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Patagonia and the Rugby Shirt

During the late sixties, men did not wear bright, colorful clothes, not outside. "Active sportswear" consisted of basic gray sweatshirts and pants, and the standard issue for climbing in Yosemite was tan cut-off chinos and white dress shirts bought from the thrift store. On a winter climbing trip to Scotland in 1970, Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia's founder, bought a regulation team rugby shirt to wear rock climbing. Overbuilt to withstand the rigors of rugby, it had a collar that would keep the hardware slings from cutting into the neck. It was blue, with two red and one yellow center stripe across the chest. Back in the States, Chouinard wore it around his climbing friends, who asked where they could get one. 

Left: 1983. Jud Thurston and Nick Goldsmith. Right: Chris Vandiver
They ordered a few shirts from Umbro, in England, and they sold straight off. "We couldn't keep them in stock, and soon began ordering shirts from New Zealand and Argentina as well. Other companies followed suit and we soon realized that we had introduced a minor fashion craze to the United States. We began to see clothing as a way to help support the marginally profitable hardware business, and by 1972 we were selling polyurethane rain cagoules and bivouac sacks from Scotland, boiled-wool gloves and mittens from Austria, and hand-knit reversible 'schizo' hats from Boulder."
These were the formative days before Patagonia even excised. As they began to make more and more clothes and they needed to find a name for their clothing line. "Why not "Chouinard?" We already had a good image going, why start from scratch? We had two reasons against it. First, we didn't want to dilute the image of Chouinard as a tool company by making clothing under that label. And second, we didn't want our clothes to be associated only with mountain climbing."

Left: Malcolm Daly and Dave Bohn. Yosenite, 1976. Right: An early Patagonia Rugby Shirt advert.
This Autumn 2014 collection from Patagonia sums up the brand and it's ideals perfectly; always looking back at it's rich heritage and utilizing existing clothing and cuts whilst looking forwards and benefiting from technological developments in materials and construction.
"To most people, especially then, Patagonia was a name like Timbuktu or Shangri-La, far-off, interesting, not quite on the map. Patagonia brings to mind, as we once wrote in a catalog introduction, "romantic visions of glaciers tumbling into fjords, jagged windswept peaks, gauchos and condors." It's been a good name for us, and it can be pronounced in every language."

 
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