THE HISTORY - In 1966, a driven young climber tired of scavenging for quality gear from mail order and army surplus, took a few thousand dollars and created a global cultural institution.
The North Face retail store at 308 Columbus Avenue in San Francisco’s bohemian North Beach neighborhood was a tiny space between blue-collar bars and Beat hangouts, but the grand opening signaled a grand future. On October 26, 1966 Doug Tompkins’ vision came to life in electric fashion as the Grateful Dead played live, and the Hells Angels worked the door.
From the start, The North Face store served as a cultural meeting ground for the day’s best climbers and adventurers. With an in-house museum of historic hardware donated by Yosemite’s legendary climbers and a who’s who of American alpinism dropping by any day of the week, the store took on a life of its own.
In 1977, The North Face introduced the tagline “Expedition Proven,” referencing 10-plus years of the world’s top explorers pushing The North Face gear to higher and higher performance.
From Ned Gillete’s 1972 expedition of the Brooks Range Ski Traverse, to Kit DesLaruiers’ 2006 Seven Summits Ski Descent, to Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk’s becoming the first to scale the Shark’s Fin of Meru in 2008, The North Face athletes have been pushing the boundaries of human endurance tirelessly for years.
In 2016, the center of everything, is The North Face belief in mountain sports – from mountaineering, hiking, snow sports to climbing, this is the nucleus of the brand. Beyond mountain sports, The North Face sees mountain athletics and mountain culture as other significant places where its consumers prepare for their best adventures, through countless hours of training, to the “campfire moments” once their adventures have been completed.
“Starting about 10 years ago, everyone was really getting concerned that cell phones and technology were going to swallow up the time people would otherwise have outdoors. But what we’ve found is that exploration becomes a counterpoint to all of that. That the experience of being outside is so powerful and so large that it can’t be ignored,” says The North Face President, Todd Spaletto.
That sentiment has guided The North Face well since 1966 and will for the next 50 years.