With the Olympics still slated to go on as (re)scheduled, it’s time for the brands to begin trotting out their new uniforms. New to the Summer Games is The North Face, a natural outfitter as rock climbing joins the competition for the very first time.
The outdoor giant has unveiled its uniforms for the USA Climbing Team — and at first glance, they would appear to be more suited for wrestling. Three different kits have been made each for the men’s and women’s teams, including one that’s skin-tight and looks a hell of a lot like a unitard.
The North Face says the design process was rooted in minimalism and bolstered by 4D scans of athletes’ bodies. Climbers Ashima Shiraishi and Nathaniel Coleman, the latter of which will represent the United States, also provided feedback to ensure the unis would hold up to their needs.
The specs — Both the men’s and women’s teams will have options to wear uniforms consisting of skin-tight tanks with shorts or pants, as well as a looser fitting tank with roomier shorts or pants. All of the gear makes use of bonded seams to reduce friction on the wall, high-stretch fabric for mobility, and laser-cut perforations in high-sweat areas. Perhaps the coolest feature of all is a sturdy TPU print used on the slimmer-fitting attire to enhance movement.
The North Face used 4D scanning specifically to predict movements in the shoulder and hip areas. This application of technology was a first for The North Face, with climbing presumably requiring more technology than the winter gear The North Face has previously provided for Olympic skiers and snowboarders.
“As a climber, one of the most important aspects of your gear is that it doesn’t weigh you down on your way up the wall, and these uniforms truly feel like you are wearing nothing,” Coleman said in a press release. “Being able to participate so deeply in the development of these uniforms was such a unique experience, and the end product is finely tuned for the specific needs of those competing this year in Tokyo.”
Will we see a consumer version? — As of now, The North Face hasn’t indicated its high-tech climbing unis will go on sale to the general public. And that’s probably... fine. Casual climbers have done just fine with what outdoor brands have previously offered — if they even deviate from their standard workout attire.
That said, don’t overestimate the desire for more performance than one could need. It’s not like anyone but a professional marathon runner really needs Nike Next% sneakers either.