Facing The North

I’m confused. Is The North Face a brand for Republicans? I typically see them wearing their jackets. Meanwhile, after I did some research online I was shocked to find that The North Face promotes a radically different idea than those posited by the Republican party.

Impressions of Korea

I arrived in Korea in March of 2007. By that time I was quite familiar with Korean culture from having lived in Los Angeles — home to the largest community of Koreans outside of Korea. Somebody somewhere mentioned that Koreans are brand conscious.  I noticed that Koreans, young and old, embraced one name brand in particular — The North Face. The ubiquity of this brand worn by Koreans throughout the peninsula made me wonder what their fondness was with it. It was after my first winter in Korea that I understood at least somewhat what the fascination was about, however, with so many other brands to choose from, e.g., K2, Black Yak, etc., I still had my doubts. I imagined that Koreans were drawn to the brand just as people are drawn to cults. By the way, Koreans have been known to join cults in alarming rates, e.g., the Unification Church, and MANNAM. This article shed some light on Korea’s fondness for this brand.


My Personal Fashion Sense

Before moving to Korea, I wasn’t attuned to The North Face frequency because I am from sunny Southern California and not wintery Northern California. That’s my rationale at least. That is, if I had lived in a colder region, i.e., Northern California, I may have gravitated toward the brand earlier, after all, that is where it was made and possibly where most of their stores are located (I’m guessing).

Per my experience, I did not notice many adverts for The North Face. I was more likely to spot an advert for the Timberland brand, which I gravitated towards. This was in part because I subscribed to Hip Hop periodicals that were produced in New York where Timberland is highly regarded among the Hip Hop community. And it wasn’t until I arrived in Korea, where The North Face reigns supreme, that I learned about alternative brands that appealed to the populace.


Above, the Notorious BIG was photographed sporting Timberlands on a New York corner in the 1990s. “So when the wind blows, I see my Polos and Timbos” rapped BIG which is a direct reference to the Timberland brand.


Like Koreans, I am brand conscious. So feeling left out among Koreans while wearing my Timberland jacket, I felt compelled to fit in by purchasing The North Face gear. However, doing so meant that I was attempting to conform to a norm set by the new majority. Before I gave into this overwhelming feeling that I needed to follow their lead, I did my research. After doing so, I learned that The North Face is a brand born out of Berkeley, California. This surprised me, but also put me at ease. Since I am a native Californian, by me wearing gear made in California, I was doing something natural. By sporting Timberland, I was doing something radical, I imagined. Furthermore, I had a new appreciation for The North Face brand as well as a reason to wear it — Korea’s brutal winter season.

Out of My League

The North Face’s price point is high and thus out of my league. Therefore, in order for me to acquire their garments, I needed to save my pennies. Paying a premium for this kind of attire is not conspicuous consumption, but a worthwhile investment. For me, wearing The North Face brand was also a marker of pride. I felt that the Koreans sport The North Face out of an aspiration to be a part of a group so far from them geographically — Californians. For me, I am a Californian, and by wearing The North Face, I was embracing who I am, or at least, where I was born — California.


Photographed in Oakland, California, here are American Black youth members of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense. Notice their uniform includes a short sleeved shirt indicative of the warm climate.


Initial Impressions of The North Face

I recall seeing The North Face brand logo on jackets worn by journalists, politicians, and otherwise successful people. This made sense to me because The North Face isn’t an inexpensive brand. The jackets are priced at two hundred dollars easily. Another group I saw wearing this brand — Republicans. That being the case, I was reluctant to wear something that screamed Republican when after all my likes aren’t represented by this political party. To me, The North Face was a banner for Republicans. The fact that The North Face was embraced by Republicans, as well as, Koreans made me believe that Koreans embraced Republican values. This aspect was one that didn’t sit well with me. The number of Korean convenience store owners in Los Angeles who prey on the low-income communities where they sell alcohol and take the profits out of the community makes for the creation of a Republican identity.


What I find surprising about the North Face brand is that it is made with the curious-adventurer in mind. Their motto reminds consumers to never stop exploring. I like this idea and I embrace it along my journeys, as well as, wear my North Face jacket proudly.