Some of the biggest and best names in athletic wear, work gear, and even high fashion have embraced it, and it’s no surprise that European manufacturers also have taken note. However, several of those brands, which beautifully blend European style with American technology, remain under the radar in the United States. So the next time you’re in the market for some new activewear, check out these names—they could very well become your wardrobe go-to.
Founded in 2011, Ashmei strives to make the best running, triathlon, and cycling gear. It’s headquartered in the lush, rolling hills of the Chilterns in Hertfordshire, England, with trails right out the door. To make its apparel, Ashmei takes merino wool, a high-performing material with superior comfort and breathability, and elevate it with 37.5 Technology. Since it’s all about layers, there’s a base layer for men and women, and its bike jerseys looks great even when the wearer is standing still.
Proving Italian style is always in fashion, Colmar traces its roots to 1923, when it started making dapper hats and gaiters. By the 1930s, it manufactured a type of high-tech cotton that ended up being perfect for the growing sport of skiing. In fact, Colmar made a special cape for ski pioneer Leo Gasperl, the first winner of the ski speed record in 1936. Nearly 100 years later, Colmar is still a staple in the specialty sports world. The classic polo for men and women is timeless, and if it’s a little cooler, their pullovers are the perfect choice. Bellissima, no?
Norwegian cross-country skier Bjørn Dæhlie is one of the most successful winter Olympians of all time. Between 1991 and 1999, Dæhlie won 29 medals in the Olympics and World Championships. So it’s safe to say that Nordic skiers pay attention when he gives advice about ski wear. In 1996, he started his own company with a focus on high-performance cross-country ski gear, and Dæhlie now outfits the Norwegian cross-country ski team as well as some of the top athletes in the sport. A great pair of tights is the foundation of any good skiing wardrobe, and the Raw Athletes for women check all the boxes. And when you’re chasing tracks on chilly mornings, grab the Raw Vest: perfect for core insulation while minimizing the risk of overheating.
Swedish twin sisters Annie and Linnéa Wennergren took their athletic drive, entrepreneurial spirit, and Scandinavian design philosophy and came up with Gococo in 2010. Their goal? To design and manufacture the best high-performance socks for serious athletes. Just as importantly, they wanted to do it in a fair and sustainable way. The company produces all its socks in factories in Eastern Europe, where they can be visited and monitored frequently. Gococo’s Trail Running Socks feature extra arch and ankle support to stabilize feet when running on rocky trails, while the No Show Circulation Rainbows have a raised pattern on the sole to stimulate circulation.
5. Merkel Gear
This Germany-based company takes hunting seriously. Merkel has made a name for itself in the outdoor clothing market with products that embody the logic and efficiency of German culture. Rather than come out with a new line every spring and fall, they focus on making timeless pieces that work well in the field. Equally importantly, Merkel products perform flawlessly and look good year after year, outlasting the trends. Even non-hunters can appreciate the solid functionality of the Palearctic 365 Jacket. It’s abrasion-resistant, lightweight, and 100 percent windproof. And, as its name suggests, it’s perfect for year-round use, with modular double merino layers, combined with a light fleece, and covered by a four-way-stretch DWR softshell.
Original Mountain Marathon, or OMM, refers to both the outdoor festivals across the UK and the company that outfits reputable gear for playing in the mountains. These festivals include trails runs in legit mountain terrain, with distances from 10k all the way up to full marathons, as well as mountain bike races and disability-inclusive events. For adventurers who must navigate rough terrain, OMM’s Kamleika Pants are a solid choice. They’re made from super-stretchy fabric that delivers the comfort of tights, yet has features that make them full-on mountain pants. Thoughtful extras include Dyneema kick panels at the cuffs for durability and toggles that clip to your laces to keep debris out—little details that make a big difference in the outdoors, illustrating just how closely OMM is paying attention to its get-after-it customers.
Golf may be a traditional game, but Swedish company Abacus Sportswear has found success in bringing technical clothing to the links. Founded in 1991 by Sven-Olof Karlsson and Ingrid Lindgren-Wachtmeister, the pair wanted to create clothing that provided better function on the golf course, particularly in regards to waterproof and windproof apparel. Now nearly 30 years later, Abacus is found in 25 different countries as golfers have discovered that its clothing is expertly designed to allow them to swing freely and comfortably. The Men’s Stinger 37.5 Windjkt is lightweight and flexible, providing the perfect covering for those cold and windy days on the course. When conditions are even worse, the Ladies Pitch 37.5 Rainjacket will keep you dry. And both men and women will benefit from wearing a pair of Extreme 37.5 Low Socks.
While these brands are under the radar in the U.S., perhaps there’s a piece here that makes your own “must-have” list? These brands are making waves across the pond, and if enough potential U.S. customers ask for them, they will come.
Written by Shaine Smith for Matcha in partnership with 37.5.
Featured image provided by 37.5 Technology