Agh, these blog posts just keep on lacking brevity. I can only blame a terminal case of verbal diarrhea and misplaced enthusiasm for it. GORE-TEX is on a premium, waterproofed pedestal with me for some reason. The mundane reality that the name is merely a hyphenated mix of a Mr. Gore and son’s surname and the word ‘textile’ is conveniently forgotten whenever someone hands me a product that employs the material on the lining. How does a breathable fabric become such a mark-of-quality, and more importantly, confer the otherwise passable to a taped-seam must-have? Why does that name still carry such clout?
eVent, HyVent, Precip, Watergate, Nikwax Sympatex, G-1000, Triplepoint Ceramic, Omni-Tech, H2No, Epic, Entrant-EVmembrane, AquaNix, Texapore, Ventile, Stormtec, Ared, Dermizax, Hyper-Dri and Drilite Extreme might sound like a Lyricist Lounge lineup circa. 1997, but they’re technologies all trying to achieve that same breathable but waterproof result (bear in mind the likes of Ventile hark back to the second world war), yet GORE-TEX remains the most iconic. After key patents ended, in the early ’00s the outerwear tech wars began.
In recent conversations with ex-soldiers and outdoor types getting their Ray Mears on (Bear Grylls is the James Frey of that world) GORE-TEX barely registered – the foragers felt it was too easily damaged, expensive and held in the condensation – admittedly, I still find jackets with the treatment, particuarly the Paclites a little stifling in warmer weather. The ex-soldiers were keen to point out that in the event of a fire, the GORE-TEX lining was like, “napalm”…that’s not so useful.
They also alluded that wearing jackets lined with the membrane was deemed feminine amid their company and that it’s noisy for those trying to stay on the DL. It’s interesting that I’ve long associated the name with a certain ruggedness, even though (particularly when it’s not 3-layer) it’s sensitive to tears, and certain detergents can render it so useless that you may as well be rocking tissue paper in the rain. Most were, despite it’s flaws, on the side of no-nonsense, quieter Ventile against GORE-TEX.
I don’t pretend to be a man of science. I’m an imbecile in that regard. Here’s a potted history, founded by W. L. Gore and Associates, Wilbert Gore’s company, which has a hand in electronics (eg. GORE POLARCHIP), industrial design (eg. GORE RIDE-ON), medical materials (eg. GORE INFINIT) and of course fabrics, GORE-TEX is just a smaller division of a vast company. As I understand it, the membrane came about as the byproduct of other experiments in the early ’70s, and first manufactured in 1972, with Rowena Taylor and Bill’s son Bob Gore getting it patented as “Process for producing porous products” in 1976 after filing it in 1973.
Super-scientifical: Extracts from the original patent.
2-layer GORE-TEX appeared in 1980, in 1982, a fabric bootie birthed the footwear benefits, the stretch version of the material in 1984. Bill passed away, rather fittingly, while hiking, in 1986. the non-waterproof spinoff WINDSTOPPER in 1991, Paclite appeared in 1998, XR in 2000, Soft Shell in 2004 and in 2006, Pro Shell was manfactured in 2-layer and 3-layer variations. It’s undeniably, despite constant competition, a progressive technology.
I’m unlikely to head into extreme conditions. More often than not, the most basic mode of waterproof apparel could function perfectly for my lifestyle. But that’s not the point. GORE-TEX’s appeal for me stems from pricepoint and hip-hop. Oh, and the notion that you can’t just line it and label it – you’ve got to have it approved by GORE-TEX themselves – that affords it extra premium status. It’s not cheap, unless you’re copping Dutch, French, American, British, Spanish or German army pieces, in which case it’s affordable though notably more expensive than your average surplus apparel.
