The Local Fashion Obsession of Helly Hansen
By: Ashley Ankapong
Alright, I’ll admit that at some point during high school, I wished to own a Helly Hansen jacket. The signature red and black jacket is hard to miss in the DMV and I knew that the design would take my outfits to the next level. Unfortunately, the whopping $160+ price tag shattered my heart into pieces, reminding me I can't always get my hands on the freshest items. I may not have the same interest in the item as I did before, but I have always wondered what made this pricey brand such a staple in the DMV?
What is Helly Hansen?
According to the company website, Helly Hansen is a Norweigan clothing company founded by sea captain, Helly Juell Hansen and his wife, Margarethe Hansen, in 1877. They started out making waterproof jackets, trousers, sou’westers, and tarpaulins, using coarse linen and linseed oil. Hansen and his wife originally made these garments for sailors and fishermen, but over time it became popular amongst ski professionals and snowboarders.
Impact on urban communities
Despite the founders’ intentions, Helly Hansen has formed a cult following in urban communities, specifically in the DMV. According to grailed.com, the clothing brand had a brief stint in mainstream hip-hop culture in the 1990s, when rappers like Funkmaster Flex and Mase sported these jackets in public and referenced them in their songs. Fast forward to the early 2010s, its popularity resurged within the D.C area as young residents took a liking to the unique designs of the jacket, leading to a rekindled love of the brand. Local residents of the DMV now acknowledge the significance of it through twitter memes, while stores like Last Stop sell numerous versions of the Helly Hansen coat.
Of course, Helly Hansen is not the only fashion essential in the DMV. DC Life Magazine writer Courtney Diggs highlights how clothing brands like Solbiato Sport and The North Face are easy to spot on people’s bodies. Diggs even spotlights a locally owned brand called eat, an acronym for Elevate All the Time. Daylan Burgess of MoBOOMBOX mentions in his article about the Nike Boot and New Balance 990 shoe being heavily worn by local residents.
Even though Helly Hansen was meant for winter sports enthusiasts, the urban community has made it one of the fashion staples in the nation’s capital region, as stated by DC Life Magazine’s Courtney Diggs. As a DMV native, it influenced my foregoing desire to own the high end jacket, show off my style, and add a touch of regional pride.