Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Patagonia vs. The North Face

Two correlated notes:
I'm now looking for some nice winter jacket. I remember you mentioned some brands considered preppy but aren't ( For example, j.crew and the north face). I don't see any big difference between Patagonia and The North Face in terms of brand concepts and products. Could you tell me why TNF is not a part of preppy brands, please? Maybe I don't quite grasp the idea of preppy.
For the past month, I traveled about England and Scotland. On such trips I always bring and wear my 30 year old Barbour Beaufort jacket. This trip, at two hunting and fly fishing lodges, I noticed many, many people wearing outerwear by The North Face. Typically a Denali fleece under a Barbour or under a shell by The North Face. These people were natives to Great Britain. 
All of this brings me to the North Face Denali jacket of which I have several of and have found to have good qualities of very long wear, primarily due to the substantial polar-fleece fabric and the extra fabric layer on the elbow and shoulder area. I have found that Patagonia fleece tend to pill and fuzz in the elbow area. Your recent blog about Patagonia kelly green fleece got me thinking.
I know you have stated that The North Face is not preppy. Does this apply to the whole range or could the Denali jacket get special dispensation? : )

Just a trend I noticed this year in Great Britain and I would like to know your thoughts, if any. Thank you.
It is time to open up the moot court.  Patagonia vs. The North Face - which is preppier?  And why?

** Poll Closed - Final Results **

At a barn supper, you have to watch both ends of a cow.  Patagonia Synchilla Snap-T in Classic Navy

Some sources:

Here is one response, worthy of being part of the post:

Patagonia vs. The North Face

by Keith Baker:

As an outdoors athlete and former outdoor business owner, I can offer some insight on the Patagonia/TNF question. Don't ask me to pick a favorite - I love them both in different ways.

Patagonia is definitely the "preppier" of the two companies, especially in the Lisa Birnbach granola preppy, Bohemian preppy senses. The company consciously pursues that image - Volvos, Birks, NPR, fly fishing. They are privately held and the founder/owner, Yvon Chouinard, says he will never take the company public so he will not be beholden to shareholders. He is an accomplished Alpinist, rock climber, surfer and fly fisherman and a god in this business.

The North Face appeals to more aspirational image-casers and logo-buyers because of their lower price points (the Denali jacket is the biggest player here). Even thought they have price-point items (for outdoor clothing and gear), many people continue to find TNF outside their budget. TNF still has a solid reputation in the mountaineering, skiing and outdoors sports fields because they do make technically superior products. Their image, especially in Summit Series (serious technical mountaineering clothing and gear) is more international and techie, and is well-earned. And, unlike Patagonia, TNF makes tents, sleeping bags, backpacks and other equipment. TNF is also a unit of publicly-held VF Corporation.

Despite TNF's superior technical image, Patagonia's products are technically sound and are of high quality, and they appeal to their own aspirational buyer - but their aspirational buyer is trying to convey a bit more than the typical TNF aspirational buyer. As Chouinard said a few years ago, "I know the closet many of our clothes ever get to their intended purpose is when an overweight, middle-aged man wears them when he drives his family from Manhattan to their country house for the weekend. But he has a dream: one days he is going to lose 30 pounds, he's going to get in shape and he is going climb Rainier. And I'm okay with that. Dreams keep us alive."

Definite nod to TNF on clothing for high-output activities like running, Nordic skiing, snowshoe racing, cycling, etc. They have dialed the marketing on that and have the Flight Series that covers the spectrum in an easy-to-understand way.

Both companies are environmentally responsible with a slight edge to Patagonia and have a stable of serious and accomplished outdoors athletes carrying their standards. Both help build the outdoors recreation industry and continue to attract people to the outdoors (remember Chouinard's story above).

As an illustration, my wife and I are driving up to Summit County this afternoon to ski Breckenridge, Copper and Vail for a few days. Our clothes, personal items and skis are packed in TNF Base Camp Duffels and ski bags. Our clothes are a mixture of mostly Patagonia with (in descending order) TNF, Mountain Hardwear and Marmot thrown in. Our gloves are from Black Diamond; skis, boots etc. from Black Diamond, Fischer, SCARPA and Garmont. Keep in mind, having been in the industry (I sold my business a few months ago) for many years, we could have anything from any brand we want.

As an aside, I drive a Ford F350 Super Duty PowerStroke because Mercedes AMG doesn't do a truck. The rack system is from Thule - of course. ^_^

Let's talk Nordic skiing and snowshoeing sometime!