It’s a curious thing, fashion. We start the spring in January and the autumn in July. Never let it be said that creative types are contrary.
That being the state of play however, means brands launch stuff that can sometimes feel at odds with the weather conditions. New shorts when there’s still a suggestion of a snowman (albeit melted) in the garden? Fleecey products just when you’ve started to get excited about slightly lighter evenings? Well, in the case of the latter, we’re here for it. It’s February, it’s freezing cold at times. Why not invest in some very affordable, exceedingly desirable and infinitely practical fleece?
Columbia is one of the success stories of American outerwear. Still guided by the hand of its founding family, the brand enjoys vast popularity and widespread distribution, particularly in its homeland.
Established in 1938 by Paul and Marie Lamfrom, the business passed into the hands of the next generation when Neal Boyle married their daughter Gert. Though the company began specialising in headwear, it became Columbia Sportswear when Gert designed a fishing vest for her husband in 1960. His tragic and premature death ten years later forced Gert and son Tim to step in and run the business, which they did together in various roles until Gert passed away in 2019, aged 95. Her prominence was enhanced when she starred in TV ad campaigns as the tough ‘Ma Boyle’, who used her son Tim as something of a guinea pig, testing new products.
Tim himself remains a key figure, occupying the role of President, CEO and Chairman of Columbia, a position that has propelled his own personal wealth to an estimated £2b. When the pandemic hit in 2020 he was able to put his own earnings on hold while ensuring his workforce received their full salary and benefits.
While the brand has always had a family feel, at its core is innovation. In 1975 it became one of the first to launch a parka made from Gore-Tex onto the market. In 1986, its Bugaboo jacket propelled it to prominence even further.
Today it continues to operate in the outdoors, serving all corners of society. Here in the UK, and specifically our consciousness, Columbia is a contemporary of The North Face and Patagonia, both U.S brands with plenty of history and their own unique clothing. Columbia though, brings a more affordable offering, with the same look and feel. On trend without making that its entire thing. Outdoors without being boringly so. It’s easy to see why it remains popular.
Over at Outsiders, they’ve just dropped Columbia’s new season gear and that’s what brings us full circle, back to fleece. 85 years after beginning their story Columbia continues to provide reliable clothing, made for an outdoor lifestyle.
Have a look at more Columbia Sportswear here. Including stuff for women.