Photo by Matty Flader / Photo Reporter

By Shaan Babrah, Contributor

As you drudge through second semester, it is hard to not notice all the business-casual students on their way to class, clutching cups of coffee for warmth. One can only wonder whether there is any point in wearing a button-up and dress shoes to pour over a textbook in the library. The Indeed and LinkedIn tabs that seem to be on every computer in sight certainly don’t alleviate the pressure to be “grown-up” or “professional”. 

Though you may feel tempted to emulate your post-grad future in your clothing, you should appreciate the beauty of being untethered to a dress code while you still can. Once the mid-February breeze runs through your favourite overcoat like you’re being possessed by the ghost of cold, you can’t be blamed for reaching for your Michelin Man parka. Now you may be warm, but one can only wonder if it’s necessary to be so amorphous to avoid hypothermia. Just when all hope seems to be lost, a new trend has entered the forefront of fashion to warm the frozen souls of students everywhere. 

This look has been appropriately dubbed “hikercore”. Those on board with the movement are trading in their peacoats and chinos for fleeces and cargo pants. The recent popularization of clothes to stumble around the forest in has resurrected some great pieces that have previously been considered faux pas. Montreal’s Ssense, a titan of the retail industry, has taken note of this boom and virtually every major brand right now is releasing pieces that fit within this aesthetic. Many clothing items once considered untouchable are now lining the shelves of stores, looking better than most thought possible. 

The trend started when hiking boots trickled into winter office attire and streetwear around the mid-2010s. Since then, hikercore has expanded, as fleeces eclipse knits and hoodies as the statement sweater of the season. This can be seen online, as brands like Snow Peak and Kapital are showing up in forum discussions and all over the Instagram explore page. Don’t feel pressured to prove your stripes as a free solo climber or munch the most muesli in order to take part in hikercore. In fact, most people should start with baby steps. The trailblazer look is not the most ubiquitous trend and you likely haven’t seen many of your peers in full Japanese trekking gear, but there is still plenty of inspiration for the average student to grab onto. By adding a few outdoorsy staples into your rotation, the urban hiker look can inject enough personality into your school wardrobe to prevent complete corporate assimilation.

The first step in the long road to environmental enlightenment begins with your footwear. After the hiking boot trend put brands like ROA in the big leagues, other companies have followed suit to put out more stylish variations on the look. For those fully invested in the style, Salomon Snowcross shoes or Danner boots are a great way to dip your toe into the aesthetic, and start  dressing as though you actually have hobbies. I would also check out Salomon or Hoka One One at Sport Chek or Runner’s Den on King Street West as a great functional option for anyone who may want to give hikercore a test run before committing to a whole new aesthetic.

Fleeces, of course, are a staple that have been mainstream since your dad bought his first Columbia half-zip. Unlike the lighter weight dad-core options that are more commonly represented, a good hefty fleece will only inspire you to buy more, furthering your descent into student debt while keeping you toasty and cozy through your midterms. I would strongly advise against wearing any button-ups with a fleece and instead just stick to tees. If you’re shelling out your hard-earned money on a nice sweater, you should be able to appreciate the warm polyester hug.

There are many avenues and side trails to explore for inspiration, but not all are created equal. The Instagram page is the best place to start. Brands like South 2 West 8 and Patagonia are also great to check out, as they remain the godfathers of every fashionable outdoorsman or woman. Vintage North Face, Patagonia, Arc’teryx and Nike ACG ads are a gateway to some of the coolest looks that anyone can pull off while imagining the more fulfilling and spiritualistic life that awaits them at the end of the semester. All the biggest high fashion brands steal influence from vintage styles in their huge archive of regular old clothes, and there is no reason you shouldn’t do the same. Save some of your favourite looks and images on your phone and hit the thrift.

The best way to complete the look, though, is to check out any of Hamilton’s iconic hiking spots and find for yourself what subsection of the culture you identify with. Bruce Trail runs through many of Hamilton’s larger parks and is a great route for runners that prefer greener scenery. Parallel to Bruce Trails is Chedoke Radial Trails, which is perfect for cyclists and dog-walkers alike to get away from their usual concrete path. Of course, the many waterfalls across the city are a tried and true classic for dates and dressing well for the occasion can make you seem stylish and outdoorsy. For those that prefer to think global and act local, Adventure Attic (28 King St. W.) is certainly worth your time and provides the best look into what actual hikers wear and use. 

From trail running to mountain climbing and all the way to Whole Foods hippie, there is a place for everybody in the great outdoors. For many, university is the last step before many of us graduate or move onto a tragically adult future full of J. Crew scarves and oxford cloth, so you may as well appreciate your freedom while it lasts. 

From trail running to mountain climbing and all the way to Whole Foods hippie, there is a place for everybody in the great outdoors. For many, university is the last step before many of us graduate or move onto a tragically adult future full of J. Crew scarves and oxford cloth, so you may as well appreciate your freedom while it lasts. 

Experimentation is an important part of stepping out of the monotony of routines. Despite the constant pressure to grow up and follow suit, it’s difficult to make great personal strides when your shoes are giving you blisters. You may not be a trail veteran, but the spirit of hikercore is carving out your own path. It could be a fully functional outfit with dozens of pockets or just a beloved Arc’teryx jacket for the temperamental weather; the choice is yours. This season, throw on all your favourite fleeces at the same time with your most semi-fashionable outdoorsy shoes and take a hike while you still can.


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