Ripstop: A Durable Fabric's Hard-Wearing History

Ripstop: A Durable Fabric's Hard-Wearing History

Why we chose a tactical fabric for our new technical pants

When it comes to durable fabrics, you don’t get much stronger than ripstop nylon. Currently used in yacht sails and high-quality camping and trail equipment, ripstop is built for adventure. That’s because, like so many important staples of menswear, the swishy yet strong material has roots in the military.

The concept behind ripstop fabric was first proposed during World War II. Those overseeing the US Army’s combat uniforms were in need of fabric that would be resistant to tears and rips on the battlefield. While the Air Force was looking for an equally strong yet light material that could replace the expensive and delicate silk used in parachutes.

The solution came in the form of a new ripstop weave that was made possible by a sturdy synthetic thread called nylon, developed by DuPont the year before the war began. Those nylon threads are placed within the fabric’s weave at certain increments—usually 1/8 inch or smaller. This added strength from the interlocking crosshatch is what stops a tear or hole from continuing beyond the first square—thus stopping any rip from becoming a much larger tear.

As the years went on, the material was continually refined. It’s now used in everything from hot air balloons and flags to sleeping bags and kites. Of course, the tough and adaptable fabric still plays a big role in military uniforms and equipment. And it’s only gotten lighter and stronger. 

“It’s got a really unique hand feel and a compelling performance narrative, that’s both in line with our brand, but also unique from anything else we currently have,” says Olivers founder David Wolfe. “I personally love the versatility and durability that ripstop provides, all in a light weight.”

For the new Compass pants, we used a soft and breathable lightweight ripstop nylon with 3% spandex for added stretch, comfort and mobility. Available in three classically military shades—olive, blue steel and khaki—they’re hardwearing, water repellent and quick-drying, plus they feature an anti-UV coating.

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