The Rise of Gorp Core and the Plight of Humanity in the Anthropocene

Walking through the streets of any major city, you are sure to see many forms of stylistic expression. There are the classics: Preppy, Grunge, Granola, Street … But recently, there has been the surfacing of a new fashion trend that melds Street and Granola culture into one. It’s called Gorp Core, and it serves something along the lines of city-dweller-goes-camping … but makes it ~chic~. A$AP Rocky, Bella Hadid, and Billie Eilish are a few of the A-listers who have contributed to the popularization of the style. The look involves outdoor technical apparel such as Arcteryx, North Face, and Columbia mixed with traditional street style aesthetics like thrifted shirts, Dickies painter pants, and baggy silhouettes. Those sporting Gorp Core seem to imply that they are both outdoorsy and urban, able to survive in the wild yet still be fashionable in the context of a city.  

Fashion trends often tend to reflect the political, economic, and cultural climate of the moment: during economic growth, flashy styles including glitter, sparkles, fur, and other luxuries tend to increase in the fashion industry, while in economic downturns more conservative and simpler styles gain traction. One classic example of this is the increase in skirt length during the Great Depression. In the 1920s, skirt hems were shorter so that women could show off their expensive stockings underneath, but as the global economy took a turn for the worse and women could no longer afford such luxuries, skirt hems subsequently became longer. 

(before versus during GD skirts)

Modern trends in America these days seem to reflect a relatively stable political and economic climate, though the trends have become a little more complicated to decipher than just skirt hem length. The rise of thrifting could imply a nationwide effort to be more frugal, though those who thrift for leisure tend to buy vintage luxury items and pair thrifted outfits with expensive designer footwear. So in the end, thrift style is not so thrifty after all. Furthermore, the recent reintroduction of Y2K fashion also seems to imply relative economic stability given the kitschy, glittery, and material nature of the style: it reflects a culture of consumerism. 

Gorp Core is a particularly interesting style to consider in a modern cultural context. While the style seems understated and practical due to the earthy-toned, embellishment-less, functional nature of outdoor apparel, the clothing is actually somewhat quixotic given the metropolitan context in which the look is being sported. These people are walking down the streets of NYC, not climbing Everest! Not to mention, this type of apparel carries a hefty price tag. Of seemingly simple means, the Gorp Core wearer hides their wealth behind waterproof, sunproof fabric and cargo pockets with no-show zippers. 

Furthermore, Gorp Core seems to bridge the gap between Granola and Street, two economically and culturally opposing aesthetics. Streetwear has its roots in Bronx street gang culture, the baggy silhouette rising in popularity alongside Hip-Hop music, which arose from this area. In contrast, Granola-style tends to be sported by middle to upper-class white people rejecting the comfortable suburban lifestyle into which they were born so that they can “find themselves”. These people live on the run, traveling from Instagram destination to Instagram destination, toughing it out in hostels and Airbnbs with their thousand-dollar hiking boots and REI camping gear. Gorp Core somehow incorporates both of these aesthetics, implying that the wearer is rooted in urban culture yet also well-traveled: they are of the people and the streets but also idealize nature and the outdoors. In this way, Gorp Core seems to somehow commodify both street culture and nature at the same time. 

 The Gorp Core wearer perfectly embodies the plight of humans in this geological age (the Anthropocene), providing an interesting insight into our relationship with nature. Granola and Street are clear in their wearer’s implied setting (outdoors and urban, respectively), but Gorp Core glorifies both the outdoors and the city. Gorp Core’s aesthetic could be reflecting our society’s underlying anxieties surrounding the Climate Crisis: the Gorp Core city-dweller is stylish but prepared should the city suddenly collapse into a climate apocalypse. 

The style also parallels the way in which humanity is shaping nature: as our population continues to increase, ‘wild’ spaces are becoming more and more encroached upon by human settlements and activities. In fact, humans are the driving force shaping our climate and environment. As such, the way we define a ‘wild’ space has begun to change: when a ‘wild’ space has traditionally been understood as a space sans human influence, these types of spaces no longer exist in the Anthropocene. As we continue to close the gap physically between wild and civilized spaces, we are also doing so culturally, and Gorp Core is an embodiment of this shift in mentality. 

Now, all of this said, I like Gorp Core. I think it’s a sick style. But next time you think of pairing your Salomons with your Dickie’s and your Patagonia fleece with your thrifted tee, take a moment to consider the way in which your style reflects the plight of humans in the Anthropocene. 

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