Alaskans have always had a “unique” sense of fashion – one that combines the practical with local flair. Alaskans may not be overly concerned with the usual frills, but ruining a fishing trip due to a lack of appropriate footwear is a sin that’s not easily forgiven in the Great Land. Far removed from fancy designers and department stores, Alaskans have developed their own local brands to meet their needs in a challenging and often isolated environment.
And in many local communities, most of these Alaska fashion staples can be found at the local hardware or outdoor store.
Whether you’re a commercial fisherman out on the Bering Sea or browsing the shops in Downtown Sitka, XTRATUF boots are as much a part of Alaska as king salmon or Denali National Park.
Boots are 100 percent waterproof, an essential in all parts of the state, and can be insulated with a -20-degree temperature rating. But don’t be fooled, practical as they may be, Alaskans believe XTRATUF boots are fine footwear suited for any occasion including a night out on the town, business functions and weddings.
In 2016, XTRATUF developed a new line of boots with a fashion-forward twist. Fun fabrics and bright colors give the traditional brown boot a little something extra. Earlier this year, XTRATUF partnered with the Salmon Sisters. Based in Homer, Alaska, the Salmon Sisters wanted to give women who work on the water a more fashionable option, while maintaining a special connection to Alaska.
Pro tip: To really look like a local, dirty up your XTRATUF boots and walk through a few puddles before heading out on the trail or on the town. These boots are so reliable that many Alaskans are still wearing their original pair.
Copper River Fleece
From the shores of the famed, salmon-filled Copper River in Cordova, Alaska, Copper River Fleece has become a staple in Alaska fashion since its humble beginnings more than ten years ago. Inspired by the local community, Copper River Fleece founder Jennifer Park has developed a line of jackets and vests that are recognizable by their unique trims.
Many of Copper River Fleece’s exclusive trims feature artwork by Cordova’s own artists. From the Tlingit totem design by Michael Webber to the sandpiper design by Susan Ogle, and the sea otter design by Sally Park, the trims are reflective of the local culture.
Of course, like any Alaska fashion piece, Copper River Fleece has many practical uses. The softshell fabric provides protection against rain, wind and snow, and is suitable for hiking, fishing, kayaking and skiing.
But that doesn’t mean Copper River Fleece is used solely for adventure activity. Many Alaska businesses – including Alaska Airlines – have invested in company-branded Copper River Fleece vests and jackets. At any Alaska business function, Copper River Fleece is considered proper business attire.
Many Alaskans will tell you – there are few things better in the world than wild Alaska salmon. Fishing for (and eating) salmon is a favorite Alaska pastime, and Alaskans are both proud and protective of their oceans.
So, what’s a good way to show some salmon and ocean love? The salmon leather wallet from Tidal Vision.
“We take Alaska salmon skins that would otherwise be discarded and turn them into an eco-friendly leather, which reduces waste and encourages sustainable fishing,” said Craig Kasberg, captain executive officer at Tidal Vision. “Our unique tanning process takes over three weeks and uses all vegetable based tanning oils.”
Tidal Vision purchases byproduct from sustainable commercial fisheries, which in turn gives these fisheries a competitive edge. Tidal Vision’s tanning process also removes all natural fish oils to create durable leather that’s free of fish odor and full of glossy salmon shine.
Alaska is known as the land of the midnight sun, and the extra summer light allows Alaskans to show off their style (not hide it under a parka). As with fashion in New York, Paris or Milan, Alaskans deem their clothing choices an expression of art.
Alaska is full of local artists, many of which have expanded their designs to clothing. Here are a few favorites:
AK Starfish Co. – Started in 2004 by artist Marci Nelson, AK Starfish Co. is one of the top-selling Alaska apparel brands in the state. Nelson developed the hand-drawn design while observing starfish in Sadie Cove, near Homer, Alaska. AK Starfish hoodies are popular among Alaska ladies, and with the expansion of designs to include AK Wild Salmon and AK Raven, guys are also catching on to the trend. To complete the Alaska look, check out AK Starfish Co.’s trucker hats and water bottles.
Trickster Company – Founded by siblings Rico and Crystal Worl, Trickster Company applies Alaska Native artwork to everyday products. The pair began designing hand-painted skateboards for friends, but have now expanded to include an entire line of apparel from hoodies to leggings and dresses.
“We saw that people were interested in Alaska Native artwork on day-to-day items, so we started manufacturing a few things,” Rico said. “The fun thing is that as designers we have the flexibility to transform when opportunities open. Recently our leggings have become very popular.”
To complete your fashion-forward Alaska wardrobe, a durable pair of Carhartt pants will seal the deal.
Carhartt is suitable year-round in Alaska and comes advertised much like Alaskans themselves “rugged but not rigid.”
Whether it’s the classic pants or a fancy pair of bibs, Carhartt is appropriate for any Alaska outing. If you’re camping high in the alpine, or fishing from the shoreline, Carhartt will provide the warmth and durability necessary for a true Alaska adventure.
Pair it with a local hoodie and a pair of XTRATUF boots, and Alaskans will deem you one of their own.
Whether you’re a lifelong Alaskan or just visiting for a quick trip, you’ll notice this list is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to fashion in the 49th state. Alaskans are warm and inviting, so if you have a sense of adventure and think practical and local with your clothing choices, you’re sure to blend in with locals in the Great Land.
Feature image courtesy of Salmon Sisters/Scott Dickerson Photography.