Alaskans are not really known for their sense of fashion. In fact, blogs and magazines scoff at the state’s style. Travel + Leisure Magazine, as well as online news site Fashionista, have named Anchorage America’s “worst dressed city.”
What are Alaskans to do? Wear five-inch heels while navigating six-inch-wide puddles? Break out their best during breakup? Dress to the nines in nine below zero temperatures?
In Alaska, the hottest fashion trends usually focus around staying warm and the best threads that balance “function with fun” and “strength with style”. That’s why big name brands like The North Face, Patagonia, Mountain Hardware and REI are popular for those who can afford them and those who want to look Alaska chic.
But how do you dress like an Alaskan? The garments Alaskans pledge their allegiance to are the ones they use the most and last the longest. They are tough, not trendy, keep you dry when it’s wet, keep you cool when Alaska’s Midnight Sun is blazing and warm when you’re out at 3 am gazing at the Northern Lights.
If Alaskans have a fashion mantra, it’s “layers, layers, layers.” It can get windy, wet or warm in a heartbeat here. That’s why finding a light yet effective windbreaker and tight yet breathable undergarments is like striking gold. Bonus points if they look cool.
Xtratuf boots embody Alaska’s functional fashion. These rubber boots are made for fishermen and folks who work and live around water, but Alaskans have adopted them as all-purpose footwear. Yes, they’ll keep you dry at the docks and in the rain, but Alaskans also wear them in deep snow and deeper cold (just slip in a boot liner, wear warm socks and you’ll have toasty toes in all conditions), when they are painting or cleaning fish, or if they are walking in the garden or the streets. Some fans roll the tops of their boots down while others cut the boots off entirely just above the ankle for walking ease.
If you can find them, big bunny boots are Alaska’s footwear classics. Issued by the military for cold-weather operations long ago, and also discontinued long ago, used pairs of these clunky but warm boots were sold later to civilians and are still favorites among an older generation.
With an array of jackets, overalls, hats, shirts, pants and more, Carhartt is a brand that many Alaskans drape themselves in from head to toe. The brand is tough and trusted for outdoor work use, but you might even see a Carhartt suit coat worn in certain courtrooms, government offices and professional settings. Seriously.
As for Alaska’s women, Skhoop brand skirts from Scandinavia have become a fashion phenomenon. These insulated outerwear skirts are worn as a warm layer of protection in winter, spring and fall. They also come in different colors and lengths, which can accessorize with any AK look.
And if there was a Proud Alaskan uniform, an Alaska Grown T-shirt or a hooded sweatshirt from the Salty Dawg Saloon in Homer would be standard issue. Wear one back home and you’re sure to get an occasional nod of recognition from a fellow Alaska traveler or an Alaska transplant.