Two moments of overlooked significance come in the guise of Nike and the unlikelier form of Seattle’s Sir Mix-A-Lot. In 1989, Mix-A-Lot preempted Wale’s Goadome ‘Nike Boots’ tribute with ‘Gortex’, bigging up he and his crew’s GORE-TEX lined boots, retailing at a cool $125, and their superior stomping capabilities. Now where did I put my Danners? The factory’s only a short distance from the artist-in-question’s locale,
“One-two punch and the GORE-TEX drops/On your toe, your brother got caught/By GORE-TEX boots from the GORE-TEX shop”
Nike’s glorious All Conditions Gear subdivision converged GORE-TEX and sporting styles for me with 1996’s Air Tarn hiking boot, using the material on the lining, and as a selling point. Still one of the finest Nike offroad designs, at $165 and an eye-watering £99.99 in the UK, even Mix-A-Lot would’ve baulked at that one. Definitely an overlooked classic in a climate where it’s been added to athletic footwear left, right and centre, and a shoe that paved the way for another personal (notably non-ACG) favourite, 1998’s Air Terra Ketchikan.
I’ve never heard HyVent hollered out, despite North Face’s urban ubiquity – sub-Summit Series, Search and Rescue, and Steep Tech pieces like the Nupste vest and McMurdo parka have been rap video staples for a minute. It just doesn’t have that same ring to it, and it isn’t footwear-friendly. Two notable MCs have even named themselves after it – Goretex, ex-Non Phixion, and GORE-TEX from Tokyo’s Nitro Microphone Underground. You want some rap testimony via quotables? Incidentally, Lil’ Fame is the winner here…
“Tame One got more grip than GORE-TEX/I’m comin through your set like CBS writing my name up in your projects/Who wanna test me when I’m sess-ted?”
Tame One – ‘The Interview’
“It’s me, Big Cappadon’ with the fitted/And my GORE-TEX shit with the FUBU knitted”
Capadonna – ‘Struggle With This’
“Workers of inequity as I sport GORE-TEX and Timberland/Vortex, I’m vexed like God’s wrath upon this evil nation/Feel the God Sound vibration”
Vex Davortex – ‘M.C.’
“Ayo, fuck Force 1’s, rip stone in they GORE-TEX/Blaze up, fools you walk me through a vortex”
Rustee Juxx – ‘Spliff-N-Wessun’
“Heat’s in the 5-series high and leery when those blue and white cars drive near me/Avirex, GORE-TEX wet with fly jewelry”
Nas – ‘One Plus One’
“Spending stake, GORE-TEX boot/Print still on his face when we revisit his wake”
Nas – ‘Ghetto Rich (Remix)’
“My culture’s smiling, getting more in depth with each breath/My biography follows the footsteps of Malcolm X/Money and sex/Gore-Tex, Donna Karan and Guess”
AZ – ‘Rather Unique’
“I must confess my destiny’s manifest to some GORE-TEX and sweats/I make tracks like i’m homeless/Rap orgies with Porgie and Bess capture your bounty like Eliot Ness/YES!”
Lauryn Hill – ‘Ready or Not’
“I shape and build my skill like an architect/Teflon style, rhymes be GORE-TEX”
Keith Murray – ‘Keith Murray Freestyle’
“Now I’m still the same low-down gold teeth and GORE-TEX/And on occasion with the rough sex”
Grand Puba – ‘Keep On’
“We smacked this on the blizzard day we all remember/We stomp through with GORE-TEX and 3 quarter Timbers”
Grand Puba – ‘Open Bar’
“Lex nose watching vet po posing wit’ the most fly/Livest GORE-TEX made in Mexico”
Raekwon – ‘Brown Paper Bag Thoughts’ (Rae uses this line again a year later on the ‘Black & White’ soundtrack)
“Stash gash GORE-TEX//Swimmin’ hennee leave the floor wet”
Havoc – ‘Recognize and Realize II’
“I cruise in a GS Lex, Cartier specs/Nautica sweats with the fresh GORE-TEX”
Big L – ‘Fall Back’
“Look! The first nigga that scream G-Unot to me/I’m a stomp yo’ ass out with the GORE-TEX beef and broccolis”
Lil’ Fame – ‘I’ll Whip Ya Head Boy (Remix)’
“So sit on black GORE-TEX/Before test, we all wore vests”
Fredro Starr – ‘Getto Mentalitee’
“Stomping through your army, what!/GORE-TEX to your head/Keep your eyes shut/But, I’ll take you in consideration/My occupation is to bust your federation”
Buckshot – ‘Murder MC’s’