2.06.2009

Chasing cool

Why is there more camo at the golf show than the outdoor show?

There's a puzzler for you.

And if that doesn't get your Tiger-Balmed temples going, try this one: Why is tactical/military gear proudly displayed at the front of Outdoor Retailer booths (with accompanying PR support), but anything remotely capable of supporting a hunting trip almost invisible?

"I can understand that," said a Hall of Fame gear columnist to me just a few days ago. "The tactical stuff has a certain coolness that the Billy Bob stuff just doesn't."

For the outdoor industry, chasing cool remains the order of the day. And part of cool, as always, includes a not-so-subtle dig at what's not.

As the most rampant outdoor industry success stories of the last two decades have been cool brands with cool designs and made-up names that sound like planets from an alternate Star Trek universe, today's CEOs have a manic focus on trying to be the next cool thing. And based on history, who can blame them?

The determination of cool, of course, is one of the slipperiest of relative terms. Who's to say which is cooler, a mustard yellow softshell with a diagonal zipper, a camo frame pack with a removable payload or Nordic walking poles?

It's true that hunting doesn't appeal to everyone. But neither does ice climbing.

The era of the blockbuster is dead. We've known that for years.

And if there's one takeaway from the last year, it's that clinging to old ways of doing business are a good way to find yourself out of business.

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