Editor’s Note: This is part two of a series on “crossover” wear, clothing that can be worn in the wilderness, at home, at work or even on social occasions. Typically crossover pants (such as KÜHL’s RADIKYL and DISRUPTR featured in this article) are better tailored and more expensive than run of the mill tactical clothing. Their inherent practicality has made them a favorite of everyone from hikers to secret service personnel.
Back in dad’s day the lines of demarcation between business and leisure were strictly drawn. Men wore suits and fedoras to work and the only time a guy would don a baseball cap was at a baseball game.
The rules governing fashion, precipitated by the social upheavels of the 60’s changed the landscape forever. The days of the man in the grey flannel suit are thankfully behind us.
In many settings, such as Silicon Valley, it’s de rigueur for executives to wear blue jeans or khaki trousers to a meeting. Of course, with the advent of mobile devices, the boundaries between work and home have become even more blurred.
Nowadays it’s essential that one have clothing that’s both comfortable, sturdy and suitable in disparate environments.
Getting Beyond Tacticool
Of late “tacticool” has insinuated itself into our lexicon. It’s mostly a derisive term used both to describe a gun that has been gratuitously modified to include optics, flashlights, and other gewgaws of dubious value or a term to label a person who wishes to effect a military-like persona. The latter is done by donning military-spec shades, fatigues or better yet, ersatz tactical clothing such as the “Urban Recon Pant” from the likes of LA Police Gear.
That said, real tactical wear is about a $250 million a year industry.
Products from manufacturers such as Blackhawk, 5.11 and Vertx are used by law enforcement personnel, EMTs and other security people who put their lives on the line. This type of wear is engineered to withstand the rigors that placing oneself in a “tactical” situation would inflict upon one’s garments. This includes improvements such as reinforcing pants with bar-tacks, gussets and even coating fabric with DuPont Teflon.
The “tactical” aesthetic has slowly gone mainstream. Some of the traditional manufacturers mentioned above have made a serious effort at tailoring their clothing so that wearing them doesn’t make you look like your other job is the night shift security guard at Walmart.
Enter KÜHL – Post Tacticool
I get the feeling that many of the guys (and gals) who are serious about their outdoor activities—be it shooting, rock climbing or hiking the Appalachian Trail are beyond trying to effect cool, much less tacticool. They want clothing that serves the function of being sturdy, comfortable and yes, even stylish without making a martial fashion statement.
Post tacticool is where KÜHL comes into its own.
I became intrigued with the story of Salt Lake City company, whose genesis was in a basement of a home in Emigration Canyon, Utah. All of the three entrepreneurs, who founded the company, were genuine outdoors men. One of them, Conrad Anker, became one of the world’s most famous mountaineers.
Thirty years later, the people that design this clothing are still steeped in the “Born in the Mountains” DNA of this clothing brand. Something about it really resonated with me and as it turns out, with other gun owners. (Check out the KÜHL reviews on Youtube).
What drew me to the company first was their silhouette which is sleek, well-tailored while at the same time totally pragmatic for active people.
The design is also exemplary of crossover wear—solid and ergonomically engineered, so that you can wear it in the bush, and stylish enough for the boardroom.
The line of trousers has 28 different models which are divided into a number of different categories. There are three types of fabric (cotton, synthetic and cotton/synthetic blend) three fabric weights (Fall/Winter, Year Round and Spring/Summer) and three types of fit (Full, Medium and Tapered).
They come in a range of muted shades typically found in nature. I had a chance to try two items—the RADIKL and a new style called the Disruptr.
The RADIKL combines an exoskeleton of woven cloth frame with flexible, alternate knit panels which are located at key points of contact and flexion – crotch, yoke, front pockets, and side panel from waistband to just below the knee. It’s incredibly comfortable while offering a maximum range of motion, making it ideal for hiking or even three-gun competition.
This is also a trouser that could easily be worn at a BBQ a restaurant or out on the town. As the website says, it’s a “clean fit” with a Goldilocks feel that is not too tight and not too loose.
The RADIKL Pant has six pockets, including knee pockets. It sounds like overkill but this doesn’t look like some cargo pant. The left stealth knee pocket is smaller for a closer fit for your smartphone. The smartphone pocket is one of the innovations l really like. Nowadays it’s essential.
The ergonomics of this pant are superb and what’s more they’re really flattering. They even make me look pretty good. The fabric on this pant is medium—making it usable all year around.
It comes in seven colors ranging from sawdust to black, so you’ll find something that will be pleasing.
I grew up on jeans and fell in love with the DISRUPTR. How can you not like a pair pants with that moniker? This style is new in the KÜHL line and it’s what the company calls a “performance” denim with a 360-degree stretch. It’s a heavier material than the RADIKL and features a fabric that has a coil-shaped yarn. KÜHL says this provides strength, recovery and temperature regulation. No it’s not some exotic stretch pants but it does have a supportive type feel.
Cool details: Both pants have flat snap buttons at the waist that don’t protrude at all. They are rivet-like in shape and function. I also like the deep pockets—front and back.
There’s also an elastic draw-cord encased in the hem for cinching.
It’s tapered from the knee down with what we called in high school, a kind of pegged look. Features include a “Born Free™” (I love it) gusseted crotch and articulated knees. A stealth pocket keeps your phone hidden and secure.
It comes in two colors—denim blue and Midnight.
AirSpeed SS Longsleeve Shirt
Although the focus of this article is pants, shirts are a huge part of traditional, tactical fare and I couldn’t do an article without looking at a garment for the upper body.
KÜHL has its own take on this which is low-key but ingratiating. The new AirSpeed SS is made with a nylon/poly blend that feels like cotton against the skin but has all the better qualities of polyester. They call it AirVolution fabric and it blocks the sun’s harmful UV rays, wicks moisture and dries quickly.
In addition to good looks (featuring a hidden button collar-stay which keeps the collar down and keeps you looking put together, evem though the shirt is considered “active wear”. There are also two traditional, button-down chest pockets and two hidden zippered security pockets inside the shirt at the chest.
The hidden zipper is minuscule but well-engineered for style and function. Ah, yes, and don’t forget the “built-in” sunglass cleaner sewn inside the bottom left “placket”. (In case you didn’t know, a placket is among other things, an opening or slit in a garment, covering fastenings or giving access to a pocket).
It has knit panels on the back and front sleeve allow greater range of motion.
It also has mesh panels to increase airflow and comfort. You have to look hard to see them with a casual glance.
It’s a great looking shirt. I really like the concealed pocket which is perfect for travel documents, credit cards, etc. Not quite big enough for a Walther PPK but it sure comes in handy. If your travel plans include hot sun and high humidity, this is the ticket. It’s also designed to block harmful UV rays.
I dig the KÜHL style. Their clothing is decidedly more expensive but as is too often said, you get what you pay for. They fit great and provide stretch and mobility so that you can do just about anything in them. I think they would be great for covert types who want to fit in. Figuring on paying anywhere from $70-100 for a pair of pants and in the neighborhood of $80 for a shirt.
Three cheers to KÜHL, ushering an era of post tacticool.