How Gramicci changed everything
with one simple gusset.
Lifelong climber Russ Clune was there at the beginning, climbing with the Stonemasters generation all over the world. Russ witnessed firsthand the revolution in outdoor wear that Gramicci instigated in 1982, sweeping across the USA from California to the eastern seaboard and eventually influencing outdoor clothing and streetwear all over the world.
Here is Clune's story about his journey to discovering Gramicci pants:
The Lycra tight fad hit the Gunks like a contagion in the early 1980s. Lycra's bright colors and patterns were donned by both sexes, not even finding a barrier with age groups or body types, which was an unfortunate side effect. Climbers were trading in their white painter’s pants and tracksuit bottoms for the splashier leggings. The tights did have merit: they were super-stretchy, light, and comfortable. Plus, they certainly stood out in photographs.
In January 1987, I left the ‘Gunks and moved out to Ventura, California. I’d taken a job with Chouinard Equipment, the original climbing hardware company started by Yvon Chouinard, who also started Patagonia. Even in California, Lycra tights were common. Trips out to Joshua Tree on weekends showed the fad to be a country-wide phenomenon. One of the biggest downsides to the tights was showing up in a public place with them on. At best, I’d get curious stares from other patrons of a restaurant. At worst, I’d be asked to leave until I was properly dressed. I’d even almost been turned back at a European border crossing dressed in an especially garish pair. These situations made a quick change into a pair of jeans necessary. That change could be inconvenient and revealing, often occurring in a parking lot someplace. Lycra tights did not go well with underwear.
Right down the road from the Patagonia/Chouinard Equipment headquarters in Ventura was Sole Survivor in Oxnard, run by Mike Graham. Mike started off by importing the popular Fire climbing shoe from Spain and distributing them in the U.S. He then started a small clothing line under the label Gramicci. Most of us at Chouinard were friends with Mike and his small staff there, and when Mike produced his original pants, we were instantly taken. Here was a true solution. I traveled overseas constantly, running the export business for Chouinard. Days often combined getting out to the crags to climb with a lunch or dinner with shop owners, as well as meetings with shop staff. The change from Lycra at the cliff to pants at the shop was never easy. Now, here was a pair of pants with a gusseted crotch, allowing the freedom to move, and a simple nylon strap as a belt that adjusted quickly. They looked good enough to wear in public and they moved with me when I climbed. My Lycra days were over. I had several pairs of Gramicci pants and wore them constantly. I really didn’t
have a need for anything else.
"Now, here was a pair of pants with a gusseted crotch, allowing the freedom to move, and a simple nylon strap as a belt that adjusted quickly. They looked good enough to wear in public and they moved with me when I climbed. My Lycra days were over. I had several pairs of Gramicci pants and wore them constantly. I really didn’t have a need for anything else."
About four years after I’d moved to California, I shifted back to the ‘Gunks to work for the newly started company, Black Diamond. I was happy to be back at my home crag and among my old friends again. I couldn’t help but notice the changed attire as well. Lycra had pretty much run its course; the mainstay pants and shorts at the cliffs were now Gramicci’s user-friendly invention.
- Russ Clune