap stuff to court Dick’s, or another specialty line courting REI – it seems like they sell 100 different jackets based on the kind of ice mountain you wanna climb, and that you need all 100 if you plan on climbing, well, all of them. For us, we find beauty in the adaptability of a person to their environment, no matter how austere or comfortable it may be. For now.
Building anything is hard to do well, and easy to do poorly. It’s the pursuit of excellence that requires so much time, effort and energy, the last 5% in the journey that takes 95% of the time. We could cut corners and choose knock-off fabrics and find cheaper manufacturers who care less, but that’s not our path. We’d rather build the simplest, toughest, most performance driven apparel possible, and call those pieces worthy of the GORUCK brand. I sleep better that way, after all.
And you will too, especially if you’ve done something really, really awesome, which I hope you do all the days of your life.
Shop GORUCK USA Built Apparel here.