Gerry Cunningham's groundbreaking gear and clothing company started promoting an outdoor lifestyle in the forties, before Patagonia was a twinkle in Yvon Chouinard's eye. When Edmund Hilary climbed Everest, he slept in Gerry tents and mountain climbers of his generation relied on strength-tested Gerry caribiners, the first of the modern breed. In 1964, Gerry supplied the U.S. Olympic Team competing in Austria with its flashy uniforms and became a household name. But by the mid-nineties the company had retreated to obscurity as a niche ski jacket maker patronized by Europeans. Now, Gerry is attempting to reclaim its stature as a leading American brand by releasing a limited line of crossover coats designed for an era in which outdoor gear is inching toward high fashion.
"We want to take Gerry Mountaineering back to what it was intended to be, a lifestyle brand about more than just ski jackets," says Gerry Creative Director Gus Blanco. "We're going to expand in a very methodical way because we don't want to dumb our stuff down."
The concept behind the Gerry coats being stocked in Bloomingdale's and specialty stores is that great detailing and unique style don't clash with functionality. The coats are designed for the slopes, but intended for city crosswalks and enhanced by the sort of flourishes mountaineers care far less about than turned-out commuters. The shirt jacket's buttons are shined to a high sheen and the slopecoat includes a splash of Colorado tartan - a sign of where the brand came from and where it is returning. In fact, the brand is going back to its roots in such a big way, that it is behaving like a small upstart.
"This is almost limited edition stuff - we're talking about maybe 700 coats, " Blanco explains. "The whole conversation right now is about exclusivity."
That means that the jackets, which hit racks across the country this week, aren't likely to be available any closer to winter coat-buying season; would-be Gerry Mountaineers better claim their jackets now. They'll be pleasantly surprised by the prices, which are high (most retail for around $700) but reasonable given the quality and singularity of the product. We're particularly impressed with the breathable hard shell, which is exactly the sort of slick multipurpose jacket we want to be wearing all fall. The jacket itself isn't retro, but the form-before-function thinking that went into it is decidedly old school. [Jackets from $650; Available in select Bloomingdale's]