The History of Rohan Classico – The Story

Rohan Classico photo credit Warren McLaren

Rohan Classico – The Story

“Whether the destination is Everest or Eaton Square, the goal an impossible climb or hard fought-for contract, Rohan Daywear backs up adventurous spirit with the confidence which only well designed, properly constructed clothing can give.”

Here’s the sentiment expressed another way: “We’re going to focus on what happens when our athletes and consumers are not on the mountain or not training. There’s still a lot of their lives that we want to be a part of.”

You could be forgiven for thinking that the latter sounded, well, almost identical to the first.

Yet 36 years separate these two proclamations.

Rohan Classico 1989 photo credit Warren McLaren

The former excerpted from the Rohan 1982 catalogue. The latter being from the Head of Apparel at The North Face, who just recently previewed TNF’s Spring/Summer 2017 range.

The North Face are not alone in realising that their customers still need decent clothes for their off-mountain lives. Mountain Hardware recently collaborated with streetwear brand Cole Haan on the ZeroGrand collection. Almost a decade ago Nau were lauded for blending outdoor performance with street savvy. Even Arc’teryx entered the fray with their Veilance line. Outlier, Alchemy, Rapha, Acronym and others lay claim to merging downtown with up the mountain.

But credit where it’s due: Rohan formally introduced the whole Daywear concept way back in 1982. Iterating that, although the new clothing was not intended for the rigours of a winter in the Karakorum, this was still apparel that was designed, not ‘styled’. “From concept to construction our garments are treated as products with a function to perform. You won’t notice a superfluous seam or false pocket anywhere ….”

Even after the subsequent runaway success of Rohan lightweight travelwear, Paul Howcroft still felt the need to preface the launch of the Classico collection, which arrived seven years later, in 1989, with a few preemptive strikes:

“Now … Before you accuse me of a sell out. It is inevitable that some Rohan users are going to see Classico as a sell-out to the mass market. I can personally assure you that these products have been seen as a logical progression of the Rohan philosophy since the beginning.”

(That early allusion to apparel for “Everest or Eaton Square” had been no idle boast. In 1975 Rohan introduced a Norfolk Jacket, made from Harris Tweed, the Scottish wool fabric renown for its weather beating properties. A few year later their garments were on the First Ascent of Everest without supplementary oxygen.)


Classico was “clothing you can travel in, work in, pack up in your luggage and be sure that it will still be wearable at the end …”

It is true, however, that this new Classico collection was more at home on a night out, than in a whiteout.

The range consisted of a Mens Jacket, Shirt and Bags, a Belt, Ladies Jacket, Blouse, Ladies Bags, and a Skirt. Made from Airlight Forte: ‘The same cotton/polyester yarns as Airlight but woven into a thicker (yet not much heavier) fabric with a better appearance over a long period of time and better “drape.”’ And in a more subdued palette with Graphite, (a dark rather metallic grey) Dust (a pale greeny grey) and Stone (a beige sandstone like colour).

Once more, Rohan had broken the mould. Clothes with sufficient formality for the office, or opera, crafted with fabrics, pockets and stitchery that had a heritage steeped in equipage for wild and remote locales. Edward de Bono would’ve been very chuffed, this was lateral thinking in-the-flesh.

In 1990 the line was redesigned and expanded into Shorts for men, and a Shirt and Trench for women. The fabric was now called Airlight Excel (57% polyester and 43% cotton), in the colours of Navy and Stone.

After a brief hiatus away, 1996 saw the idea make a comeback, albeit just for men. This time it was called the Globetrotter Jacket, Globetrotters (pants) and Embassy Shirt.

These days you’ll find the legacy, still very much alive, in the Envoy series for guys, and Linen Plus for women.

And whilst others may talk about how their gear for lofty places is also now suitable for the high street, remember who was the first kid on this particular block – Rohan.

Warren McLaren

A very big thank you to Warren from us all at Rohan for another wonderful record of some well loved Rohan garments. The history of the Classico range has not been recorded. This is a very valuable contribution to Rohan Flashback.

Warren McLaren curates an online museum charting the history of outdoor gear. A labour-of-love, and perpetual work-in-progress, the website “Compass” currently showcases the legacy of over 75 outdoor brands. It has recently been migrated to the new web address of:

These pages will be of interest to Rohanists:

Read more posts on Rohantime  from Warren McLaren

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One Comment

  1. Acronym and Outlier are really pushing the boundaries of modern garments design for the inner city, while Outlier go under the radar in Europe Acronym is growing a massive cult following, particularly in media savvy Berlin. Rohan’s Transit and District jackets are perfect for the urban environment, with advanced fabrics specifically cut and styled for city.

    Another company blending outdoor performance fabrics with modern day urban aesthetics is Eiichiro Homma’s Nanamica. He’s also the brain behind The North Face’s notorious PURPLE LABEL.

    I wrote a little more about our Transit jacket here:

    Happy Father’s Day

    Liam, Manchester store.

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