The Fabric Of Innovation

Pioneering moments come in many different forms, from breakthrough innovations in science and technology to journeys that challenge the limits of what is possible. In the case of the GORE-TEX® brand, a fortunate accident would fundamentally change the textile industry with the distinctive quality of being both waterproof and breathable. Once considered an impossible contradiction, the introduction of GORE-TEX® fabric heralded a new era of technical performance apparel and transformed the future of outdoor exploration.

Like many great discoveries, its inception was the unexpected result of one particularly spontaneous act of frustration. While working for his family’s cable making business, Bob Gore was conducting experiments from his Delaware home in 1969. It was a tendency he inherited from his father Bill Gore, a former DuPont chemical researcher who founded the company W.L. Gore & Associates a decade earlier. The younger Gore was trying to manipulate the material PTFE (also known as Teflon) in order to enhance its wire insulating capabilities until one evening, after enduring multiple failed attempts, he furiously yanked both ends of the material outwards. Instead of breaking apart, the extended PTFE, or ePTFE, was not only more durable, but featured a porous structure that would become the core of GORE-TEX®’s patented technology.

“The cultural impact extended far beyond mountain trails.”

The heart of their products, the GORE-TEX® membrane, is a virtually weightless layer of ePTFE containing nine billion pores per square inch. 20,000 times smaller than a water droplet, these microscopic pores remain impenetrable to water while allowing sweat and moisture molecules to pass through unobstructed. After years of vigorous field-testing and several soaked instances of trial and error, the GORE-TEX® membrane made its commercial debut in 1976. When Seattle-based outdoor brand Early Winters introduced the first GORE-TEX® jacket to the market, their catalog boldly declared it as “the most versatile piece of clothing you’ll ever wear.”

By the 1980s, the GORE-TEX® name was well known and essential to every outdoor enthusiast. The cultural impact extended far beyond mountain trails, cementing its status in the urban lexicon through the emergence of rugged outerwear trends.

Celebrating this iconic symbol of innovation, Herschel Supply created a special GORE-TEX® partnership collection of contemporary headwear silhouettes for Fall 2016. Adorning the famous diamond-shaped hangtag, these lightweight performance pieces come with the promise of every GORE-TEX® brand label — Guaranteed To Keep You Dry®. More than an empty slogan, it refers to the strict standards of testing and quality assurances that are applied to each product wearing the GORE-TEX® label.

For more than forty years, the core technology behind GORE® products has found itself playing a supporting role in several watershed moments, from life-saving advancements in the field of medical implants and feats of structural engineering, to a more durable dental floss. Bob Gore’s accidental discovery continues to aid our greatest expeditions, from the summit of Mount Everest to the infinite horizon of outer space. Trusted by pioneers of every kind, GORE-TEX® fabric blended breathable with waterproof, going beyond what was previously thought possible and encouraging all of us to go further.

Written by Jeff Venida
Photographed by Stephen Wilde

View The Journal