Coinciding with the re-release of The North Face Mountain Jacket, we speak with self-proclaimed GORE-TEX hoarder and TNF collector Joey Ones.
In 1985 The North Face introduced the Mountain Jacket, a garment that encapsulated the brand’s mountaineering credentials. The specific details that make the Mountain Jacket unique – including the signature reinforced shoulders and zipped side vents – were conceived by The North Face’s Everest ascension team, as a testament to the raw, unfiltered function at the core of this iconic jacket. 30 years after the California brand conceived the ultimate tool for mastering brutal weather and terrain – and tested it as part of the Snowbird Expedition – The North Face celebrates the iconic style’s birthday with a successor, in the form of the 1985 Limited Mountain Jacket, an archive reissue of the original version from 1985.
To find out more, we reached out to New York-based collector of The North Face, Joey Ones.
What is your criteria for pieces that you add to your collection?
My criteria for collecting is mostly based on where the garment was made and of course the colorway. I tend to look for made-in-USA gear from the late ’80s to early ’90s.
What are some of the most coveted/rare items in your collection?
My favorite piece is my TNF Mountain Jacket from 1990. It’s American made and has a few details that the modern TNF Mountain Jackets don’t have anymore. It’s special in a few ways, but the main way is the pull straps on the hood, as TNF hasn’t used that feature in any of its more recent designs, so the straps are a sign of the age. Also, minor things like the logo is placed on the right-hand side of the body, which is very rare. In fact, most collectors feel the jacket is a fake and I love it. Another favorite is my TNF Ski Patrol jacket, also made in the ’90s. Most Ski Patrol jackets look fairly similar, but mine is a one-off. It was a TNF special-order, and the pockets are different from other models. Also, instead of a TNF logo on the back, it has a cross logo in all-white.
In your opinion, what differentiates The North Face from other outerwear labels?
It’s mostly my experience with the brand that sets it apart in my mind. My dad had this one particular movie on VHS that I loved to watch when I was a kid; I fell in love with it. It was called Red Dawn and it was about some teens who were forced to survive in the woods when the USA was under attack by Russians. The movie came out in 1987, in the Cold War era, and in a way I looked up to the characters in this movie. I wanted to be a survivalist, able to live in the woods if the time ever came. Later I found out the wardrobe for the movie was outfitted by TNF.
A few years later I discovered a shop named Down Generation on Columbus Avenue & 96th Street. I was checking out this one puffer jacket they were selling, and I noticed a label on the inside pocket, and still the name didn’t really ring a bell at the time, but the mental image will stay with me until I die. The logo had a flying goose, with some text about the garment and the name The North Face. The shop had gear from wall-to-wall, but none of the colorways at the time really caught my interest and when I glanced at the price tag it was out of my range.
You’re a self-proclaimed GORE-TEX hoarder; what’s the deal there?
One phrase matters: GORE-TEX. Around 1993, my girlfriend at the time got me a backpack for my birthday and there was that name again, The North Face. At first, I was a bit disappointed as I asked for a particular Jansport bag, because it was what all the other kids had. But the one she got me was perfect for riding around New York from borough to borough on my mountain bike all year round. A bit later at another outerwear shop in New York called Tent and Trails, I noticed the same TNF puffer that was worn by Patrick Swayze in Red Dawn. At that point, it was a wrap: my addiction was born. One of my first purchases was the Mountain Light shell jacket in yellow and black. The colorway was super unique and I didn’t look like any of the kids on my block. I wanted the Mountain Jacket too but the price tag was too rich for my blood. Tent and Trails used to leave TNF catalogs by the front door. When I took a catalog and flipped through it, I never wore jackets from a different brand again.
I basically became a spokesman for TNF without knowing. The catalogs were my bible, I knew them from front to back. I wanted to be the guy in the images; the places, the adventures, I wanted that life. I would tell anyone who listened about the brand. The quality and the lifetime warranty was my pitch. I have a crew of friends that I made in our community of TNF collectors and we are called “GORE-TEX Hoarders.”
GORE-TEX was the new thing by the 1990s, outerwear in general became more popular, and Timberland Field Boots were the staple for teens at the time. A lot of the kids involved in the hip-hop/graffiti lifestyle started to rock this outerwear-inspired look.
Do you pay any interest to limited North Face products, i.e. collaborations with Supreme?
The Supreme x The North Face stuff for me is alright, but I don’t really collect those pieces. First, those collaborations aren’t GORE-TEX and the style doesn’t really click with me. The 3M TNF x Supreme jacket was a cool idea but another brand Brooklyn Basements had a really similar 3M jacket in 2007. Supreme also used the flags theme on their jackets with no reference to polar explorer Will Steger or the original 1990 Trans-Antarctica Expedition and Climate Change pieces, which originally featured the flag theme. But I like Supreme and was a skater in my younger days, so I still collect Supreme hats.
Talk more about the real inspiration for the Supreme x TNF gear.
I was in line several hours at the Supreme store in Soho waiting to buy the Supreme x The North Face Spring 2013 3M jacket, and I was wearing my yellow and black OG Mountain Jacket at the time. When I finally copped the jacket, that feeling hit. I sat down and started looking at the changes. The material wasn’t GORE-TEX and most of all the fit was way different.
For the Supreme x The North Face Spring/Summer 2015 Expedition Jacket, this drop was inspired by the The North Face Trans-Antarctica Expedition 1990 UAP GORE-TEX Pullover Anorak, which is basically the holy grail for collectors of The North Face. The original jacket had American, Chinese, English, French, Japanese and Russian flags. Some are hidden away in storage, but collectors will pay top dollar for them. But again, Supreme released the Expedition jacket with flags and all, with no reference to the 1990 version. That’s just my view.
Would you ever consider selling or auctioning your collection? Or do you intend to keep it for personal use?
I’ve sold some items here and there. I have four sons and my oldest raids my stash from time to time. But mostly I’m wearing my collection and so does my whole family. We are The North Face. I wear the brand every day, all year round. Many people think I work for TNF but I’m just a huge fan of quality gear that lasts and the warranty shows that the company is 100% backing their gear. Now that I’m older and I can afford gear that I wasn’t able to acquire when I was a teen, I’m trying to pick up all the pieces that slipped away from me decades ago.
Are certain years more important to The North Face than others? What are some of the most sought-after pieces?
I’m still hunting for some grails, just like Dr. Jones. But for me, the made-in-USA Mountain Line is really strong, starting with the Mountain Jacket. Also the GORE-TEX pieces in the original colorways from my childhood. Although some new Activent, HydroSeal, HyVent, or Ultrex pieces have caught my interest from time to time, as well as pieces from the Extreme and Vertical lines, my goal has always been to obtain GORE-TEX pieces. As Peter Athans told me – “Never Stop Exploring.”
R.I.P. Alex Lowe.